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Bubblegum Alley in California

Art can have various forms, and the residents of San Luis Obisco have found a new one

Best time: all year round

Bubblegum Alley
Bubblegum Alley
Bubblegum Alley
Bubblegum Alley
Bubblegum Alley

Once you cross this alley, you may feel shocked. What happened to these walls? Yes, they are completely covered with bubble gum. Well, if you are an easily disgusted person, never walk along this alley and be sure not to touch these walls. The Bubblegum Alley is lined with a thick layer of over-chewed bubble gum, stuck along the walls. It stretches for 21 meters (70 feet) with 4.5 m (15-foot) high walls.

For some it may be a disgusting place, but for others it is a local tourist landmark. Bubblegum Alley is located in downtown San Luis Obispo. There are several versions of when and who started the idea first. Some believe that this tradition started as a graduating class event of San Luis Obispo High School, right after the WWII. Others say it started in the late 1950s as a rivalry between San Luis Obispo High School and Cal Poly students. Anyway, by 1970s Bubblegum Alley was already fulfilled. But some citizens complained because of the alley, as it was unsanitary and disgusting, thus the alley was fully cleaned. The wall survived after two full cleanings and still exists.

Some locals consider the alley as a form of art. Some see the shapes, words, faces and even flowers made of gum. You can also see the phrases, like "I love SLO" in different colors and sizes. Thoughts are different, but the alley is there, attracting new passers-by to watch or even add a missing piece to the walls.

Practical info

When did Bubblegum Alley become a tourist landmark in San Luis Obispo?

Bubblegum Alley became popular among tourists in San Luis Obispo during the 1990s because of various travel guides, brochures, and online articles. Despite some citizens regarding it as unsanitary and unattractive, visitors visit the alley to witness the art that adorns its walls. Show more

Where is Bubblegum Alley located in downtown San Luis Obispo?

Bubblegum Alley in downtown San Luis Obispo lies between Higuera and Marsh streets and is a famous tourist site. Its walls are covered in used chewing gum and feature various creative shapes, faces, phrases, and flowers. Show more

How did the tradition of sticking bubble gums on the alley walls start?

Students from San Luis Obispo High School and Cal Poly began the trend of sticking bubble gums on Bubblegum Alley walls in the late 1950s due to a rivalry. Some members would start using gum to claim their college's superiority, and it later became a local trend that has withstood the test of time and become a famous tourist attraction. Show more

Is Bubblegum Alley still maintained by locals as an art form?

The people of San Luis Obispo still consider Bubblegum Alley a unique expression and art form and maintain it. It is widely regarded by the locals as a must-see destination in San Luis Obispo, and both tourists and residents continue to contribute to the ever-evolving art piece by adding their own gum shapes and words. Show more

How has the alley survived two full cleanings despite being seen as unsanitary and disgusting by some citizens?

Bubblegum Alley has faced criticism because of its uncleanliness over the years, despite locals viewing it as an art form. The city officials have cleaned it twice in the past, first in 1995 and then in 2004, despite various citizen's complaints. However, citizens' united effort to maintain this unique tourist spot ensured that the city officials changed their minds, and the spot has been kept sanitary and clean through the community's collective efforts. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin