As a traveler, deciding which destination to visit next has always been my dilemma. The world is filled with many hidden gems, making it challenging to choose my next travel destination.
I recently discovered Los Alamos, California. It’s a funky old town in California’s Central Coast founded in 1876 and is only a 12-minute drive from Los Olivos. Although small, this Californian town has an intriguing wine-tasting and culinary scene that grabbed my attention.
Not everyone has heard of Los Alamos, but this doesn’t mean that it’s not worth exploring. On the contrary, this town offers a lot of things — from various wine-tasting rooms to beautifully restored iconic mid-century hotels. Los Alamos is definitely a place worth visiting, regardless of how long or short your next trip is!
If you’re still creating your itinerary for your next trip, I’m here to help. I’ve written this article to help travelers make the most of their time the next time they visit Los Alamos. I’ve included here all the fun things you can do once you’re in town.
Taste Wines in Wine Tasting Rooms
Santa Ynez Valley, located in Santa Barbara County, boasts more than 120 wineries. This is the reason why this small town has several wine-tasting rooms of its own. This region is popular for producing the best Syrah, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir wines. Don’t like any of these wines? Fret not because the town offers a wide variety of varietals.
I suggest you start your wine-tasting adventure at the end of Bell Street and make your way down the six funky blocks to enjoy other wine-tasting rooms. If your budget is tight, I recommend sharing a tasting with other people, so you can cut costs!
Here are some of the best wine-tasting rooms in Los Alamos:
This wine-tasting room provides a more intimate experience. It offers an outdoor courtyard where guests can taste wines while enjoying jazz music. It’s open every day from 11 AM to 5 PM, so schedule your visit accordingly!
Founded by two lifelong friends, Lo-Fi Wines is a must-visit. This wine-tasting room combines music and wine, so expect to be greeted with a vinyl collection and turntable when you enter the room. Here, you can enjoy some good music as you sample some of the best hand-crafted natural wines.
Casa Dumetz Wines
If you’re looking for a wine-tasting room that offers a lunch menu, head to the Casa Dumetz Wines. They specialize in Grenache wines and serve flavorful dim sum bites. It’s a nice change from the usual charcuterie bites you see in most wine-tasting rooms.
You can also enjoy other drinks here aside from wines. They share the space with Babi’s Beer Emporium, where you can order craft beers.
Relax at Bodega Los Alamos
Looking for a relaxing way to end the day at Los Alamos? Spend some time around the fire pit at the Bodega. This breathtaking outdoor venue offers a unique space for communal gatherings, where you can meet locals and other tourists.
Bodega Los Alamos has a well-maintained greenhouse and stunning garden, complete with tables and fire pits that sit underneath olive treat. It’s basically a wine garden with a laid-back setting. The place also offers a bocce ball court. Yep, all of the things you’ll see and experience here will enable you to relax.
One thing I love about the Bodega Los Alamos is that it has a small shop where you can buy an uncommon selection of wines and various curated gifts. You can buy items here and enjoy them in your hotel or bring some to your friends and family back home!
Visit Antique Stores
Los Alamos California is considered a funky town by many — and it’s easy to see why. Here, locals take antiquing seriously. If you love to shop at antique shops, I guarantee you that you’ll always find something here that’s worth bringing home.
Here are two of the best antique shops located in Los Alamos:
Sister’s Gifts and Home
Sister’s Gifts and Home is a great place to start antique shopping. The owner started her business in Orcutt, California, and moved to one of the oldest homes in Los Alamos in 2017. She invited six other vendors and local artists to join her new space. Now, every vendor and artist has their own area set up in the shop, so you can find something new and interesting in every corner.
One thing that makes this place unique is its bright and airy atmosphere, which encourages visitors to spend more time and admire all the unique items available. Plant lovers will also enjoy Sister’s Gifts and Home as they offer a wide array of greenery and plants too.
Los Alamos Depot Mall
Stop at the Los Alamos Depot Mall to find a great selection of antiques, ranging from jewelry and collectibles to furniture and rugs. Once you’re done shopping, reward yourself with a beer or other refreshments from the pub on site.
Dine at Bell’s
Your trip to Los Alamos will never be complete without tasting the local’s foods. There are plenty of restaurants in this town, but Bell’s is probably one of the most popular among locals and tourists.
Bell’s is a french-inspired bistro that started with Daisy Ryan — an award-winning chef — and her husband. The two have years of experience in the culinary world and now have shared their love for food through Bell’s.
The menu at Bell’s changes daily depending on the availability of local produce, and the chef creates a pre-fixed menu every day. Dishes like Spanish sardines with homemade saltines and local uni and caviar are the kind of pairings you can expect from this restaurant. Bell’s is known for serving a mix of comfort food with a European flair.
Explore the Town With a Bike
Los Alamos is a small town with a population of just 1,600 people. To explore the town fast, grab your rental bike and take a tour of the town’s main strip called Bell Street. This is where you’ll find the best antique stores, wine-tasting rooms, and restaurants. Find anything you like? Stop over and continue cruising the street with your bike!
Have Organic Pizza at Life Flatbread
Do you live and breathe pizza (like me)? Well, if you’re always on the hunt for the best pizza whenever you’re traveling, include the Life Flatbread in your itinerary when you visit Los Alamos.
Life Flatbread produces the best wood-fired pizzas made with locally sourced ingredients. They also have vegan options and make gluten-free flatbreads. They don’t accept reservations, so you’ll have to put your name on the waiting list and wait for a text informing you that your table is ready.
