California’s central coast is home to many small towns that prioritize slow living and wine drinking in an idyllic oceanside setting. But, an hour inland from Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Valley is an up-and-coming destination that offers all the ingredients for a great small-town vacation. We’re talking farm-fresh (and Michelin-rated!) restaurants, beautiful trails for horseback riding, numerous vineyards and, of course, an abundance of antique shopping malls and vintage shops.
At the northern entrance to the Santa Ynez Valley you will find Los Alamos, California (population: 1,634). Named after the Spanish word for poplar trees, the nearby hills once served as a hideout for Salomón Pico, the outlaw who inspired Zorro. Here, remnants of the Old West now shine in the form of repurposed spaces, many of which are home to a wealth of delicious finds.
When it comes to fun things to do in Los Alamos and the greater Santa Ynez Valley, you certainly won’t be short. The restaurants are relaxed and simple, but offer the best of local cuisine. Hotel options range from renovated roadside motels to luxury private cottages, and wine tasting rooms offer fresh vintages made with locally grown grapes. Then, of course, there are the antiques. Whether you prefer to spend hours browsing dense displays or leisurely perusing more edited collections, we guarantee you won’t leave without a unique treasure or two. So pack your bags (and maybe your riding boots!), because your next small-town adventure awaits in central California. Keep reading to discover the best things to do in Los Alamos, California.
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Make it grain
Early risers head to Bob’s Well Bread Bakery for a hearty pre-antiquity breakfast of perfectly flaky pastries and inventive egg dishes served at a converted gas station.
Raise your feet
Pause your search for a while bodega, an outdoor wine and beer garden where guests can also shop in the greenhouse or play pétanque.
Relive old times
Held the last weekend of September, the The old days of Los Alamos The festival celebrates the city’s Western heritage with chili cooking, a vintage car show, a traveling market and more.
Go for more stores
For a second episode of scouring, head to Santa Ynez, where the old Fabulous Flea Market host Valerie Madeira curates a fine collection of vintage finds at Valerie’s Vintage & Supply Co. California-made Mi Cocina denim placements sold nearby General Santa Ynez will go wonderfully with your new pieces, and by KJ Murphy stocks Western-style Resistol hats to protect you from the sun while you’re out hunting. For casual yet stylish wardrobe finds that won’t break the bank, head over to Lots of shops.
Stop to refuel
Celebrate your scores by booking a table at the Michelin bellswhere Per Se alum Daisy Ryan (pictured) and her husband Gregory serve up simple French fare in a refurbished former bank, or sample upscale comfort food and an award-winning wine list at peak (picture above). More in the mood for a chill party? Get a specialty pizza from Flat bread full of life and stand in line Next to. The 2004 black comedy (available on Hulu!) with Sandra Oh and Paul Giamatti was filmed throughout the Santa Ynez Valley.
In the saddle
Stop for a drink
To courage House Dumetz Tasting room, winemaker Sonja Magdevski serves small batches of Rhône varietals made from local grapes. Next to Babi’s Beer Emporium, also led by Sonja, hopheads spill SoCal beers while munching on steamed bao buns and duck spring rolls. More like pink? New Zealander Angela Osborne offers a particularly delicious variety to A tribute to grace.
Rest by the side of the road
Nomada Hotel Group has transformed a 1950s motorhome into Skyview Los Alamos, a retro retreat complete with a heated pool and bright orange Linus bikes for pedaling around town. Sister property Hotel embraces indoor-outdoor living with communal fire pits and hammocks on each room’s patio. Added bonus: both properties are pet friendly!
Name your favorite small town!
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