A road trip through Central California's towns of Santa Barbara, Solvang, Lompoc and Ojai
On our way up the coast we stopped by the Santa Barbara marina for a water-side lunch and also enjoyed the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum where we learned about the city's long and storied history with the ocean. From fishing to whaling to deep sea diving, we really grew to appreciate to huge role the sea plays in the lives of local people.
The next morning we drove to Lompoc, California, for my skydiving experience with Santa Barbara Skydiving! A bucket list item for sure! The worst part is the anticipation as the airplane ascends. Once you jump, the 120 mile per hour wind kicks in. You really don't begin to appreciate the stunning high altitude views until your parachute opens. I am glad I did it...but personally I don't feel the need to do it again. lol
After we returned to Solvang we perused the Santa Ines Mission, and enjoyed the historical Danish Elverhoj Museum as well! We really felt like we had a taste of Danish life in the museum, with displays of traditional dress, smoke pipes, wooden clog shoes, spinning wheels, and a display of those delicious aebleskiver pastry desserts! The diorama of old Solvang in the rear cottage shows just how much the town has grown since it's inception. We enjoyed learning more about the Viking culture and language as well.
Speaking of aebleskiver pastries, the best place in town to try them (so we were told) is Solvang Restaurant, which has a walk-up window in the front selling aebleskivers. They sell them in a container of three, with jam and powdered sugar or with those toppings and vanilla ice cream. The aebleskiver pastries themselves are like a pancake-tasting dough ball. They are very heavy, but taste great with the jam and sugar on top. My husband ordered the aebleskivers a la mode (with ice cream), but without the jam. This lessened the sweetness a bit. Oh, and beware of the honey bees attracted to the jam!
We're sure all of the hotels and restaurants in Solvang are acceptable, but one restaurant in particular stood out to us, Toscana Pizzeria! Don't let the name fool you. We didn't have pizza here, but ordered the off menu sea bass with rosemary potatoes, and a delicious watermelon salad. They have an extensive wine selection as well. And a special shout out to Cafe Dolce for making a vegan chocolate gelato, with flakes of real chocolate inside! Yum!
On our return drive back to L.A. we stopped by the Ojai Olive Oil Company. We learned a lot about the 8 different types of olive trees they have on the property, the history of the property itself, and how they harvest and process the olives to make their specialty oils. Some of their olive oils are infused with other oils, like lemon, mandarin orange, or garlic, which creates some unique and tasty flavors. They also sell other products made from olive oil and wood, and vinegars as well. Support the local olive oil industry here in California and make sure you stop by for one of their free tours and olive oil tastings, currently on Wednesdays, Saturdays or Sundays from 10 to 4.
The town of Ojai also has many nice shops, restaurants and parks. It's main street architecture is designed in an old Spanish mission theme. We enjoyed fresh gourmet sandwiches at Marche' Gourmet Delicatessen and stumbled upon their Sunday Ojai Certified Farmers Market where we purchased some fresh plums, grapes, dates and breads.
If you're looking for a romantic weekend getaway in Central California, Solvang and the surrounding area has you covered!