February 2, 2023

This is America’s Next Great Antiquing Town

exterior of pico restaurant in los alamos california

Aubrie Pick

The central travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California coast is home to many small towns that go big on on slow living and wine drinking in idyllic oceanside settings. But, one hour inland from Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Valley is an up-and-coming destination that offers all the makings of a fantastic small town vacation. We’re talking farm-fresh (and Michelin rated!) restaurants, beautiful trails for horseback riding, wineries aplenty, and, of course, an abundance of antique malls and vintage shops.

At the northern gateway to the Santa Ynez Valley, you’ll find Los Alamos, travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California (population: 1,634). Named for the Spanish word for cottonwood 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 as repurposed spaces—many of which house a host of delightful discoveries.

When it comes to fun things to do in Los Alamos and the greater Santa Ynez Valley, you definitely won’t run short. The restaurants are relaxed and unstuffy, yet deliver the absolute best in local food. Hotel options range from refurbished roadside motels to luxe private cottages, and the wine tasting rooms feature fresh vintages crafted with locally grown grapes. Then, of course, there’s the antiquing. Whether you prefer to spend hours sifting through densely packed displays or leisurely browse more edited collections, we guarantee you won’t be leaving without a one-of-a-kind treasure or two. So pack your bags (and maybe your riding boots!), because your next small town adventure awaits in central travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California. Keep reading for the very best things to do in Los Alamos, travel/" 1378 target="_blank">California.

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1 Make it Grain

Early risers head to Bob’s Well Bread Bakery for a hearty pre-antiquing breakfast of perfectly flaky pastries and inventive egg dishes served up in a converted gas station.

2 Scour the Shelves

3 Kick Up Your Feet

Pause your search for a bit at Bodega, an open-air wine and beer garden where guests can also shop the greenhouse or play bocce.

4 Relive the Olden Days

Held the last weekend of September, the Los Alamos Old Days festival celebrates the town’s Western heritage with a chili cook-off, vintage car show, peddler’s mart, and plenty more.

5 Set Off For More Shops

For a second bout of scouring, drive to Santa Ynez, where former Flea Market to Fabulous host Valerie Madeira curates a beautiful collection of vintage finds at Valerie’s Vintage & Supply Co. The California-made Mi Cocina denim placements sold at nearby Santa Ynez General will pair wonderfully with your new pieces, and KJ Murphy’s stocks Western-style Resistol hats to shield the sun while you’re on the hunt. For casual yet stylish wardrobe finds that won’t break the bank, head to Plenty Boutique.

6 Stop for a Refuel

Celebrate your scores by booking a table at Michelin-rated Bell’s, where Per Se alum Daisy Ryan (pictured) and husband Gregory serve unfussy French fare in an old refurbished bank, or enjoy upscale comfort food and an award-winning wine list at Pico (pictured at top). More in the mood for a chill night in? Pick up a speciality pizza from Full of Life Flatbread and queue up Sideways. The 2004 dark comedy (available on Hulu!) starring Sandra Oh and Paul Giamatti was filmed throughout the Santa Ynez Valley.

7 Saddle Up

Overnight guests at Alisal Ranch in Solvang can pair up with one of the property’s 100-plus ponies for everything from wrangling lessons to barrel racing. More casual riders should book a leisurely guided trail ride through the rolling hills of the grapevine-covered countryside with Vino Vaqueros.

8 Stop in for a Drink

At the spunky Casa Dumetz tasting room, winemaker Sonja Magdevski pours small-batch Rhône varietals made with local grapes. Next door at Babi’s Beer Emporium, also run by Sonja, hopheads knock back SoCal brews while snacking on steamed bao buns and duck egg rolls. More in the mood for rose? New Zealander Angela Osborne serves up a particularly delightful variety at A Tribute to Grace.

9 Rest Up Roadside

Nomada Hotel Group turned a 1950s motor lodge into Skyview Los Alamos, a retro retreat complete with a heated pool and bright orange Linus bikes for peddling into town. Sister property Hotel Ynez embraces indoor-outdoor living with communal firepits and hammocks on every room’s patio. Added bonus: Both properties are pet-friendly!

10 Nominate Your Favorite Small Town!

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