On the hunt for a hidden gem? You’ll find it in Los Alamos, California. Once viewed as a time capsule of the Old West, this small town on the edge of the Santa Ynez Valley is so much more than a pretty face thanks to a resurgence in the form of Michelin-worthy eateries, modern hotels and stunning wineries in its mere seven-block span.
Whether you’re looking for a laidback, culinary road trip with friends or an intimate couples retreat to wine country, we’ve gathered the best places to stay, eat, drink and explore in California’s decidedly cool weekend getaway.
Once a historic roadside motel, this 33-room luxury boutique hotel gives off a ‘50s feel with mid-century modern furnishings and a touch of Southwestern charm. Rent a pair of bikes from the property to make your way around town or kick back beside your private fire pit (with select rooms) to take in the picturesque views of wine country. Bonus Points: Skyview is dog-friendly, so don’t forget Fido!
Located in the heart of Los Alamos, The Alamo Motel is steps away from local eateries, shops and tasting rooms to explore during the day. To unwind, head back to your desert-chic home base to soak in the relaxing clawfoot tub or join friends around the communal fire pit.
Each suite is uniquely themed at this cozy, six-room Victorian b&b from 1864. Take your pick from fun fantasy suites like the Egyptian, Roman and ‘50s-inspired, which comes equipped with an in-room hot tub and a ‘56 Cadillac convertible parked at a drive-in movie.
Bodega’s wine and beer garden is the perfect afternoon hangout spot with your group. Sip on specialty wines and craft brews, play a round of bocce ball outdoors and be sure to stop at their on-site store to pick up fresh jams for home.
Located at Skyview Los Alamos, Norman exudes “California cool” with colorful decor and a contemporary menu full of refreshing dishes and a killer cocktail list. Our picks? The Baja Scallops and a Sugar and Spice cocktail!
On the grounds of the Alamo Motel, this wine bar is a must for any wine traveler. Taste your way through a curated selection of reds and whites—the Pale Pink is especially popular—all made by Winemaker/Owner Dave Potter.
The hanging copper pots and colorful area rugs at Bell’s (created by Greg and Daisy Ryan from Michelin-starred Per Se in NYC) will make you feel right at maison.Make a dinner reservation for you and your beau, and dine on French staples like escargot, moules frites and coq au vin.
Don’t be surprised if you wind up at Bob’s Well Bread Bakery once a day during your visit to Los Alamos. Fuel up first thing in the morning with breakfast items and fresh coffee off their café menu, or pick up a fresh loaf to enjoy on your own time. No matter what your selection may be, Bob’s is the real deal.
The sister spot to Babi’s, Casa Dumetz is a great lazy afternoon wine-and-bite break. In the industrial-yet-rustic space, you can try light-bodied and full-bodied wines, as well as some of their more adventurous offerings—like their wine and cider hybrid!
Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the names of the game at this family-run winery just a short drive from Los Alamos. Every third Friday of the month they host a live music night so you can taste test and groove the night away at the same time.
While visiting Santa Ynez, you can get your Italian fix at S.Y. Kitchen, where the menu puts a fresh twist on classic dishes. Start your evening at their rustic courtyard for pre-dinner cocktails before heading indoors for main courses like wild mushroom pappardelle and rack of lamb.
Part of the 1880 Union Hotel, this modern western saloon is a step back in time with mood lighting, a pool table and wood furnishings. For a light dinner, take a seat at the bar to share a few appetizers and try a couple of their popular craft cocktails.
Babi’s not only serves up globally-inspired craft beers and ciders, but also some of the best tacos in the area. Order a crisp brew and a pork belly taco, then sit back and enjoy the laid-back ambiance on the patio to wrap up a day of exploring.
Full of Life always delivers some of the best food in the area in the form of perfectly-blistered flatbreads. Every weekend the chef puts out a menu full of specialty items, all made in-house. Hot Tip: Plan your next celebration here. The back room has a large oven and enough seats for the perfect intimate gathering with your crew.
Save this spot for a romantic dinner with your S.O. Pico features a menu of innovative dishes with thoughtfully-paired wines. Everything is locally-sourced and house-made, right down to the ketchup. Hot Tip: Sundays are reserved for burger nights, which are just as delicious as their main menu.
Lo-Fi Wines specializes in wine without anything added or taken away. The result? Low maintenance wine that’s vibrant in flavor and low in alcohol content, so you can relax, try some of their incredible food pairings and stay awhile.
With a morning pick-up location in Los Alamos, the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Tours is a convenient and fun way to go wine tasting with your girlfriends. Each tour stops at three to four beautiful locations, so you have a good mix of vineyards, cellars and tasting rooms.
A short drive from Los Alamos sits this historic Spanish mission, which was founded in 1787 and remains one of the most extensively restored missions in the state. For only $6 you can take a self-guided tour of the tranquil property.
Photo:Lisa Linh & Ken Soleta
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Sisters Gift and Home
Los Alamos, California
This popular vintage and antique shop features unique items from some of the very best dealers in the central coast. From paintings and pots to clothing and home decor, you’ll find hidden treasures around every corner.
Go an hour north or south of Los Alamos and you’ll discover two more idyllic coastal towns to tour. Drive south for a day trip to Santa Barbara, where you can immerse yourself in their artistic and newly-emerged Funk Zone, and enjoy a quiet day of sightseeing around town. Or head north to San Luis Obispo for a day of natural beauty, great shopping and delicious eats in Downtown SLO.