Lompoc (California) is a town known for wine, murals and flower fields.
Never heard of it before? Do not worry. I do not think you are alone.
If you talk to California locals or long-time residents, it is probable they have no idea where this town is located. Yet, that doesn’t erase the fact that this town serves as an excellent vacation spot or weekend getaway.
If you are considering places to stay in or near the California Coast, let me show you the best things to do in Lompoc!
How to Reach Lompoc, California
Lompoc is located on the westernmost part of the Santa Inez Valley (Santa Barbara County). The town can be reached in one hour (55 miles) from Santa Barbara, 30 minutes (22 miles) from Solvang and 2.5 hours (150 miles) from Los Angeles. I encourage you to make Lompoc part of a Santa Ynez Valley weekend trip.
The closest major airport is located in Santa Barbara. There are ways to reach the town using public transportation but renting a car is recommendable.
An Amtrak station is located across Surf Beach (basically in the middle of nowhere). If you arrive by train, you will still need transportation to reach the town and move around.
Things to Do in Lompoc, California
There are a lot of things to do in Lompoc. You will need at least two days to check out all the attractions in town. In addition, you can extend your stay by visiting other towns in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara County.
This article will concentrate on what to do in Lompoc per se. I consider myself an expert on the area so feel free to check my complete guides to Solvang and Los Olivos.
Indulge at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto
Lompoc is located in wine country. To be more specific, the town is within close proximity to the Santa Rita Hills American Viticultural Area (AVA). I try to avoid generalizations as much as possible. However, I have to acknowledge a good share of visitors stops by the town to try the fruits of the vines cultivated in this area.
The distinctively named Wine Ghetto consists of 20 wineries/wine tasting rooms housed in an industrial complex. You will not find state of the art facilities full of shiny bells and whistles. But, be prepared to have handcrafted, soulful wines. I am referring to the stuff that makes you sigh hard. On top of that, you may be served by the person who created the wine or by somebody who has an intimate knowledge of the operations.
Come here if you want to spend a good chunk of the day tasting. The ability to walk between tasting rooms is a plus.
Here are some recommendations for starters:
Flying Goat Cellars – A legion of fans adore the pinot noirs, pinot gris and sparkling wines produced by this label
Montemar Wines – Small production winery with a great reputation. They focus on Rhone and Burgundian varietals
Taste of Santa Rita Hills – This place affords the opportunity to try different wines from the area. Several of their offerings come from producers without tasting rooms
Piedrasassi Wine & Bread – This place is open to tastings by appointment only. Mentioning it in here since it also sells fresh bread of Fridays afternoon (wines are for sale at that time too)
Palmina Winery – Specializes in Italian varietals (a nice change of pace in a place where French varietals are the norm)
Important Note: Most of the tasting rooms in the Wine Ghetto open during the weekends. As popularity grows, some have started to open Thursdays and Mondays. Confirm opening hours before your visit.
Get a Dose of History at La Purisima Mission State Park
If you didn’t know, the history of modern California has roots on a series of missions (churches), presidios (military posts) and pueblos (villages) founded by Spaniards. Most of these, exist nowadays in some sort of shape or form.
Most of California’s 21 missions are located in urban settings (since major towns developed around them). Because of this, it is hard to imagine how life was during the late 1700s and early 1800s when there were no other settlers (or structures) around.
La Purisima Mission is located in a lot surrounded by rolling hills, trees and wildlife. From the site, no signs of civilization are visible. Therefore, you feel in the same shoes of the original inhabitants. You are in the wilderness out there. To me, that is reason enough to visit.
La Purisima is a State Historic Park operated by the California State Park Systems (it is not under the management of the Catholic Church like most of the Missions). That means there is an entrée fee ($6) but, on the other hand, it means you are going to have access to a visitor center, guided tours, interpretative signs, well-maintained hiking trails and facilities such as restrooms and water fountains.
I highly recommend a visit to this site since there is a lot to see and learn. Plus, the structure itself is beautiful!
Note: The other mission located in the valley, gives the entire region its name: Santa Ynez (20 miles from Lompoc).
Go Mural Hunting
You guys know I am a big fan of street art, murals, and graffiti.
