Ryan Chartrand

Have the stagnant college environment, gas prices and heat got you down? Try taking a look at what the surrounding area has to offer in the way of entertainment. You may be surprised to learn that there are many day trips you can take without ever leaving San Luis Obispo County.

If you don’t find the heat in North County too bothersome, you might want to stop by San Luis Obispo County’s only zoo. The Charles Paddock Zoo was established in 1955 and named after its founder, a county park ranger who nursed wild animals back to health.

The zoo houses over 100 animals on five acres in Atascadero. Though there are no lions or bears, the zoo does have two tigers, along with ostriches, kangaroos and meerkats.

Located 20 minutes away from campus, the zoo is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and charges a $5 admission.

Although mostly everyone has visited the Central Coast gem Hearst Castle, few have ventured to nearby San Simeon to see the magnificent elephant seals. The end of August brought the end of their molting season, but the seals will be back by late September when the pups come back to the beach.

Take a look at the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse while you’re up that way. It’s less than an hour from campus and the lighthouse tours are completely worth the drive.

Experience California history by visiting the Spanish missions. Start your day by driving to San Miguel and the Mission San Miguel Arc ngel. It was founded in 1797, making it the 16th in the California mission chain.

The museum is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., and the gift shop stays open every day from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Founded in 1772, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is less than five minutes from campus and has free guided tours on Sundays and Fridays at 1:15 p.m. The mission and gift shop are open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Let’s face it. The Central Coast is one of the best grape-growing regions of the world. There are over 100 wineries in Paso Robles, and most of them have tasting rooms and offer tours of their facilities and vineyards. Visit www.pasowineries.com for help choosing a destination and setting up a winery tour.

The historic Pozo Saloon has been a San Luis Obispo County landmark since 1858. The saloon is open on weekends from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and features local musicians Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Less than 30 miles from campus, the saloon is located off U.S. Highway 101. Take the Santa Margarita exit, follow all the signs to Santa Margarita Lake and stay on Pozo Road. Don’t blink; you might miss the town!

You know the story behind James Dean, but have you visited Cholame to pay tribute to the legend? The James Dean Memorical Junction is at the intersection of U.S. Highways 41 and 46, about an hour from Cal Poly. The Jack Ranch Cafe is just down the road from the junction, near the 1977 James Dean Monument built by Seita Ohnishi.

While you’re in the area, drive the extra 17 miles to Park field. Road signs will tell you that the population is 37, but a lot is going on in this little town of 900.

If you’re looking for an educational getaway, the Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History is a great choice. The museum sits on a hill overlooking the Morro Bay Estuary, where its docents take you on a hike up a nearby volcanic plug, a trek to the bird rookery, a scientific exploration of the mudflats, up-close demonstrations in the Learning Center, and a session of hands-on activities.

The museum is within minutes of the Heron Rookery, Monta¤a de Oro State Park, the El Moro Elfin Forest and Audubon’s Sweet Springs Nature Preserve. Entry fees are $2 for adults and free to children 16 and under.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

After a day at the dunes, most people go straight home. Why not grab dinner first? The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville in Oceano offers dinner and a movie – old style. There’s sawdust on the floor and piano music in the air as guests eat at cabaret tables facing the stage.

Performers from all over the United States present great classic comedies, musicals and melodramas. “Drac in the Saddle Again,” a spoof of the low-budget horror and western movies of the sixties, will be performed from Sept. 28 to Nov. 12. For information, show times and tickets, call the box office at 489-2499.

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