Most people today will never know about the colorful history of Lompoc and its beautiful flower fields. The fields used to be photographed with splash across major travel magazine covers, and were featured in a variety of travel journals. One by one, the flower fields disappeared and were replaced by other crops that were more economically viable.
What happened to them? The flowers were primarily used for their seeds, and the competition in Mexico, Central and South America meant that American farmers could no longer make a profit growing these crops. For many, it was hard to see them go.
However, Lompoc is a legacy of similar stories. The city next to Vanderberg Air Force Base was destined to be the next Space Shuttle launch port. Like the disappearing flowers, the dreams of that becoming a reality were dashed when another city won the honors. There are still commercial satellite launches that occur at Vandenberg (and most make the press as noteworthy events) but the city had to accept that their destiny in the stars was going to be more limited than envisioned.
Today, Lompoc has readjusted, re-invented and is considered one of the best hidden secrets of a coastal residential city. Farm workers and laborers live there in somewhat affordable housing, but there are also very nice homes that aren't as cheap as you'd wish for investments or a place to live. Some residents are home-based workers, and some commute to Santa Barbara, Solvang and other nearby cities within an hour's drive.
Like so many cities where tourism could provide enough income to help sustain local services, Lompoc has hotels built mostly during the heyday when the Shuttle was expected. To replace the lost flower fields that were only seasonal, anyway, they've expanded a public murals program with many painted on public buildings around the city. And their special events roster has grown. Even the annual Flower Festival and Parade that only lasted 2 days during the flower field era have now grown to 5 days of carnival rides.
Lompoc might best be called a survivor. The residents love their beach location and their semi-rural environment. Just outside the city is a top attraction, the Lompoc Mission, formally called La Purisima Concepcion. It is a restored facility that some believe replicates the original mission more than any other. School kids arrive in buses by the drove, and tourists love to wander the scenic grounds and buildings, learning about the mission era of California.
Beaches: The Central Coast beaches such as Lompoc's Ocean Beach, Surf Beach and Jalama Beach experience cool temperatures, often a wind, and strong waves. Unlike their Southern California counterparts, the beaches are popular but don't get the tourist numbers that even Santa Barbara beaches to the south enjoy.