Bakersfield’s central location puts it within two to four hours of many popular destinations in California and nearby states.
And when the temperatures rise, many locals take advantage of the opportunity to drive two hours to the beaches of the Central Coast. Pismo, Morro Bay, Avila and Cayucos quickly come to mind, as well as Santa Barbara and Ventura just south of San Luis Obispo County, but connecting it all – and most certainly worth visiting – is the city of Lompoc.
Located near the western border of Santa Barbara County between Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, Lompoc is a city reminiscent of Bakersfield. Just like how Bakersfield is seen by outsiders as a “place you drive by” on the way to San Francisco or Sacramento from the south or Los Angeles from the north, Lompoc is a city that travelers pass through on their way to San Luis Obispo County beaches to the north or Solvang and Santa Barbara to the southeast. But just like Bakersfield, Lompoc has a unique charm and appeal that can only be appreciated once you take the time to explore.
Want some cheese with that wine?
Like Bakersfield, agriculture is a big part of the economy for Lompoc and the surrounding areas.
While Bakersfield feeds the nation with a wide array of fruits and vegetables, Lompoc takes advantage of the climate and soil to produce myriad wines to enjoy. Drive down Highway 246 and you’ll be treated to seemingly endless vineyards and farmlands along rolling hills of coastal red oak that give way to white oak as you progress north.
Lompoc has 40 vineyards in the surrounding area and over 30 tasting rooms, 20 of which are located within walking distance of one another at the city’s “Wine Ghetto.”
For a truly memorable local experience, visit Dierberg Star Lane Vineyards and bring a platter of gourmet meats, cheeses and local veggies seasoned and lightly grilled from Central Coast Specialty Foods. You won’t regret it.
A view to dive for
The views of the Central Coast are amazing. There’s no denying that.
So imagine what everything looks like from 13,000 feet in the air inside a 900-horsepower Cessna Caravan plane – the roar of the engine providing the background noise as you overlook the entire Santa Barbara County coastline to the west, coastal cities north and south, and vineyards and farmlands to the east.
Now jump out of that plane.
You’re freefalling at over 120 mph with nothing around you but crystal-blue skies and the occasional puffy white cloud, the aerial views once so far away rapidly getting closer and closer. And then the parachute deploys and everything is still. Wind noise that assaulted your ears during your descent fades away as you can once again take in the sights of the Central Coast until your feet come in contact with solid ground.
That is the Skydive Santa Barbara experience and that should be your next adventure.
The sky’s no longer the limit
It’s easy to forget that Lompoc is home to Vandenberg Air Force Base, where many public and private aerospace launches for NASA, SpaceX and more take place while you’re plummeting toward the earth.
But Lompoc is actually the best vantage point for rocket launches on the West Coast. In fact, 20,000 people came for NASA’s Mission to Mars launch in 2018. Even if you can’t see the launch, you can most certainly hear and feel it.
Tours through portions of Vandenberg Air Force Base and Vandenberg Space and Missile Heritage Center are available throughout the year, but availability is limited and advanced planning is highly recommended.
The HeART of Old Town
Thirty years ago, a Lompoc city council member and his wife visited a southern Canada city that put murals throughout the area to attract visitors and proposed that Lompoc do the same.
Today, Lompoc boasts 40 murals on prominent buildings, street corners and alleyways throughout Old Town Lompoc, turning the area into an outdoor art gallery just waiting to be explored.
The murals depict the heritage, history, diversity and beauty of the city and can be found in even the most obscure areas, rewarding those who look where most do not. A self-guided walking tour is a must, as the murals lead visitors to local businesses that are definitely worth a stop.
A trip to Lompoc wouldn’t be complete without a trip back in time.
La Purisima Mission is the 11th of 21 missions in California and is part of the La Purisima Mission State Historic Park. The original mission was destroyed by an earthquake in 1812 and was rebuilt several miles to the northwest, covering approximately 2,000 acres. A guided tour takes visitors back to a time when 10,000 animals roamed the property and 1,000 blankets using wool sheared by hand were made.
The tree-shaded quad is the perfect place for a picnic as guests are serenaded by perching birds and leaves rustling in the wind.
Much like Bakersfield, Lompoc is a great home base for exploring the Central Coast. It’s a short drive to many popular destinations without the hassle and congestion that comes with staying at a popular Central Coast destination (especially during the summer). But Lompoc itself should not be overlooked. It’s full of small-town charm, local pride, and activities and sights just waiting to be discovered. ￼