After our big (and admittedly over-budget) trip to Europe last March, we decided to focus the remainder of our travels for the year on quick getaways. Whether we escaped L.A. for a day or a long weekend, last year, we became really adept at jaunting.
So when my editor at Westways decided to publish my idea about day-tripping to Lancaster, off we went for a jaunt in the Antelope Valley. Tucked away about 70 miles northeast of L.A. in northern Los Angeles County, Lancaster is one of the key cities that makes up California’s High Desert. Fortunately, we didn’t have to suffer in the heat because we timed our outing in the spring a few weeks after returning from Europe.
I think most Angelenos can attest that because L.A. County is comprised of so many different cities, we often hear about places but we have no idea where they actually are. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving along the freeway only to see a sign and think to myself: “Oh that’s where Glendora is!” or “I never knew Alhambra is so close to Pasadena!” Apparently, my mom and aunt weren’t exactly sure where Lancaster was (neither was I until I researched it), and out of curiosity, they decided to tag along; we were grateful for their company and always engaging conversation.
Our drive to Lancaster was just as entertaining as our short day there. My mom and aunt are nervous passengers, and my mom tends to be a backseat driver. But more than that, the scenery along the way was ridiculously beautiful.
“I feel like we’re back in Provence,” I said to Jave and my mom. They agreed as we drove past huge, rural estates surrounded by trees and blooming flowers. Because of the narrow roads along parts of the 14-N, we were unable to stop for pictures, but the drive to Lancaster definitely reminded me of why I’m so in love with California.
You know how it is after you’re coming down from a high of a long trip away and you desperately want your travels to continue? Well, our getaway to Lancaster, while brief, provided the perfect change of scenery from bustling, overcrowded L.A. Here’s a brief look at how we spent our day…
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Our first stop was at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. From mid-February through late May, California poppies are in full bloom at the reserve which sits just 15 miles west of Lancaster. California’s state flower rules the fields of this Mojave Desert Grassland habitat which boasts eight miles of trails where you can hike and spot everything from rattlesnakes to bobcats. Thankfully, we didn’t see any because the peaceful flower field most definitely would’ve turned into a chaotic caper. I’ll be sharing more pictures from this beautiful reserve in next week’s post, so stay tuned.
Antiques at the Barn
“Is this trash or treasure?” That’s the question I asked myself repeatedly as we wandered through the mishmashed aisles of junk. Antiques at the Barn is located in an old barn along a country road where you’ll discover seemingly disorganized rooms filled with everything from old phones, radios, toys, and bicycles to special finds like a cute orange lamp I found that looked like something that would’ve been in my grandmother’s house.
While my aversion to clutter tends to turn me off from these kinds of stores, I have to admit that this store is worth a visit simply for the unique and random things you’ll find that are fossils from recent times past.
It’s impossible to visit Lancaster without finding some reason to visit Lancaster Blvd., better known simply as the BLVD. The BLVD is the city’s one stop destination featuring over 40 dining, shopping, and entertainment options. Located in downtown Lancaster, the BLVD also hosts a farmer’s market every Thursday. From the picture, you can see just how “poppin’” the BLVD really is which should give you an idea of what everyday life in Lancaster is probably like. To be fair, we visited during a weekday, so maybe people were just at work.
The Lemon Leaf Café
It just so happened that on the day of our trip to Lancaster, my niece was competing in a track and field meet at a nearby local college. So before going to see her run, we stopped for lunch at the The Lemon Leaf Café. Located on the BLVD, when you step through the doors of the café, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to a lemon grove somewhere in the Mediterranean thanks to the beautiful hand-painted wall mural.
The menu takes its inspiration from the Mediterranean and the chef’s family recipes, and menu highlights include wraps, pressed sandwiches, and a variety of pizzas and pastas. The food here is amazingly delicious and incredibly rich. I think I overdid it with my salad, pasta, and decadent brownie for dessert, because after eating, I got a bad belly ache. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend this café because the food is really, really good.
For a more complete rundown of how to spend your day in Lancaster, check out my Westway’s article in the September 2014 issue or online here.