Nestled between the vineyards of Ojai and the beaches of Ventura lies the agricultural town of Santa Paula. The burgh has etched itself into Southern California’s story due to its early stake in oil years ago and now for its sprawling farmland. With just under 30,000 residents, the small town stands proudly with its quaint shops, museums and restaurants that attract tourists, and a homey atmosphere that has kept locals there for years. The aura there ranges from educational to romantic, which makes it an interesting tourist location for singles, couples and families.
Santa Paula is known as the Citrus Capital of the World, evidenced by the large orange and lemon orchards in the area. The Limoneira Company, founded in 1893, is the city’s own gem with over 8,000 acres of land. Each year, Limoneira produces millions of lemons, oranges, avocados and specialty citrus for the United States and abroad. The company’s role in Santa Paula’s history has a strong foundation in economic and community growth and development through low-cost housing for employees. Investments in sustainable agribusiness practices also remain at top priority, including a solar orchard, renewable energy usage, green waste recycling and an integrated pest management system to naturally control insect damage to crops.
The Limoneira Company is also a participant in California’s booming agri-tourism business considering Santa Paula’s strong hold on the local agricultural industry. Visitors are encouraged to take tours of the ranch, enjoy dinner in the orchard, play bocce ball on the outdoor courts, bicycle through the groves or experience a hot air balloon ride over the fields.
Outside of The Limoneira Company, Santa Paula’s central area includes three museums that showcase the city’s commitment to arts, culture and its economic history. The Agriculture Museum has its own beehive, photographs of the city’s farming business, restored tractors, and new exhibits and events throughout the year. The Art Museum features work of local artists and winning pieces from the Santa Paula Art Show, in addition to rotating exhibits. The Oil Museum depicts Santa Paula’s integral role in Southern California’s petroleum boom, and the Santa Paula Aviation Museum will take you back to a time when the Santa Paula Airport and its pilots ruled the air. Among all of these museums are small shops and stores with unique or locally produced items. The Best of VC Marketplace stands out as a place to grab a full range of products, including food, jewelry, clothing and housewares.
For a full Santa Paula experience, stay for a couple of days and rent a room at the Glen Tavern Inn. The quaint hotel is rumored to be haunted by the spirits of people who operated or frequented the speakeasy and brothel on the third floor of the building during the rough and tumble peak of the oil business. Now, the Glen Tavern Inn is a landmark in the city, serving as a hotel for visitors of course, but also as a widely booked wedding location for couples. The restaurant’s bar is small, but it can be a lively location when local wines and cocktails made with Ventura County’s own limoncello begin to flow. The hotel is also situated in walking distance to museums, shops, a handful of eateries and all nine of the artistic murals that depict stories of farming, immigrant life, early inhabitants in the area and local artists. After more than a century, the Glen Tavern Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it has received Certificates of Special Recognition after large renovation and restoration projects.
Santa Paula may be small, but it provides another look at California’s story–a story that has long been entrenched in the history of its settlers, workers, businesses and growth. Less than two hours, the slower pace of life, quiet neighborhoods, small town nature and rolling fields of farm land make Santa Paula feel like a faraway land. It is a quick out of town trip that is well worth the drive.