Steeping on gum ruins your day. Spotting one under your desk makes you squeal…!!
But in San Luis Obispo, California, chewing and sticking a big hunk of chicle on the Bubblegum Alley walls is perfectly OK.
This unconventional tourist attraction is huddled in the heart of San Luis Obispo, California in a narrow alleyway adorned with decades-old chewed gum.
Honestly, my first thought about this place was YUCK! To put it more simply, it’s gross.
Imagine passing through two walls pasted with decades-old gum from people’s mouths!!
I am unable to comprehend what kind of diseases thrive on these walls. And I would not recommend you touch it, but still…
To my amazement, many curious on-lookers keep gazing at the unseen gum pieces making it a colorful and sticky display.
So, stick to this post to glide through the Bubblegum Alley for you to take a trip to this bizarrely popular tourist attraction…!!
1. The Bubblegum Alley San Luis Obispo Directions
This 15-foot-high, 70-foot-long gum wall is located a few paces away from the main street in downtown San Luis Obispo.
It invites thousands of visitors each year to participate in creating bubblegum graffiti right from your mouth…!!
There has been no threat to the wall until today; however, the surrounding controversies are still prevalent.
Some find it a health hazard and a disgusting view to the eyes, while others consider it a cool destination.
There is even a local tavern owner who pays to keep the Alley steam- cleaned each month to keep the germs away without changing the effect of the walls.
Interestingly, Bubblegum Alley was featured on a travel website named Virtual Tourist, where it was nominated as a contender to become the 8th Wonder of the World unofficially.
Here’s the Bubblegum Alley San Luis Obispo address: 733.5 Higuera St. San Luis Obispo, CA 93401.
Click here to get a Google Map view of this quirky travel destination!
Psst! Here’s a tip for you…!!
You, too, can chew gum and create your own graffiti for remembrance once you end your visit.
Don’t stick to sorrow if you don’t bring a piece of gum with you.
A gum machine is standing right at the entrance of the Alley on the outside to help you create crazy memories here.
But with thousands of gum addicts and travelers visiting the place, I wonder how that single gum machine earns in a year…!!
I think in the state, this machine has become the ultimate profitable seller.
You can find a small note on a piece of paper above the gum machine stating the regular story that happens here every year.
Interesting fact: Did you know? People visiting the Alley attach written notes with their gum, sketch pictures, develop some sort of art, or just leave bubbles in the discarded gum.
2. The Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo California History
The San Luis Obispo Bubblegum Alley is a one-of-a-kind renowned unofficial landmark off Higuera St. in California that roughly estimates nearly two million gum stuck on a 70-foot-long Alleyway.
You might wonder now about the history behind the survival of this beautifully disgusting Alley.
Unfortunately, there has been no precise history of constructing these walls or how and who stuck these gumballs.
Historians say that the Wall dates to the rivalry between the San Luis Obispo High School and Cal Poly students in the 1950s.
But others say that graduating high school class created the gum wall to celebrate WWII.
So, the real history remains sticky and clouded.
Personally, I cannot comprehend the rivalry between high schoolers and college students.
It sounds unreasonable and whimsical that a rivalry is just sticking pieces of gum on a wall…!!
2.1 Gum Alley Controversies
The agreement to allow the existence of these gum-covered walls has been highly debated since its founding.
Some local politicians and the town historian find it to be an “eyesore”.
But they were counterfeited by the Chamber of Commerce, stating that this part of quaint downtown San Luis Obispo has been a “special attraction”.
Nevertheless, some bubble up with joy, taking a glimpse of this unique spectacle, while others consider it a colossal cleaning project to annihilate nasty smells and unhygienic conditions.
According to the Telegram-Tribune, a local pub owner called Bill Hales pays to clean the Alley once every month.
Even Natural Selection, a business owned by Jim Kilbride is closeby to the Alley states that the windows stuck with chewed wads of gum are scrapped off his window on Monday mornings.
To be more serious, Hales and Kilbride state that it’s not the gooey gum that bothers them.
