Spring Commencement brings together students, families and supporters for an unforgettable weekend of celebration nestled in the heart of SLO CAL (San Luis Obispo County). But hey, we get it – amidst the excitement, there's the task of sorting out hotel bookings, snagging those perfect graduation dinner reservations and crafting memorable activities to honor your graduate. Celebrate your graduate with this ultimate guide to Cal Poly's grad weekend in SLO CAL. Here's the breakdown:

Graduation Events

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Cal POly Overview


Get ready to mark your calendars for the commencement ceremonies hosted at Spanos Stadium on both Saturday and Sunday of Grad Weekend. Beginning from mid to late April, students have the opportunity to secure ceremony guest tickets and arrange for their caps, gowns and regalia.

And that's not all! Cal Poly also holds Cultural Commencement celebrations hosted the week before and during the week of Graduation. These events are dedicated to acknowledging individual identities and celebrating the diverse and successful college journeys of these graduates. Students are required to register in order to participate.

Celebrations Start Early

Kick off the commencement festivities with a trip to your graduate's favorite local coffee shop for a delicious pastry and energy to keep you going all day. And if you're feeling jolly, join the annual Grad Morning Pub Crawl. On both Saturday and Sunday, the Downtown San Luis Obispo bars open their doors bright and early at 6 am, offering a lively atmosphere to celebrate the achievements of students and share in the excitement of this occasion! Originating over two decades ago with McCarthy's Irish Pub and Bull's Tavern leading the charge, this tradition has now expanded to include multiple bars eager to be part of the celebration. 


For those attending commencement, it's important to plan ahead for parking on campus during the busy weekend. Whether it's hopping on the convenient SLO Transit, arranging a ride with Uber or Lyft, carpooling with friends or embracing a greener option like biking, there are plenty of ways to navigate the festivities hassle-free. For those opting for rideshare services, drop-off locations are conveniently located in nearby lots, making it a breeze to arrive and join in the celebration.

Graduation Dinner

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group of girls dining at MisturaGraduation dinners are a cherished tradition for celebrating your student's hard work and achievements, and here in SLO CAL, the dining options are boundless. To guarantee the ideal setting, we recommend beginning your search for reservations at least three months in advance, particularly for larger groups. Whether you're seeking a laid-back atmosphere, farm-to-table cuisine or five-star dining, SLO CAL offers an array of restaurants perfectly suited to honor your graduate's milestone.

Full Menu Reservations: For those who prefer to plan ahead, creekside dining at Novo or the globally inspired cuisine at Luna Red are excellent choices. Michelin Guide-recognized Nate's on Marsh promises an unforgettable dining experience, while oceanfront views await at Windows on the Water in Morro Bay or Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach. Escape the bustle of Downtown SLO with Ember in Arroyo Grande or Robin's in Cambria, both of which also accept reservations.

Fixed Menu Reservations: Some restaurants curate special fixed menus for Graduation weekend, offering a taste of locally sourced sophistication like Granada Bistro or the delectable flavors of Italian cuisine at Cafe Roma.

Group Dining: Hosting a large group? Madonna Inn and TASTE are perfect for accommodating larger parties, while Blue Moon Over Avila offers oceanfront patios and charming private dining rooms for groups of over 15 guests.

Walk-ins Only: If you're feeling spontaneous, Giuseppe's in Pismo Beach operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

Where to Stay

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Cliffside gazebo at Shore Cliff HotelHotels fill up fast, with reservations often made up to a year in advance to secure Grad Weekend accommodations. It's never too early to book your stay! Fortunately, SLO CAL offers a variety of fantastic hotels and lodging options for a seamless stay, allowing you to celebrate your graduate and enjoy your weekend to the fullest.

Stay in San Luis Obispo: Want to be in the center of the action? You have plenty of options conveniently located near campus. Hotel San Luis Obispo and Hotel Cerro sit right in downtown's vibrant core. Just off California Blvd, you'll find Apple Farm Inn and La Quinta Inn and Suites. Alternatively, visitors can opt for accommodations slightly south at Embassy Suites or Hotel Calle Joaquin. Customize your Grad Weekend getaway with a vacation rental that perfectly suits your needs. The SLO Lakeside Lodge is a great option for large groups, accommodating up to ten guests. 

If you're unable to secure accommodations in San Luis Obispo or simply crave a break from the hustle and bustle, consider exploring the South Coast, North Coast and North regions of SLO CAL for additional options that are just a short distance away!

