Santa Barbara County is one of the most beautiful destinations in California. The city of Lompoc is just above the city of Santa Barbara and closer to the beach than the towns of Solvang or Los Olivos. It’s also one of the most affordable areas in the county for locals and visitors to get more “bang for their buck.”
Checking into the newly renovated three-story Embassy Suites, I soon realized it’s ideal for families or groups offering two-room suites. There is complimentary cook-to-order breakfast in the morning, and complimentary beverages and appetizers in the evening inside the Garden Room. Nearby is an outdoor pool and hot whirlpool in the center courtyard, ideal to sit and chill out after a day of exploring Lompoc from the beach to the hills.
I liked the size of my suite in room 211, with a small kitchenette complete with a microwave, small refrigerator and sink. There were two 32-inch HDTVs with cable and high-speed Internet access. My room offered a sofa bed in one room, while the other room had a comfortable King size bed and bath. Even though my room looked out onto an alley, it was quiet and peaceful all night.
Driving off Highway 1 to Lompoc I noticed springtime wildflowers blooming on the hills along the country road. Rolling hills were filled of poppies, lupine, and mustard flowers among emerald green hills from late March until May. Since Lompoc was once the flower seed capital in the world, I was excited to meet Dan Vordale at the Lompoc headquarters of Ocean View California Flowers to learn more about the colorful flowers.
I saw bouquets of colorful Stock, Larkspur, Delphinium and Bells of Ireland flowers, and learned from Vordale that Ocean View Flowers is one of the leading flower suppliers to Gelson’s, Whole Foods, Trader Joes and other supermarkets. They plant flowers for six months and vegetables afterwards to enrich the soil.
Most of the flower fields are located near Ocean View Park; west of Old Town Lompoc, along Central Avenue and Union Sugar Avenue. But some are also located at the east entrance to town, near the La Purisima Mission State Historic Park.
A fun activity in Lompoc is taking a Street Art Mural tour to learn more about the city. The first mural was painted in 1988 on the corner of Ocean and H Street, to show community pride and promote tourism. Visitors can pick up a self-guided map at the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau across the street from Sissy’s Uptown Cafe. The walk is about one mile in distance to see almost 40 murals displayed on street corners, alleys, and on the sides of prominent buildings. The street art is one of the city’s top attractions, depicting historical scenes, the flower industry, and ethnic diversity. Most of the murals were painted in one full day by a lead artist and members of the Lompoc Mural Society. Some of my favorites include the Chumash Indians mural painted in 1992, and a giant life-like T-Rex titled “Feeding Time” by Moorpark artist Jeff Raum. This is a favorite photo spot for visitors to put their head next to the dinosaur’s giant teeth and open mouth. Similar to the beautiful flowers in Lompoc, the colorful murals are photo worthy mementos.
After the one hour walk, stop inside Sissy’s Uptown Cafe for delicious fare and a slice of Norma’s sour cherry, blueberry cinnamon or pecan pie. The cafe serves a variety of dishes for lunch and dinner. Be sure to stop into their gift store and wine room.
Lompoc is known as one of the best Pinot Noir grape growing regions in the world. Located in the Santa Rita Hills, this wine is recognized internationally for its award-winning red wines. In the summer cool maritime fog from the coast visits the valley and creates an ideal climate for growing exceptional Pinot Noir, cool climate Syrah and Chardonnay grapes.
A consortium of wine tasting venues is in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. This unique collection of wineries, tasting rooms, and production facilities are located off Chestnut and 12th Street. The Wine Ghetto has about 20 boutique tasting rooms featuring exquisite Pinot Noirs at Pali Wine Co. and delightful sparkling wines at Flying Goat Cellars.
After wine tasting, there are three restaurants on H Street worthy of a visit. Stop in at Scratch Kitchen for innovative farm to table plates by Le Cordon Bleu Chef Augusto Caudillo. His bar manager Andrew makes a red and white wine exclusively for the restaurant. This fine dining restaurant is a favorite with locals. Try one of the fresh fish specials and save room for their cobbler a la mode or tiramisu.
Le Botta restaurant is a few blocks down and home to Momma Caterina’s finest lasagna, calamari, pizza and eggplant parmesan. The rolls are heavenly. Caterina and her husband Nick, opened this restaurant after moving to Lompoc in 1981. When Caterina is in the restaurant, she happily cooks, serves guests and serenades tables while shaking her tambourine.
In the mood for beer? Solvang Brewing Company recently opened a restaurant inside an old iconic Ford dealership that used to roll out the new Ford Mustangs each year. The service garage is now a brewery making small batches of 20 different ales and lagers that include a Blonde-Blue Eyed Lager, Mango-Habanero Blonde Ale and a Golden Ale made with Blueberries. The food menu offers big burgers, large plates of nachos, salads, sandwiches, tacos and sausages.
Looking for a fun, interactive vacation in Central California? Spend a few days exploring the friendly city of Lompoc in-between Los Angeles and San Francisco. For more information and to plan your trip visit www.explorelompoc.com.
This article was featured in Independent Traveler.