Rather the people who use this Alley are a public restroom.
There are talks of setting up lights and gates, constructing an entrance, and even handing out hoses…!!
However, till now, hoses have been given to the store wonders alone.
2.2 Bubblegum Alley California Washed
The beauty of this Alley is its tenacity.
It was during the 1970s when the Alley became a fully-fledged attraction when local business owners complained that the place was unhygienic with poor sanitation and was requested for a cleanup.
So, the entire place was cleaned this year and once more in the 1990s. No matter what, the gums kept on returning to the place.
Also, the leftovers that hailed decades ago were stubborn to the washes.
Finally, in 1996, there was an unsuccessful attempt by the BIA to clean the walls.
Today, there is a fair share of controversy over the wall’s existence. Some see it as a piece of art, as a nuisance to hygiene, and others find sticking the gum as a tradition.
You can find shapes, faces, words, and even flowers created out of the pieces of gum.
Also, some places say “I love SLO” in various sizes and colors.
Ultimately, the Alley is a place that attracts new passers-by to just watch or even replace a missing gum piece to its walls.
2.3 Popularity of the Alley in Luis Obispo County
Over the years, a number of television programs, news programs, and newspapers have featured the Gummy Alley in California.
For instance, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times newspapers have addressed the mixed Bubblegum Alley reviews from its visitors.
Even newspaper articles about this Alley have appeared in the Grand Rapids Press in Michigan, San Fransico Chronicle, The Guardian in the United Kingdom, and the Times Union from Albany, New York.
KSBY Action 6 News went on to create a story and broadcast it nationally. TV crews
For their “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”, Real People, That’s Incredible! and on PBS filmed the Alley.
The show Call to Greatness by MTV featured the Alleyway.
Also, the crew moved it further to create an episode on breaking the world record for the largest bubblegum bubble.
Additionally, a story was aired by ABC’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not on October 14, 1984, projected the Alley.
Finally, the Alley featured an episode of The Girls Next Door on E! and the United States of Tara.
2.4 Books on the Bubblegum Alley
You might as well buy one to know what’s the whole story about…!!
In the novel Mr. Monk On the Road by Lee Goldberg, chapter 17, the alley is described, mentioned, and has even become a setting for the monk’s discovery of a corpse.
Also, it is mentioned at every turn in Megan McDonald’s book “Judy Moody: Around the World in 8 and a Half Days”.
2.5 Music too Features the Alley!
What a sweet surprise! You might as well try listening and enjoying the tunes…
The 1978 song “Take Me Down,” an ode to San Luis Obispo, featured the Alleyway.
2.6 Tradition and Myths from the Gummy Walls
You might find it unpleasant to hear about the 40-year-old bubble gum that’s stuck on the wall.
But some people have maintained a gummy tradition to keep this Alleyway for the future as a must-see locale.
One predominant tradition is the various sorority and fraternity letters.
Another interesting tradition is the variety of numbers lined on the walls.
If you are unfamiliar with or are traveling there for the first time, you might view it as some random number.
But for a Cal Poly student, the numbers represent a WOW or a Week of Welcome numbers.
Now, what’s this WOW…
It is the first week before the school reopens in the fall when freshers arrive. So, each (WOW) group of students has a different number.
The leaders of each group take them to this Alley and make them leave their first mark on the city.
Some students tend to just stick gums, whereas others create their group number using the chewed gum and paste it on the wall.
2.7 It has Inspired Professional Artists
Pro artists like Matthew Hoffman and others have been inspired by the Alley.
Hoffman has created a giant self-portrait called the “Projectbubble Gum” on the Alley’s east end high up on the north-facing wall entirely out of gum.
According to his theory;
“if an individual participates in their community they will earn an invested interest in their community. The community chewed the bubblegum, and many individuals [felt] as though they were a part of its creation. This instills a sense of stewardship in one’s community”
So, with the help of the community, he managed to acquire a tremendous amount of gum to blow such a huge bubble.