Have Drinks Like You’re in the Wild West
There’s a place in Los Alamos that’ll make you feel as if you’re living in the Old West. According to folktales, Joaquin Murrieta (the real-life Zorro) hid for several years in Los Alamos while running from the law in the 1850s.
To experience what Zorro felt decades ago, step into the 1880 Union Hotel. It’s a former stagecoach stop built in 1880 by Wells Fargo. The original building was actually burned down in 1893 but was rebuilt in 1915 as a saloon and hotel.
Today, it has a dark wooden interior that’ll make you feel as if you’re on the set of a classic Western movie. Grab a drink here, and don’t forget to take pictures, too!
Grab Breakfast at Plenty on Bell
Another must-visit in Los Alamos is Plenty on Bell. This place is known to serve killer breakfasts. Its menu features breakfast staples but with a twist, like short rib hash and goat cheese scramble. If you want to enjoy a breakfast place that’ll offset all the wine you’ll be tasting later during the day, this is the place to be.
Stay in an Iconic Motel
Deciding where to stay is an important decision when visiting Los Alamos. Fortunately, even in this tiny town, you can choose from different accommodations. And trust me — the accommodations here are one of a kind!
I highly recommend these two accommodations in Los Alamos:
Skyview Los Alamos
For your accommodation in Los Alamos, consider staying at the Skyview Los Alamos. It’s a mid-century roadside motel that has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation located in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country. Built in the 1950s, the Skyview Los Alamos was renovated to preserve its vintage feel while incorporating modern decors and amenities.
Spending one or two nights in this motel will feel like a luxury retreat. Its well-decorated rooms have hardwood floors and marble-clad bathrooms. Even the small details feel elegant and luxurious, like the Nespresso machines and duvet covers. I recommend spending a little more to enjoy a room with a private patio, so you can bask in the stunning views of the town, especially at night.
Skyview Los Alamos offers a heated pool with a well-lit yellow motel sign in view. The hotel also houses a trendy restaurant called Normans, which is an excellent place to get some cocktails.
If you’re looking for accommodation that’s aesthetically pleasing, the Alamo Motel is the perfect option for you. This is a design lover’s dream because it combines a minimal design with a simple rustic appeal. In fact, how this motel looks will make you rethink your decor choices and inspire you to make changes at home.
Aside from its appearance, I love how the Alamo Motel is close to some of the town’s most popular sites. The motel is located on Bell Street, meaning it’s a walking distance of Los Alamos’ favorite spots, like Bob’s Well Bread and the Bodega.
Another perk of staying at the Alamo Motel is its on-site bar, Bar Alamo. Located right outside the motel doors, Bar Alamo is open Thursday to Saturday from 3 PM to 9 PM.
The Victorian Mansion Bed and Breakfast
At a glance, the Victorian Mansion Bed and Breakfast looks like a charming old Victorian home on the outside, but on the inside, it boasts several themed rooms. If you decide to stay here, you’ll be able to choose between a 50’s suite, a pirate suite, a Roman suite, an Egyptian suite, and many others.
Besides their themed rooms, the Victorian Mansion Bed and Breakfast also offers a wide selection of fine wines, champagnes, and other sparkling beverages. They even have spa treatments, which you can enjoy on their own or as part of a package.
Want a tour guide as you explore the wine country? Avail of their wine tours and enjoy being picked up from your accommodation and then chauffeured into some of the town’s most beautiful sceneries along the central coast. The cost of these tours covers a light lunch and tasting fees, so you can just sit back and enjoy the day.
Explore Surrounding Towns and Valleys
Make the most out of your trip to Los Alamos by visiting nearby towns and valleys. These places not only offer the best wines in California; they also provide experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.
Santa Ynez Valley
Make sure to include Santa Ynez Valley in your itinerary when you visit Los Alamos. This is a charming town site with a sophisticated cowboy feel. Santa Ynez Valley isn’t too far from Los Alamos but is less modern and a little more saloon than the small town.
Santa Ynez Valley offers great wine-tasting rooms and restaurants. When you’re here, don’t miss dining at the SY Kitchen and visiting the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society Museum.
Los Olivos is a town worth visiting. It offers similar activities to Los Alamos, California but has made a name for having the best epicurean restaurants and breathtaking views of the vineyards in Santa Barbara.
Similar to Los Alamos, Los Olivos also has many wine-tasting rooms. One of my favorites is Fess Parker, as it has high-quality Rhône varietals and a lovely patio, perfect for sipping wines and just relaxing.
If you want to experience Europe when you’re in California, spend a few days in the Danish village of Solvang. It’s located 20 minutes from Los Alamos.
Solvang is another great place to taste and discover different varieties of wines. You can also experience theatrical performances and American culture here. And because Solvang is a pet-friendly city, most of the establishments here allow you to bring your pets inside. This means you can dine and drinks with your fur babies!
Santa Maria Valley
For more wine exploration, head to Santa Maria, located north of Los Alamos. Here, you can create your own wine-tasting itinerary or ride the Santa Maria Wine Trolley for a trip around four vineyards in the area.
Some of the best wine-tasting rooms in Santa Maria Valley are Presqu’ile and Foxen Vineyard. If you want to drink something other than wine, head to Piper’s Kombucha Brew or Naughty Oaks Brewing. Don’t forget to try out Santa Maria’s famous BBQ dish to complete your experience in the region!
Stay Longer at Los Alamos
With the number of activities you can do in Los Alamos, spending an entire day here will not be enough. If you want to enjoy everything Los Alamos has to offer, go ahead and spend an entire week here. Your experience in this small town will definitely be one for the books!