Take the Scenic Route: A Weekend in Hidden, Artsy Lompoc

La Purisima Mission is a hub for Lompoc’s community and culture

La Purisima Mission is a hub for Lompoc’s community and culture

Ventura has its agriculture, Santa Barbara has its shopping, and San Luis Obispo has its vineyards. But hidden among the chain of Central Coast hotspots lies a secret enclave with fewer crowds, small-town charm, and big-time creative culture: Lompoc, California.

You find Lompoc by getting off the 101 at one of several random turnoffs that will have the drivers behind you craning their necks to see if you’re lost or out of gas. Let ’em think it—it’s better that this place stays a secret. Once you leave the freeway and head west for CA 1, you’ll drive through rolling chaparral and sylvan forests and past the herds of free-ranging cattle and horses. If you get lost, most everyone around here is pretty friendly, just make sure to pronounce the city lahm-poke. It makes the locals happy.

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Weekend Escape: Seaside City of Oxnard Gets Makeover for Wine Lovers

On the 10-year anniversary of the film “Sideways,” Oxnard is in no short supply of wines

On the 10-year anniversary of the film “Sideways,” Oxnard is in no short supply of wines

Once upon a time, 10 years ago to be exact, the sleeper-hit film “Sideways” dismissed the city of Oxnard, California, as a ho-hum suburb. To be fair, there really wasn’t much of a food and wine scene to keep Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church entertained when the movie was made 10 years ago. But a decade later, Angelenos planning an easy weekend escape and out-of-towners seeking a classic California experience will find Oxnard to be a Mecca for fine wine (I’m looking at you, Merlot), farm-to-table cuisine, and adventure on the Pacific.

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A Day in Los Olivos

The landscape is Santa Ynez Valley as seen from Refugio Ranch Vineyards

The landscape is Santa Ynez Valley as seen from Refugio Ranch Vineyards

On one side the Pacific Ocean glitters, beckoning surfers and sun worshippers. On the other side, tall coastal grasses and the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains, punctuated with oak and sycamore trees, hint at what’s to come. I am driving along US Highway 101 approaching the Santa Ynez Valley, just two-and-a-half hours north of Los Angeles, California.

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Flowers and Food Combine at Carpinteria’s Field-to-Vase Dinner

The table is set for dinner insider a gerbera daisy greenhouse

The table is set for dinner insider a gerbera daisy greenhouse

It was like something out of a spy movie. We met at precisely 4:45 p.m., chose our seats in a white, unmarked van in front of a local motel, and were shuttled to an undisclosed location: a greenhouse high above the breezy coastline and amidst a plethora of other such flower-growing, hydroponic hot houses. Although we were not sure the exact location of this private dinner, the details were to bloom right before our eyes.

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Rejuvenate in Ojai

A view of the Ojai Valley

A view of the Ojai Valley

If I could outsource my New Year’s resolutions, I’d hire the idyllic town of Ojai. Nestled in a cozy valley thirty miles east of Santa Barbara—but miles from any interstate—this peaceful community is a famed refuge for self-betterment and spiritual retreat. In Ojai, wellness collects like morning dew. But it’s not all crystals and dragons. Just ask the fashionable denizens of Los Angeles who come to bask in the warm Mediterranean climate and cacti-and-olive-tree-dotted landscape. It feels like old California: tranquil and uncluttered. Which is exactly how you’ll feel after a visit.

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