Playing at the PAC


I was in fifth grade when the Christopher Cohan Center first opened, and I had the impression that it was one of the jewels of San Luis Obispo. It was sophisticated and elegant by design, and would be the axis of cultural enrichment and collaboration in our beloved community.

The PAC*, as we locals call it, has lived up to its promise to be a force for the arts, not just because of the caliber of the acts it delivers to our small town, but the extraordinary talent and community it helps to foster in San Luis Obispo County. I have attended (and performed in) events presented by local symphonies, theater groups, dance companies, schools, and churches.

Most recently, thanks to listening to KCBX at the right time, I won last-minute tickets to the sold out performance of Yamato - taiko drummers from Japan. I could write an entire post about the breathtaking energy, grace, and athleticism of these talented performers. 



#SLOCAL tip: The last two times I have gone to an event at the PAC, it was thanks to tickets won by listening to the local public radio station, KCBX, 90.1 FM. Listen at the right time, and you could score tickets the night before a sold out show, like I did.

I recommend planning to arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled start. You’ll want time to find the garage, claim your parking spot, pick up your tickets at will call, drown the hassle of the arrival process in a glass of wine, and carefully maneuver the crowd as you carry your second glass to your seat.

Depending on which part of town you are traveling from, it can be tricky to get to the right part of Cal Poly’s campus. For most, the straightest shot is to take the 101 and exit at Grand Avenue. Head north on Grand Avenue, and make a left to the entrance to the parking structure, just past the new student housing construction. There will be yellow-vested parking attendants to greet you, but don’t panic, parking for PAC events is free! They will give you a pass for your dash and - listen carefully - will, on most occasions, tell you that you can park in visitor OR staff spaces.

Assuming you have followed my advice and arrived early, you still will have only about fifteen minutes remaining until the start of the performance. After presenting your ticket to an usher at one of the glass entrance doors, head to the concession stand in the corner and order a drink, if that’s your thing. There’s a nice selection of beer and wine, but  a glass could run you about $10.

The ushers are some of the most helpful you’ll find - as the audience arrives, they will be stationed everywhere you turn, helping you find the quickest way to your seat. Once you’re settled, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with your neighbors in the seats around you. It is a great opportunity to get insider tips on what to do while you’re in town, because we love to talk about how awesome San Luis Obispo is.

#SLOCal Tip: Are you here for the long-term? Consider volunteering to be an usher at the PAC - you can bid to volunteer at specific events - and then see the performance for free while you’re not busy helping people avoid tripping in the dark.


When the performance concludes, take your time leaving. While the parking attendants are impressively efficient, it’s much more fun to mingle in the foyer after the show. It’s San Luis Obispo; even if you’re a visitor, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw someone you knew - and you might even get a chance to meet the performers who just made Tuesday night fun.

Are you ready to discover this San Luis Obispo treasure? Browse the list of upcoming events at the Performing Arts Center. 

*Note: While the PAC is what most locals say when referring to the Christopher Cohan Center (which includes the nearly 1,300-person capacity Sidney Harmon Hall), also includes the adjacent Alex & Faye Spanos Theatre. 

Katy ZweifelComment