San Luis Obispo’s Bubblegum Alley is a 15-foot tall and 70-foot long alley covered with gums of all sorts found off of Higuera Street in between Garden and Broad Streets. The alley is thought to host hundreds of thousands of people a year with more than 1.7 million pieces of gum accumulated over the years. It was even nominated by VirtualTourist.com to be the unofficial 8th Wonder of the World in 2013, according to The Tribune. And best of all, it is located conveniently in downtown SLO and is completely free.
Some believe that the Alley started after WWII, however, “others believe it to have started in the late 1950’s as rivalry between San Luis Obispo High School and Cal Poly students,” says California Through My Lens. A competition between schools began to see which school could create the biggest gum wall in San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly students decided to one-up all that had been done in the past and took over, what we now know as, Bubblegum Alley.
In the 1970’s, nearby shop owners began to complain about the unsanitary conditions of the wall and conducted a full cleaning to clean the wall of all gum.The Alley, however, survived two full cleanings and is now here to stay.
The gum wall is definitely a rare sight, complete with gum “graffiti” of all types. Visitors arrange their gum in pictures, words, and even leave hidden notes in their gum. Political and world events are often seen documented on the wall and therefore serves as a great reflection on current events.
To join in the fun, shops along the nearby streets sell their own gum to help contribute to the wall. San Luis Obispo Vacation Spots recommends stopping by Powell’s Sweet Shoppe’s gum ball machine to pick up a gum ball and participate in the tradition of the wall.
Bubblegum Alley is a perfect place to bring the classic tourist that is new to the area or to stop by during your own downtown adventures. So, grab a friend, a camera (for you Instagramers out there), and a piece of gum and interact with San Luis Obispo’s own “Wonder of the World.”