October 14, 2019
Fall is prime time to slate a 48-hour get-away to Lompoc. Located on the California Central Coast, it’s a visitor destination that satisfies all of the senses for stunning vistas, outdoor adventure, comfortable lodgings, easy access to attractions and activities, a taste for fine wines, and distinctive art.
Wine tasting is a centerpiece of a Lompoc getaway – a journey through the winemaking processes, small tasting rooms, and superior products that spark a natural desire to spend an afternoon with friends discussing the finer points of wine. History, here, is a journey back in time to California mission life of the 1800s at La Purisima Mission; a small path leading from the Mission is especially evocative as an early segment of the El Camino Real, a 600-mile road connecting the 21 Spanish missions in California. The Mission’s recreated living and working spaces place visitors at the epicenter of daily life and commerce.
Forty-eight hours in Lompoc is barely enough time to savor and partake of the area’s most entertaining attractions, but there’s always next time.
Day One: Morning
Begin with a self-guided tour of the Murals of Lompoc, many of which are located in Old Town Lompoc, on street corners, small lanes, and on prominent buildings. One can trace the history of Lompoc on these walls painted by gifted local and national mural artists. The Lompoc murals are among the city’s top attractions, depicting scenes of the city’s heritage, flower industry, historic sights, ethnic diversity, scenic beauty, and more. Certain to delight is Lompoc’s newest mural, “Agriculture in the Valley Beautiful,” painted in one weekend as a “Mural in a Weekend” project with community volunteers under the direction of a master mural artist. Log on to ExploreLompoc.com for a mural map and more about Lompoc’s Murals.
Shopping in Old Town Lompoc goes hand-in-hand with a self-guided walking tour of the murals, where along the way, visitors can browse for the rare vintage find or distinctive gifts they would not find elsewhere or stop for a latte where locals gather. A Little Something Special and More is a boutique that offers artisan gifts and hand-made local products. The Flower Valley Country Store features delectable seasonal produce and fresh baked bread. South Side Coffee Co. is a favorite for specialty coffee, tea drinks and local gifts. Specialty Retail
Day One: Afternoon
When it’s lunchtime, Sissy’s Uptown Café in Old town is a top choice. The menu features salads and soups, hot and cold sandwiches, an appealing kids’ menu, and home-made pies for dessert. The restaurant’s wine cellar has over 300 different labels of scarce local and Central Coast wines. Sissy’s wine store – a hidden gem behind the restaurant — offers a selection of wine bags, custom gift baskets, and hand-made gifts.
After lunch, stroll to the Lompoc Valley Art Association’s Cypress Gallery, a repository of fine arts featuring works of more than 60 well-known local artists. It’s well worth a visit to see the stunning watercolors, oils, acrylics, pastels, mixed media, photography, ceramics, jewelry souvenirs, gifts and more. Rotating exhibits and art classes are offered throughout the year.
Day One: Evening
California casual dress is all one needs for an evening dining experience in Lompoc, and visitors have a host of options, from full-service restaurants and casual eats, to wine bars, breweries and pubs. Here are a few visitor favorites for the itinerary: Authentic English-style Fish ‘N chips at Alfie’s Fish ‘N Chips; Old Town Kitchen & Bar with its great steaks, peerless Mac ‘n Cheese, and popular mango beer flights; and Asian Fusion specialties that include the Hawaiian Poke Bowl at Chow-Ya.
Day Two: Morning
The first settlers in the Lompoc Valley were the Chumash Indians, who, along with their predecessors, lived in the Lompoc Valley for nearly 10,000 years prior to European contact. The establishment of La Purisima Mission in 1787 is recognized as the earliest European settlement in the Lompoc Valley. Lompoc’s history is marked along a fascinating one-mile, self-guided Old Town Lompoc Heritage Walk with 18 stops dedicated to the history of the area’s settlers. It is also memorialized at La Purisima Mission, the most extensively restored of the 21 California missions.
Some must-see stops for history buffs while in Lompoc include:
The Lompoc Museum
Lompoc’s history is enthralling, and few places exhibit the area’s beginnings as they do at the Lompoc Museum. Visitors can see exhibits of Chumash Indians, whose presence pre-dated the arrival of Europeans, a re-creation of old Lompoc storefronts, and the pioneer history of Lompoc Valley. Housed in a former Carnegie Library building, built in 1910, the Museum also features art, photography, and traveling exhibits. The Lompoc Museum has two floors of exhibits on the history of the Lompoc Valley. Additional collections and displays on the Pioneer and Natural History of the area have been added. Open Tuesday through Sunday.
Victorian-era architectural admirers will love this stunning house, so-named for the three families that occupied it over a span of years. The Fabing-McKay-Spanne House was built in 1875 and is now managed by the Lompoc Valley Historical Society. A graceful example of a Victorian farmhouse, it has been fully renovated and furnished. Visitors will enjoy the story of its builder – Henry Wadsworth Fabing – who constructed the home a year after Lompoc’s founding as a city. As the story goes, the home was dubbed “Fabing’s Folly,” because it loomed in the midst of vacant land. As time moved on, locals’ faith in the Valley grew, and they followed Fabing’s lead by constructing new homes. Tours are offered Monday and Thursday mornings, and the fourth Saturday of the month.
Artesia School Museum
One-room schoolhouses were a rural American main-stay in the 1800s, and devotees may want to schedule their itinerary around the once-a-month-tours of the fully restored Artesia School Museum, the one-room schoolhouse that is a Lompoc treasure. Built in 1876, visitors can easily imagine what it must have been like to sit in front of one teacher who taught reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and geography.
