Located in Santa Barbara County and nestled between mountains, Santa Ynez Valley is the perfect weekend getaway for Californians, out of state visitors, and international travelers alike. Picturesque rolling hills, endless acres of vineyards, beautiful ranches, and a quaint danish town is what you’ll find in this blissful rural area. It’s hard to believe such a place exists just 30 miles from the coast of Santa Barbara and a couple of hours from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Buellton are the main communities that collectively make up the Santa Ynez Valley. Here are some things to do on your visit:
Hang Out In Solvang
The most popular of the Santa Ynez Valley communities is a little city called Solvang. Founded in the early 1900s by Danes from the mid-west, Solvang quickly became a tourist destination because of it’s charming old-world Danish village look and feel. Step into this land of fairy tales and wander the streets for some shopping, dining, and wine tasting. All of downtown Solvang is easily walkable and here’s a list on things to enjoy in the village:
Do Some Shopping
As you stroll through town, pop into shops and boutiques for some interesting finds including antiques, jewelry, candles, knickknacks and Danish souvenirs. For a true Danish shopping experience, check out the Christmas store for cute holiday finds similar to those found in in Denmark.
Visit Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Find The Book Loft building on Mission Drive and head upstairs to see the tiny museum featuring books and exhibits about the Author of The Little Mermaid.
These pancake balls topped with jam and powdered sugar are a traditional Danish treat widely available in Denmark around Christmastime. In Solvang, you’ll find them year-round at a few bakeries and cafes. Enjoy them on the go or order them at a restaurant. While you’re in one of the bakeries, be sure to also purchase a tub of assorted Danish butter cookies. Each bakery makes their own and these tasty treats make a great souvenir.
Ride a Surrey Bike
Rent one of these fun toys with your family and friends and peddle together through the streets of Solvang. Get away from the busy Copenhagen Drive and ride through Hans Christian Andersen park.
Tour the Old Mission
Before Solvang, Mission Santa Inez was the only thing that existed in the area. Step in and take a quick tour of it’s history.
Venture Out Away From Solvang
There’s more to Santa Ynez Valley than just Solvang. You’ll find some great dining and drinking options in Los Olivos, Buellton, and the town of Santa Ynez (not to be confused with the Santa Ynez Valley which is the entire area). So zoom-out on your Yelp search and go for a little drive. All these towns are a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes apart and the drive through the valley is quite scenic.
In addition to a variety of tasting rooms, there are around 70 wineries throughout the valley. You should definitely visit at least one of them and you don’t have to be a wine drinker to enjoy it (although it helps). Pack a little picnic from home or stop at a local market for some snacks because most of the wineries have picnic areas. And you can make it a family outing since it’s appropriate to take the kids along. I’m not a wine connoisseur so I wont make any suggestions but I will point out Bridlewood for having the most scenic grounds. (Picture taken at Roblar).
Go to Ostrich Land
Have you ever seen an Ostrich in person? They are gigantic. You can see them from a distance as you drive down Route 246. Be sure to make a stop at Ostrich Land to see them up close, feed them, and gawk at their height.
See the Miniature Horses
After you’ve hung out with big birds, it’s time to go see tiny horses. Quicksilver Ranch is open to the public so stop in to see these adorable little creatures.
Gamble at Chumash Casino
Most things in the valley, including the wineries, close very early. Need something to do after dinner? Head out to Chumash Casino. In addition to being a Casino, Chumash is also a resort with a spa, dining options, and entertainment.
That should give you plenty to do for a couple of days. And if you’re there at night, get away from the lights and look up. If it’s a clear night and the moon isn’t too bright, you’ll see a blanket of stars in the sky. You may even see a shooting star so be ready to make a wish. Yup, the Santa Ynez Valley is truly a magical place.