Stay by the Coast: Discover charming coastal towns near San Luis Obispo, offering a peaceful escape while still being close to graduation excitement. In just a brief drive you can stay in Avila or Pismo Beach, enjoying ocean views from the Inn at Avila Beach or the Cliffs Hotel & Spa. Head north to Morro Bay or Los Osos and consider the Estero Inn or the Baywood Inn. Wake up to the sound of waves and enjoy relaxing walks along the shoreline before joining in the Grad Weekend festivities!

Stay in Wine Country: SLO CAL is known for its outstanding wines and beautiful vineyards. If you're eager to explore these exceptional wineries and indulge in wine tasting, staying in Paso Robles is a great choice. You'll find boutique hotels like the remodeled Farmhouse Motel or larger accommodations such as The Oaks Hotel & Suites. Vacation rentals like the Estrella Vineyard and Olive and Stone are also available to book. For a location slightly closer to campus, consider the town of Atascadero, which also offers several options including the Carlton Hotel and Vino Inn & Suites.

Things to Do

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Group of girls wine tasting at Law Estate Winery in Paso RoblesOutside of graduation festivities, there are plenty of things to do in SLO CAL. Delve into SLO CAL's wine country and savor the flavors of award-winning wines amidst picturesque vineyards. Bask in the sunshine while engaging in water activities at one of SLO CAL's pristine beaches. Embark on hikes to witness breathtaking views and explore some of SLO CAL's most remarkable natural marvels, such as the Oceano Dunes and Montaña de Oro State Park. And don't forget to check out the iconic Thursday night farmer's market in Downtown SLO during your stay. 

Kickstart your SLO CAL adventure today by planning your trip and curating an unforgettable graduation weekend itinerary!

Grad Party Ideas

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Table with wine bottles, glasses, and food. Person picking up a slice of pizza.Graduation parties provide a fantastic opportunity to come together with friends and family, celebrating your grad in an extra special way.

Gather 'Round The Fire: The Rod & Hammer Rock is a top destination for celebratory gatherings. Offering ample outdoor seating and inviting fire pits, visitors can enjoy delectable smokehouse cuisine, craft beverages, and quality time with loved ones.

Indulge and Unwind: Tin City is a vibrant and unique industrial hub where you can gather and indulge in craft food, wine, beer, cider and spirits. With over 40 businesses, there's a plethora to discover in Tin City. With outdoor games, patio seating, TVs and a welcoming atmosphere for both families and dogs, it's a great spot to host a celebration.

Sip and Savor in Wine Country: Host a wine country celebration in Edna Valley or Paso Robles. Many wineries offer patio seating and private rooms perfect for larger groups, such as Chamisal and Cass Winery. For parties exceeding 8 guests, it's advisable to reach out in advance to secure your spot.

Cruise in Style: Estero Adventures offers electric pontoon boat rentals for up to 10 guests. Embark on a memorable celebration, where you can be your own captain and explore the scenic beauty of Morro Bay. 

Kick Back and Relax: Planning a laid-back celebration? Whether you're marking the occasion at home or in a community park, plenty of SLO CAL businesses offer catering services to enhance your graduation celebrations. Treat yourself to classic SLO CAL-style tri-tip from Firestone Grill or opt for convenient catering packages from Petra.

Graduation Photos

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Green rolling hills in SLO CALCelebrate this significant milestone with graduation photos that will last a lifetime. Amidst SLO CAL's breathtaking scenery, capture unforgettable photos against the perfect backdrop. Graduation photos serve as a timeless tribute to your graduate's achievement, while family portraits and snapshots with the friends who made their undergraduate journey so memorable are equally precious.

Grad Photo Locations: Pose against the rolling green hills of SLO CAL at Prefumo Canyon or the Irish Hills Natural Preserve. Capture the magic of golden hour at Terrace Hill or amidst the expansive Oceano Dunes. Embrace the essence of coastal living in SLO CAL with photos at Morro Rock or the Cayucos Pier. As spring unfolds, discover numerous picture-perfect spots throughout SLO CAL, perfect for creating lasting memories of your graduate's journey.

Local Photographers: For stunning results, consider enlisting the talents of local photographers such as Jaydyn Blair or Kori Kristine Photography to ensure high-quality photos of this momentous occasion! You can also schedule family sessions with Sandprints Photography for cherished memories to treasure forever.

Caps Off to the Graduates

Commencement marks a milestone that brings together students, families and supporters, immersing them in the vibrant heart of SLO CAL. Featuring 80 miles of stunning beaches, culinary delights sourced directly from local farms and boundless outdoor activities, SLO CAL is the perfect destination to commemorate such a significant occasion. Get ready for the ultimate Grad Weekend in SLO CAL and congratulations to your graduate on this remarkable achievement!