2.8 Poets Were Inspired by the Alley
Arroyo Grande, a poet who masks himself as “M” uses writing to defend the Gum Alley. His poem “An Ode to Gum Alley” was published in Don Pieper’s article.
Do give it a read if time permits…!!
2.9 A Tourist Attraction Today
This quirky destination is not everyone’s cup of tea as it does have some kind of allure to it.
That’s why tourists across the globe make it a point to witness this fascinating yet bizarre piece of Americana.
So, from travel itineraries and even postcards to social media feeds, this place is a solid Bonafide tourist attraction.
It is a testament to the power of man’s individuality, creativity, and unexpected beauty that emerges from the most unlikely places.
Whether you find it repulsive or captivating, this is an undeniably unusual cultural landmark that’s worth exploring.
Hence, if you ever stroll through this area, be sure to take a trip to this Alley and immerse yourself for a moment into this strangely enchanting sticky phenomenon…!!
Insider tip: Be sure to take a photograph or a selfie in front of the wall as a part of documenting your contribution.
But here’s a word of WARNING!
Don’t get too close to the walls, as you might accidentally swipe your cheek on the wall and get a mark on your face…!!
Ultimately, no matter what you do, the memories created in San Luis Obispo are sure to stick with you forever…
3. How to Reach the Gum Alley
You can hire a taxi or car, walk, or even take a bus from Chorro at Marsh bus station.
Entry to the Alley is free, and it’s open 24 hours a day!
Make most of your memories there, reaching between 11:00 am – 02:00 pm
A maximum of 00:30 Mins is required to explore and photoshoot there.
Thursday to Saturday are the busiest days at the Alley. This information is for those who don’t want people to be a part of photographs!
4. Attractions Around the Alley You Can Try
Want to add more quirky places to your trip to San Luis Obispo, California? Then try visiting these places…
- Visit the Museum of Modern Arts and the huge mural on the building side.
- See the Cal Poly Architecture Graveyard. This is a Car Poly Student-made outdoor museum that spans up to 9 acres with art and structures. No- Guided tours are available.
- Stay for a night at Madonna Inn that has full of whimsy and color. It’s a top hotel and attraction in San Luis Obispo.
- Watch the enchanting lights installation happening in the night at Sensorio Paso Robles in California.
- If you are touring with your family, then head to the San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum.
- Shop in Ambiance and Len Collective, local boutiques for clothes, accessories, and more.
5. Pulling Down the Sticky Wall
I hope you have enjoyed reading about the Bubblegum Alley and have been inspired to take a trip.
Now, it’s time to take a trip through our website for more useful information to spark you…!!
Amusing FAQs Answered
- When did this Alley become a tourist attraction?
It was during the 1990s that this place was open to tourists due to the widespread publication of numerous brochures, travel guides, and online articles.
Despite the fact that many consider it disgusting and unhygienic, hundreds of thousands of visitors keep coming to it each year to see the unusual beauty that adorns the walls.
- In San Luis Obispo, where is the Gum Alley exactly located?
It is in the middle of Higuera and Marsh streets. Here, you can find an entire wall covered by chewed gum decorated in various colors, shapes, and sizes.
- How old is Bubblegum Alley?
It’s a bit hazy to exactly find the years. However, historians believe that it started at the end of WW2.
Others claim it’s evolved since the rivalry between California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) and San Luis Obispo High School students.
- Are there controversies prevailing still in the Alley?
Absolutely! The local businesses still feel that the Alleyway must be cleaned up as they feel less enthused.
Otherwise, the alternative they demand is to at least make it gated at night so that people strolling from local pubs don’t leave gums and bodily elimination behind.
- What are the directions to reach the Alley?
Start your journey from Osos Street Northbound 101 freeway exit and take the first immediate right to reach Walnut Street.
Then, stay on Walnut Street and take the right to enter Chorro Street.
Continue up to 0.6 miles on Chorro Street and take the right to board the Higuera Street.
Here, you will find the Gum Alley on your left next to Blast 825 Taproom, approximately 400 feet ahead.