Did you know that California is home to 21 missions that were built some 250 years ago? The missions, which were established by the Spanish in an attempt to colonize the New World, stretch from San Diego to San Francisco.
Tourists can visit the missions along California’s Historic Mission Trail, but seeing all 21 is a big commitment. For those who prefer a smaller dose of history, head to Lompoc, California for a mini, do-it-yourself mission tour.
With Lompoc as your home base, you can plan a weekend trip – or a midweek escape – and see three missions that provide a snapshot of California’s early history.
Here’s a look at the three missions in and around Lompoc that are perfect for a DIY tour:
11th mission built of 21
As the most extensively restored and furnished mission in California, La Purisima Mission is the perfect spot to begin your historical journey.
In the late 1700s the land was home to Chumash people and Spanish settlers, who developed an extensive community with hundreds of buildings, small businesses, gardens, and livestock.
Today, the mission buildings are furnished so visitors can experience what life was like at La Purisima back centuries ago. During living history events held monthly from spring through fall, costumed docents demonstrate mission life through candle making, weaving, bread baking, tortilla making, blacksmithing and more.
La Purisima Mission is also a California State Park, and sits on 2,000 acres, featuring 25 miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding. Also on site is a Visitor Center with special exhibits and a gift shop.
- Open: Daily 9 am to 5 pm, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years
- Cost: $6 per vehicle
- Address: 2295 Purisima Road, Lompoc, 93436
- More info: Explore Lompoc website
Santa Ines Mission
30 minutes from Lompoc in Solvang, CA
19th mission built of 21
Like many missions, Santa Ines Mission is rich in history. Since its inception in the early 1800s, the mission faced hardships including an earthquake, pirates, and a revolt lead by the native Chumash people; but it is also had its triumphs, including the construction of the first seminary and the birthplace of many paintings, sculptures, and writings.
Today, Santa Ines Mission is an active church, serving a parish of about 1300 families.
Visitors can tour the mission, which includes the church, a small museum of artifacts, and a gift shop.
- Open: Daily 9 am to 4:30 pm (except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years)
- Cost: $5 per person
- Address: 1760 Mission Drive, Solvang, CA 93464
- More info: Santa Ines Mission website
Santa Barbara Mission
An hour from Lompoc in Santa Barbara, CA
10th mission built of 21
With twin bell towers, exquisite Spanish architecture, and breathtaking views of the mountains and the ocean, it’s no wonder the Santa Barbara Mission is called the, “Queen of the Missions.”
The structure, however, wasn’t always so grand. It once had three churches, one each a little larger than the other. An earthquake demolished one of the churches in 1812, and construction on the present-day structure began.
The vast land surrounding the mission was once home to crops and livestock, which the Spanish settlers used as an agricultural teaching ground for the Chumash Indians. Large herds of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, and mules once roamed the grounds.
Today, visitors can take a self-guided or a guided tour of the 13-acre site, which includes an active church, historic cemetery and mausoleum, a nine-room museum filled with art, and a pristine garden. Located on a hilltop overlooking the city, the mission provides a spectacular view of the ocean and city.
- Open: Daily 9 am to 4:15 pm
- Cost: Varies $7-13 depending on tour option
- Address: 2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara, 93105
- More info: Santa Barbara Mission website
Plan your Trip
Lompoc serves as the perfect base camp for visitors planning a mini mission tour, with great hotels, restaurants, and activities that fit every budget. Get the Explore Lompoc Visitor Guide to learn more.
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