san luis obispo

SLO Down for National Bubblegum Day

Plenty of people will chew a stick of gum on the first Friday of February, but why not plan a road trip to California's famous alley o' gum?

© lisa kimberly

THE FIRST FRIDAY IN FEBRUARY? You can saunter down to the corner store, the one that seems to have every candy you've ever tried, and then some. Choosing among the various flavors of gum, though, can be tricky, but you'll eventually alight upon watermelon or spearmint or some mouthwatering combination of the two. You're picking out a gum to enjoy because National Bubblegum Day snaps and pops on the first Friday in February, an occasion that can make even those people who rarely go with gum want to blow an impressive bubble or two. But what if you could use the day to plan a Central Coast road trip, to one of the most famous, and, yes, infamous bubblegum landmarks around? We're talking about...

SAN LUIS OBISPO, and the sweet city's quirkiest byway. It's Bubblegum Alley, a free-to-see attraction that's found in the downtown area of SLO. The walls along the alley decorated with, you guessed it, globs and strings of chewed gum. "For the squeamish, the germophobic, and anyone haunted by the memory of finding gum under their middle school desk, consider yourselves fairly warned," wisely advises the Visit SLO site. For those looking to up their social game? It has become a must-pose place, and, yes, blowing a bubble for your photo has become tradition. But Bubblegum Alley can trace its, er, sticky start back to a day that occurred well before social media dominated our travel adventures. It has been, in fact, quite a stringy thing since "the early 1970s," and, yes, it has been cleaned, fully, not once but twice since then.

IT'S FREE, as mentioned, to savor the chewy charms of this enduring and strangely endearing attraction, but do save a buck for that pack of bubblegum you may want to pick up before you "pop" by. Where to go to see this colorful stretch? It's between Broad and Garden Street, says Visit SLO, "in a small alley right off Higuera Street."

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