Imagine how pleased I was when I discovered that Lompoc has more than 40 murals clustered around its Old Town. Walking around is a total feast for the eyes. The murals are high-quality and provide insight into the town’s founding, prominent citizens, urban legends, main industries, and surrounding natural sights. The burst of colors is everywhere.
If you are planning to see the murals, head to Downtown Lompoc (H Street between Cypress Avenue and Walnut Avenue). You can ask for a map at the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce (111 South I Street).
Walk the Streets of Old Town
Well, if you decide to take my previous recommendation, you are going to end in Old Town anyway. While in there, try to unglue your eyes from the murals and pay attention to the architecture. Notorious buildings include the First Baptist Church, Grace Temple, Lilley Building and Lompoc Theater. If you want to learn more or have more context, you can do the one-mile, self-guided Heritage Walk. Maps are available at the Chamber of Commerce or online.
Old Town is known for its specialty stores as well. You can find antiques, gifts and local-made products at T & T Sweet Repeats and A Little Something Special and More.
And, if you enjoy spotting local landmarks (I fall in that category), stop by Rice Bowl to check out the neon signs shaped like bowls of chow mein.
Stop by the Lompoc Museum
Located in Old Town as well, the Lompoc Museum has exhibits showcasing Chumash (original inhabitants of the area) artifacts, pioneer’s stories and the town’s relation to space exploration. Guided tours are available (call or e-mail for additional details).
Other museums in town include the Artesia School (115 W Chestnut Avenue) and Andrew L. Huyck House.
Get your Fine Art Fix
As you may have noticed, Lompoc’s Old Town exudes art and history (literarily) at every corner. In the art category, let me make another addition. The Cypress Gallery has on display the work of more than 60 local artists. Come to take a look at paintings, photos, ceramics, jewelry and more.
Do not forget to check the murals painted on the sides and back on the gallery’s building. Plus, on an alley behind the structure, several murals showcasing flowers can be found. These are some of my favorites in the town.
Enjoy the Blooming Flower Fields
Lompoc has a long history of commercial flower growing. Throughout the years, because of many factors, this activity has declined but there are still some businesses planting flowers.
As a consequence, it is possible to see Bells of Ireland, Delphinium, Larkspur, and Stock in full bloom from April to September. If you are interested in seeing the flowers, you can drive along Central Avenue (between Bailey and Sugar Union Avenues). Other fields are located along La Purisima Road, close to the Mission.
Keep in mind the flower fields are privately owned. You can take a look but interacting with the flowers is not permitted. A flower festival is held late June every year.
Photo by Harold Litwiler
Camp at Jalama Beach
To be honest, Lompoc is not seen as a beach destination. However, a short drive will take you to some pretty awesome beaches.
Jalama is one of those beautiful, wild and not-so-known beaches. What started as a Chumash settlement has turned into a haven for surfing, fishing, hiking, swimming and bird watching. A lot of people love this place because it feels completely disconnected from civilization.
The adventure starts by taking a windy road (CA-1) along hills and vineyards. Then, you will turn into Jalama Road to reach your final destination (about 14 miles).
You can visit for the day ($10 fee) or stay (tent or RV). For reservations, visit Santa Barbara County Parks. I recommend making reservations far in advance since camping next to the beach is very popular in California. Dogs are allowed for an additional fee ($3 each).
Jalama is also famous for the burgers prepared and served at the Beach Store and Grill (open 7 days a week). This unassuming establishment has a legion of fans. So, try a Jalama Burger and let me know if it is worth the hype.
Photo by Pierce Martin
Enjoy the Views at Surf Beach
If for one reason or another, you cannot make it to Jalama, a visit to Surf Beach (at the end of Ocean Avenue) will give you a good feeling of how remote beaches look.
This beach is closer to Downtown Lompoc but it feels worlds apart from a city. It is a long stretch of white, fine sand extending as long as your eye can see. The wind has created “small dunes” in some parts. Therefore, a ripple effect is seen when you stand in a high position.
Now, as mentioned this is a rough beach. You will not feel like testing the waters once you see the violent surf. On top of that, white great shark attacks have been registered there. I am not kidding! There is a sign warning visitors.
Note: Some parts of this beach are closed March to September to protect the nests of the Snowy Plover, an endangered species.
Visit Ocean Beach Park
Next, to Surf Beach, you are going to find the Ocean Beach Park. This is a good option if you find Surf Beach too undeveloped for your liking.
