In recent years, Central California’s Santa Ynez Valley has transformed from Hollywood celebrities’ hidden gem destination to a delightful weekend getaway for young Californian couples and families.
This is’t a surprise, similar to Sonoma in northern California, there’s something incredibly charming about quaint little towns known for their thriving wine industry. Especially for big city slickers, escaping to a quiet region full of activities to explore makes a valley like Santa Ynez extremely captivating.
If you’re road tripping through California, don’t forget to pause for a few days in SYV for legions of nature, lots of good food accompanied by delicious wines. Here’s an easy list of to-dos for a comprehensive itinerary:
PS. I highly recommend booking your nights at Santa Ynez Inn for outstanding service and undeniable charm.
1. “W” is for winos
You simply can’t make a trip to Santa Ynez Valley without spending at least one day solely for wine tasting. The local wine industry is booming and producing amazing bottles of every kind. Los Olivos has become the center of one-day wine tastings with numerous vineyards setting up wine tasting rooms in the community. Los Alamos is also a great spot for tasting local wines. Head over to Bell Street and you’ll discover several Hollywood stars’ venture in the wine business.
2. Rub on some Danish vibes in Solvang
Back in 1911, a group of Danish-American settled in Solvang. Since then, traditions and architecture has remained an integral charm of this community. You won’t need to make a trip to Denmark once you’ve been to Solvang. Streets are lined with boutiques, restaurants and decor that whisk you straight to the authentic Scandinavian culture. Make sure to bring home a bucket of Danish sweets as souvenir, and post lots of photos on social media. Your friends will probably think you made a trip to Copenhagen.
3. Ostrich farm
If you’ve ever seen the movie Sideways, then you know about the ostriches in SYV. To get a closer look, visit Ostrichland in the community called Buellton where you can have a few hours with these large animals. If you’re traveling with kids, this is the perfect spot to gain a little wildlife adventure without heading all the way to South Africa.
5. Beer is the valley’s new trend
For a valley known for its indulge-worthy wines, beer is a very up-and-coming movement in SYV. If you’ve already spent a day wine tasting and would like to dive into something else, beer tasting is another fantastic option since local bars and restaurants now offer a wide variety of beer tasting menus. Check out Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. (both in Buellton) for unique brews.
6. Gastronomy fix
Since SYV is located so close to Los Angeles, and often welcomes clienteles with high expectations when it comes to cuisine; gastronomy is not to be missed in this valley. Quite a few chefs are doing exciting things with wine pairing menus and infusing fresh Californian produce with cultural cuisines. For serious French-style cooking, The Ballard Inn & Restaurant is a great choice. For a mouthwatering steakhouse, check out The Willows inside the Chumash Casino. And for some downright delectable Italian food, Trattoria Grappolo is a local favorite.
7. Get on your wheels!
As soon as you arrive in Santa Ynez Valley, you’ll feel that the air smells different and limitless nature has instantly put you in a good mood. A favorite activity here by travelers is cycling, and another fantastic go-to is getting on the motorcycle and cruise. Let the wind blow in your hair, and make pit stops at whatever catches your eye. The Californian sun has never felt better!
8. Art-shoppin’, gallery-hoppin’!
With an innovative art community at heart, there are tons of galleries and art shops to discover and acquire particularly for your home or as gifts. One of our favorite stops is Z Folio (Solvang), owned by Zdena (call her Z) who displays bold and colorful glassware and jewelries in her store. Outpost Trading (Santa Ynez) is another great spot to browse through an eclectic assortment of art, clothing and accessories. Sansone Studio Gallery (Los Olivos) is lovely for impressive copper and glass sculptures that collectors would die for. Los Alamos’ main Bell Street has a line of antique shops for those who crave for the ultimate rustic chic.