10 Cool Things to Do in Los Alamos, California

New lodgings, top-notch restaurants, shops, and tasting rooms offer a reason to spend a few days in this small Santa Ynez Valley town

Once a sleepy pass-through town, Los Alamos is having a rebirth. The city’s main drag, walkable Bell Street, is bustling with new shops, restaurants, and revived motels, offering visitors plenty to do. 

1. Stay at Skyview Los Alamos. You can’t miss this 33-room boutique hotel, perched on a hill off Highway 101. Browse the carefully curated shop in the midcentury restored lobby before heading to the pool bar at the Norman restaurant for a spicy Paloma cocktail and bites. Rooms are cozy and most have an indoor fireplace and a patio for lounging. Take advantage of the complimentary bikes, but use safety precautions when biking into town. Rates start at $179. 805-344-0104; skyviewlosalamos.com.

2. Bike to Bob’s. Expect a line at this unparalleled bakery, where friendly owner Bob Oswaks is typically working behind the counter or catching up with locals in the courtyard. Start with the glazed cinnamon morning bun before digging in to Egg in a Jar, a savory meal of purple potato puree topped with Gruyere cheese, a poached egg, bacon lardons, and crème fraiche—a dish so simply divine you’ll try to replicate it at home. Cancel plans for the following morning because you’ll want to come back for more. 805-344-3000; bobswellbread.com. 

3. Shop and score. The Depot Antique Mall and Wine Pub is chock full of antique and vintage pieces. With more than 60 vendors, plan on spending some time here—you’ll want to dig around for the gems. Look closely and you’ll notice that some of the cases are marked half off. 805-344-3315. 

4. Fuel up on carbs. The menu at Full of Life Flatbread changes weekly, depending on what local farmers have and what's at the farmers market. A favorite from last summer included mushroom and caramelized onion, date and bacon topped with walnuts, smoked leek sauce, and blue cheese. 805-344-4400; fulloflifefoods.com.

5. Sip on sparkling wine. Settle in at the 10-seat wine bar, Muni Wines at the Alamo, where knowledgeable servers pour flights from Santa Barbara’s Municipal Winemakers. Try the Fizz Shiraz, an unusually delicious sparkling red with just a touch of sweetness. The tasting room puts on various events (read: movie nights and yoga classes) throughout the year. Check the website for more information. 805-344-2852; rememberthealamomotel.com.

6. Stock up on souvenirs. You might feel like you’re walking through your grandmother’s home at Sisters Gifts and Home. Located in an 1800s home, shoppers can move from room to room browsing antiques and vintage decor. Take home locally made raw honey for friends and family. 805-357-9415.

7. Order a tasting flight. When you enter Casa Dumetz Wines, you’re greeted with a wall of wine bottles in aesthetically pleasing ombre order (Instagram, anyone?). Owner Sonja Magdevski started making wines in her garage before growing into her charming wine shop. Sample whites, roses, and reds while peeking into the owner’s family life via photos plastered on the shop’s walls. 805-344-1900; casadumetzwines.com.

8. Head next door. Come for the beer, but stay for the tacos at Babi’s Beer Emporium, connected to Casa Dumetz Wines. Also owned by Magdevski, the menu includes more than 50 varieties of craft beer from all over the world. Pair your brew with pork belly tacos topped with pickled garnish and cilantro glaze on fresh, hand-made tortillas. 805-344-1900.

9. Art for sale. At Terramonary, ceramics artist Ramona Clayton handcrafts one-of-a-kind dinnerware, sturdy enough for everyday use. Every piece of Porcelain Dinnerware is wheel-thrown and glazed using her own glaze recipe. 805-453-5102.

10. Nosh. Make reservations at Bell’s, a chic French-inspired eatery. Start with wild burgundy snails served with house-made garlic parsley butter and Bob’s Well Bread. Other standout dishes include steak tartare, French gnocchi, and Santa Barbara Hope Ranch mussels soaked in a saffron and white wine broth. Save room for the cake of the week—so pretty you’ll be splashing it all over social media. Reservations recommended. bellsrestaurant.com.

Top photo: Vineyards outside Los Alamos in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. Damian P. Gadal / Alamy Stock Photo