La Purisima Mission State Historic Park
A visit to this splendid mission is an essential part of any itinerary to Lompoc. When visitors first lay eyes on La Purisima Mission, they are stunned by its bucolic setting in a 2,000-acre park, and the serenity and beauty of the buildings. The completely reconstructed buildings and grounds were painstakingly restored and furnished to appear as they did in the 1820s. The La Purisima Mission Gift Shop features a unique variety of historic offerings and hand-crafted gifts. It’s easy to get lost in time, here, and spend hours exploring the grounds, the trails and the visitor center. The Mission is open daily at 10 am; living history events and special programs are offered on weekends from March through December.
Day Two: Afternoon
After touring Lompoc’s top historic attractions, it’s time for lunch, and several restaurants throughout town fit the bill for good food and relaxation.
La Botte Italian Ristorante, family owned for generations, is open for lunch, Wednesday through Friday, serving authentic Italian cuisine in a warm, relaxed atmosphere. The menu includes Italian specialty dishes, fresh seafood, veal and chicken entrees and salads, along with soups and sauces prepared fresh daily. La Botte is also a great choice for dinner.
Family-owned Rice Bowl greets diners with a brilliant, classic neon sign on the exterior of the building. The restaurant, open Monday through Sunday, is a long-standing local favorite, featuring a variety of delectable Chinese dishes including Chow Mein, sweet and sour dishes, egg foo yung, fried rice, wonton soup, noodle soup and egg rolls.
A picnic lunch from Central Coast Specialty Foods is a perfect prelude to touring the many wineries in and near Lompoc. This gourmet deli and market offers tasty to-go selections of delicious sandwiches, gourmet cheeses, charcuterie, and more to be enjoyed with wines discovered along the way.
Lompoc Wine Tasting
Lompoc’s wineries and tasting rooms are deserving of half day’s dedication to linger over samples of small batch wines, often poured by the winemakers themselves. The climate, soil, and ocean marine layer of the nearby Sta. Rita Hills AVA combine to make perfect grape-growing conditions for Pinot, Chardonnay and other cool climate varietals. Many of Lompoc’s local winemakers, who specialize in vintages from grapes grown in Sta. Rita Hills vineyards, have won prestigious awards and 91+ or higher ratings from Wine Spectator Magazine.
The best place to plan a wine tasting excursion is with the downloadable Lompoc Wine Map, which acquaints visitors with the nearly 40 wineries in Lompoc.
Lompoc Wine Ghetto
So named by the local wine-loving set because of its industrial park location, the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is an eclectic collection of wineries, tasting rooms, and production facilities located in town just off Pacific Coast Highway 1 and 12th Street. It has about 20 boutique tasting rooms to choose from, among which is Fiddlehead Cellars, well-known for its Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, and Flying Goat Cellars, recognized for its Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Goat Bubbles. Most of the Wine Ghetto tasting rooms are open Fridays – Sundays, with some open Thursdays and/or Mondays.
Sta. Rita Hills Wine Center
Across the street from the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is the Sta. Rita Hills Wine Center, a cluster of four award-winning tasting rooms including Kessler-Haak Vineyard & Wines and Transcendence Winery, welcoming visitors to sample a variety of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and Grenache.
Lompoc Midtown Wineries
In town, a few blocks away from the Wine Ghetto are the Midtown Lompoc Wineries, including Brewer-Clifton, featuring 100% estate wines, and Longoria, one of Lompoc’s oldest and most acclaimed wineries. Midtown is also home to the Lompoc Wine Factory, a community-based wine production facility for local winemakers.
Sta. Rita Hills Wineries and Vineyards
For a picture-perfect California wine tasting excursion, visitors are encouraged to take a drive to the many beautiful wineries and vineyards surrounding the City of Lompoc. Among those not to be missed are Dierberg Starlane Winery, producers of high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – and a picturesque spot for a picnic – and Melville Winery, producers of superb Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.
Guided Wine Tours
For visitors who prefer a guided wine tour, there are three tour operators that offer wine tasting experiences in Lompoc and the Sta. Rita Hills. Most offer door-to-door service and can pick visitors up at their hotels. Lompoc Wine Tours.
Day Two: Evening
Additional Dining Options
After a full afternoon at Lompoc’s wineries, it’s time for another good meal, and there are many creative menu items to choose at Valle Eatery + Bar, known for fresh local cuisine such as braised pork belly tacos, brick oven pizzas, or bone-in rib eye. Valle Eatery is also known for its creative menu of craft cocktails. For some spicy international flavors, try Mexican food at Floriano’s Mexican or flavorful Thai at Herb Home.
More About Lompoc
Located at the intersection of Highway 246 and the scenic Pacific Coast Highway within close proximity to Santa Barbara and Solvang, Lompoc is in a world of its own. Surrounded by gentle rolling hills and vineyards, its valley setting invites visitors to explore the road less taken. In addition to the robust wine tasting scene, Lompoc is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts of golf, biking (roads, BMX Bike Park), hiking trails, skydiving and surfing at nearby Jalama Beach. Just 10 miles from Vandenberg Space Force Base, Lompoc has become a popular destination to watch west coast rocket launches by NASA and SpaceX.
The city has 12 hotels to welcome visitors, as well as a calendar of festivals and special events throughout the year. To discover more about Lompoc Valley, places to stay and things to do: visit ExploreLompoc.com
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