FX Excursions

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Uncork Family Fun in Lompoc, California

by Elyse Glickman

May 26, 2018

Photo: Debra Tosca | Dreamstime.com

Age Specific / Kids

Santa Barbara County is one of the most idyllic places in the country with its lingering beachfront and small-town tranquility. However, as far as vacation destinations go, this go-to spot for taste-making Los Angeles- and San Francisco Bay-area denizens is widely associated with such “grown-up” pursuits as winery visits, fine dining, art galleries and upscale shopping.


On that front, it’s interesting to note many of California’s finest “Central Coast” wines hail from Lompoc, an agricultural center an hour from the glamorous trappings of the city of Santa Barbara. On the surface, Lompoc may appear to be a California expression of the archetypical American farm town. However, like a good bottle of wine, when you allow it to breathe and open up around to you, it reveals a complex and rich character. It also may be one of the most engaging family destinations in the state.


Lompoc Mission Longhorn

Lompoc Mission Longhorn. Photo: Elyse Glickman


Lompoc was incorporated Aug. 13, 1888. Centuries before European settlers put down stakes, however, the area was inhabited by the Chumash people. As you would expect, Lompoc today is shaped by things it residents have been proud of for generations rather than full-tilt theme parks and corporate-style entertainment. The “Old Town” doubles as a fantastic outdoor museum full of murals and vintage signs. The surrounding area has one of the nation’s ultimate working “science center” experiences, a dynamic old California mission, the Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary, and various repurposed homes and public buildings from the “Wild West” past that keeps this corner of American history alive.


Lompoc Street Mural Military Focus

Photo: Elyse Glickman


With engineering, technology and STEM/STEAM programs finding their way into elementary school curriculums, kids will be inspired by public events offered at Vandenberg Air Force Base. While this summer’s highest profile event is the launch of the Mars-bound InSight Atlas 5 Rocket, the 30th Space Wing Public Affairs office hosts monthly visits to the Vandenberg Space and Missile Heritage Center at Historic Space Launch Complex-10, on the third Tuesday of each month at 1 p.m. throughout the year.


Space Launch Complex-10 pulls together the history of SLC-10 and all West Coast launch programs as it tells the story of the critical role Vandenberg AFB (normally a closed installation) plays in launching commercial, national security, and scientific polar-orbiting satellites. To sign the family up for a monthly visit, one must write 30SW.PA.Workflow@us.af.mil, providing full name, date of birth and driver’s license number at least 15 days in advance of the planned visit.


On July 13-15, more than 100 planes and their pilots will make their way to Lompoc for the 34th Annual West Coast Cub Fly-In, a free celebration of flight and the vintage Piper J-3 Cub aircraft built between 1937 and 1947. Airplane lovers can walk among the planes, enjoy quality questions with the pilots and witness daring flying events including flour bombing and spot landing contests.


Lompoc Mission Guide

Lompoc Mission Guide. Photo: Elyse Glickman

A jaunt to La Purisima Mission, meanwhile, takes visitors back in time to explore local history and Native American traditions in California. This mission, the most comprehensively restored of the California missions, encompasses various rooms, buildings and courtyards capturing what mission life was like for settlers, soldiers and the Chumash nearly 200 years ago. The entry point is a museum-grade visitor’s center with beautifully preserved and curated artifacts. Guided tours of the mission are offered (which includes well cared for animals), and there are special events scheduled through the year where kids can interact with costumed docents representing those who lived there, as well as have the opportunity to make tortillas, leather bookmarks and other native crafts.


In addition to the outdoor murals, Lompoc’s Old Town Heritage Walk offers more glimpses into its history via the 18 stops along the way, including the Andrew L. Huyck House (1890), Artesia School House (1876), Lompoc Museum (1911) and the Italian Stone Pines (planted 1940). On Fridays in July and August, the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center stages the Old Town Market, a bustling outdoor marketplace featuring a farmers market, community booths, live music and themed activities each week.


Although old-school motels and cute bed-and-breakfasts abound, the Hilton Garden Inn Lompoc, opened in 2016, unites the best of the traditional and modern. Designed especially to meet business travelers and families traveling to Lompoc, the stylish property, a few minute’s drive from Old Town, offers the excellent farm-to-plate-focused Valle Restaurant and spacious suites.


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