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March 27th, 2015 at 8:30 am

Things to do in Lompoc

Ever had the urge to get away from it all in a place that’s not too far from urban life? Lompoc just might be your spot.

By the way, it’s not pronounced “Lom-pock” (as in pocket ), which W.C. Fields called it in his radio shows and the 1940 movie “The Bank Dick.” Lompocals have always called it “Lom-poke.”

Situated among low rolling hills on state Route 246 about 10 miles from the coast, and an hour or so each way to Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo via Highway 101, the town of 60,000 has only about five hotels. You can relax in your room or make it home base for visits to historic La Purisima Mission, miles of hiking and biking trails, golfing, motorsports, and horseback riding areas, most for little or no cost.

Two lovely, lesser-known public beaches are a short drive away. You can even have Amtrak drop you off or pick you up at one of them–aptly named Surf–which the Pacific Surfliner visits four times a day. There’s only a sheltered platform and five parking spots, which makes it a hike from the road for surfers who love to ride some of the best year-round, isolated left and right breaks on the coast. But if you don’t surf, it’s worth the 10-mile road trip northwest from Lompoc to see the beach.

Surf is actually on the grounds of Vandenberg Air Force Base, the largest employer in Santa Barbara County. Vandenberg is the only installation in the free world where operational intercontinental ballistic missiles and polar-orbiting space satellites are launched. The missiles’ long, white contrails often can be seen streaking across California skies.

Another coastal gem is Jalama Beach County Park, about 15 miles southwest of town. It’s also pretty isolated, making it a favorite of locals and the lucky campers who can reserve the few RV and tent spaces available year round. You can even camp on the beach in the off season. There are miles of sandy beach to explore and few signs of civilization, although the Jalama Beach Store is renowned for its “Jalama Burger.”

Lompoc is well-known for its thriving flower industry. Growing conditions are so favorable, the town is called the “flower-seed capital of the world.” Colorful crops of sweet peas, marigolds, sunflowers, delphinium and more can be visited with care around town during flower season, which runs late May through mid August. The local chamber of commerce offers a PDF map of the best places to visit. To see even more, consider a visit June 24-28 for the 62nd Annual Flower Festival.

If wine is among your passions, take off on the Lompoc Wine Trail. Award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are produced here, and the trail extends well past Lompoc to other famed Santa Barbara County wineries.

Lompoc’s diverse mix of cultures and ethnicities makes for a lively blend of Mexican, Filipino, Italian, seafood, and American eateries. Check with the chamber, go online, or ask locals for recommendations. (Say “Lom-poke” to show them respect.) After a day or two of zipping around the region, you’ll want to fill your stomach, as well as your fuel tank, for the ride back to Highway 101.

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