The Beach Park is good for beach walks, hiking (next to the estuary), biking and picnicking.
Enjoy the Amenities of River Park
I am mentioning River Park since it is a great place to visit with the entire family. The place counts with trails, restrooms, group barbeque areas, volleyball courts, and playgrounds. In addition, it has 35 campsites. So, if you cannot find a camping spot in Jalama, try this place. You will be close to all the main attractions while having your “wilderness” experience.
Other parks with trails and different services include:
- Beattie Park
- Miguelito Park
- River Bend Park
Stop by an Indoor Water Park
I wasn’t expecting this but the Lompoc Aquatic Center has water slides, a lap pool, a play structure, and a therapy pool. The best part is that admission is only $4.50 for adults and $3.50 for kids. Imagine all the fun you can have!
This is a superb option for families with kids. Plus, you do not have to worry about getting sunburned! The center is opened to the public Saturdays and Sundays.
Buy Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Every Friday, vendors meet in Old Lompoc from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. You can find things such as seasonal fruits and vegetables, flowers, baked good, honey, nuts and much more.
In addition, you may notice small stands, next to the roads, selling all sorts of goodies and local products. I recommend stopping and checking the selection. I have bought so much good stuff in these places!
Learn about Wild Horses
The Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary is located along Jalama Road (the same road that takes you to the beach). This is not necessarily a place suitable for the masses but I am sure animal and conservation lovers would be delighted to learn about it.
The sanctuary provides a safe home to 400 wild horses and burros. These fabulous animals are allowed to roam around 1,500 acres of land. In addition, the organization running the sanctuary is dedicated to educating the public and advocate for the well-being of wild horses.
You can visit the sanctuary on guided tours (last Saturday of the month, $50), photo safari ($200) or private tours. Volunteering opportunities are available. Visit this page for more details.
Well, while in town, you will need to eat. I am going to be completely transparent about this, I do not find Lompoc’s gastronomic scene that exciting. But things are improving, and the future is promising.
Here are some of the best Lompoc restaurants to try:
Scratch Kitchen – one of the newest additions to the town’s roster of restaurants. Specialize in serving dishes with the freshest ingredients from the area. The menu includes fish tacos, sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads (all are modern interpretations of classics)
Valle Eatery – expect tons of local, seasonal ingredients. Be ready to try battered Brussel sprouts, roasted squash, brick oven pizzas, and tri-tip tacos.
Floriano’s – this place will satisfy all your Mexican Food cravings. The ample menu features tortas, tacos, seafood, and even a hot Cheetos burrito
Chow Ya – the concept of this restaurant is considered Asian-Fusion. Poke, salmon, bulgogi and veggie bowls are served
Alfie’s – a local favorite to get fish and chips. They serve clam strips, scallops, catfish, and hushpuppies too
The Santa Ynez Valley is full of beautiful towns and fun attractions. There is plenty to do in the area. Below are some ideas on how to extend your stay in Lompoc and the surrounding areas.
Solvang – this is California’s Little Denmark. Visit to discover all sort of Danish treats (architecture, food, sweets). Solvang is located about 6 miles from Los Olivos and has a considerably larger selection of services (restaurants, hotels, etc.)
If you are spending some time in Solvang or visiting for a day, I recommend you take a look at my detailed article on Things to Do in Solvang.
Keep exploring by checking out the following posts:
Solvang Pictures: The Danish Village of my Dreams
Solvang Images: A Piece of Denmark Close to Home
Solvang Bakeries and Sweet Treats
Los Olivos (27 miles) – this is the main wine tasting town of the Valley. Visit if you are interested in trying the fruits of the vines. I have a complete guide on Things to Do in Los Olivos
Ostrichland USA (19 miles) – a fun spot where you can feed ostriches and emus
Quicksilver Ranch (24 miles) – ranch breeding miniature horses. The public is welcome to stop by to take a look at the horses for free
Chumash Casino Resort (25 miles) – this is a spot for those who enjoy gambling and buffets
Santa Ynez (25 miles)– this is the cowboy town of the valley
Buellton (18 miles) – another small town with good restaurants and several tasting rooms
More of Southern California
Find out how to spend one fun-filled day in Los Angeles
Get inspiration by reading my Los Angeles Ultimate Bucket List
What are the best things to do in Lompoc? Have you been?
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