In my mind, California’s central coast is one of the most beautiful and underrated regions in the state. When my husband and I had the chance to visit Lompoc one weekend with Explore Lompoc, we jumped at the opportunity! This area was first inhabited by the native Chumash people, and the name “Lompoc” is derived from the Purisimeño language meaning “lagoon.” Since then, the city was incorporated in 1888, and became known for its flowers, art, diatomite mine, Vanderberg Air Force base and wine.From our weekend in Lompoc, here were our top 10 favorite things to do:
- VISIT THE HISTORIC LA PURISIMA MISSION
This beautiful mission is part of the La Purisima State Historic Park, which covers 1,928 acres of land. The mission was originally built in 1787 near the southern part of Lompoc city, but after an earthquake destroyed in the mission in 1812, it was relocated a few miles northeast. The mission was rebuilt in linear fashion to better withstand future earthquakes, making it the only California mission not designed in a quadrangle. This beautiful and uncrowded mission is my favorite in the state!
- TAKE A SCENIC HIKE UP BODGER TRAIL
Bodger Trail is the top-rated hike in Lompoc. This steep 0.7 mile incline leads to a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and the flower fields, making it a short but sweet climb to a beautiful vantage point.
- GAZE UPON THE STUNNING LOMPOC FLOWER FIELDS
Speaking of flower fields! Lompoc is known as the “City of Arts and Flowers,” and also is known as the flower seed capital of the world. If you’re visiting between April and September, chances are you will see some beautiful blooms somewhere in the city—whether they be wildflowers or commercial flower fields. Be sure to check out Lompoc’s Flower Tracker before you go!
- WANDER OLD TOWN LOMPOC’S MURALS
There are 40 murals distributed throughout this adorable small town, and a map for that can be found here. The murals highlight Lompoc’s heritage, and are a great way to learn more about the history, economy and culture of this adorable place. Swing by the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor’s Bureau to grab a map and tips on what to do/see along the route!
- SUNBATHE AT JALAMA BEACH
Do the 30-minute drive from Lompoc town through some beautiful vineyards and rolling hills to get to Jalama Beach and catch some waves, nap in the sun, stroll along the coast or explore sea caves. You can also bring your furry friends ($3/dog) or try camping (starting at $30/night) here!
- GO WINE TASTING IN THE WINE GHETTO
Taste some of the best wine that the Sta Rita Valley has to offer. Lompoc’s wines are delicious, and you can be sure that you’ll have some great conversations and meet wonderful people as you explore Lompoc’s Wine Ghetto! Our favorite winery is Montemar Wines, which has some amazing pinots/syrahs and a large outdoor patio complete with games, live music and an organic garden. Also, this spot features the first ever wine barrel ceiling!
- GRAB A COFFEE AT SOUTHSIDE CAFÉ
This local favorite café features adorable, colorful art and some delicious coffee options. My favorite from here is the dark chocolate mocha with lavender! Southside Café sits right in the heart of Old Town Lompoc, and is a great starting point as you embark on your mural hunt.
- EAT A TASTY MEAL AT HANGAR 7
Also located in the heart of Old Town Lompoc, Hangar 7 is a charming gastropub that has delicious flatbreads (all of which you can sub gluten-free crust for at no additional charge!) and local wine/beer options. The aviation theme is apparent all throughout the lounge, and you might even find a helmet signed by Elon Musk.
- LOUNGE BY THE POOL
Lompoc has incredibly temperate climate and never really gets too hot or too cold. This is part of why it’s so ideal for growing flowers, and also makes the town a great place for a pool day! We enjoyed an afternoon lounging at the Hilton Garden Inn.
- SWING BY THE OLD DRIVE-IN
This now abandoned drive-in theater is a great place to swing by for a quick photo on your way to the mission. Fun Fact: this drive-in was heavily featured in the 2004 film SIDEWAYS, starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen.
BONUS: VISIT THE AMERICAN WILD HORSE SANCTUARY
We unfortunately didn’t have time to do this in our whirlwind weekend, but Lompoc’s Return to Freedom horse sanctuary is dedicated to preserving America’s wild horse population through conservation, advocacy and education. These 5,000 acres span four different locations and are home to over 500 horses and 42 burros. You can tour the sanctuary by reserving a photo safari in advance!
Lompoc is a beautiful and underrated California gem, and I hope I’ve helped convince you to add it to your list the next time you drive up the central coast!
This guide is written in partnership with Explore Lompoc. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you so much to the City of Lompoc for making our weekend here a trip to remember!