California’s Santa Ynez Valley: Where to Stay, Eat, Drink, and Play

Whether your favorite getaways tend towards lakeside camping, RV road trips, casual hotels, or luxury boutiques, you’ll find the perfect place to lay your head for the night in the Santa Ynez Valley. For that matter, your range of daytime activities is just as wide, from hiking and horseback riding to fine dining and wine tasting, with lots in between.

Just two hours north of Los Angeles and about four hours south of San Francisco, the Santa Ynez Valley towns offer world-class wineries, craft breweries, mountain biking and hiking trails, waterfalls, history, and ocean breezes. Nearby farms, orchards, and ranches supply local restaurants with the freshest ingredients, and seafood from the Pacific is just minutes away.

Six communities make up the Santa Ynez Valley, each a bit different. Old West-style Santa Ynez takes you back 100 years or so, and Solvang takes you thousands of miles away to northern Europe with its Danish bakeries and architecture. Laid back Los Olivos was founded in the 1860s, and historic buildings and Victorian homes are reminders of its days along the stagecoach route. Buellton offers breweries, wineries, and the unique attraction, Ostrichland. Los Alamos reflects its western heritage, and tiny Ballard is home to the "Little Red Schoolhouse," a top performing school dating to 1883.

Road Next To Lush California Viineyard, Santa Ynez, CA
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From Camping to Glamping to Luxe Digs

Flying Flags RV Resort & Campgrounds – Hook up your RV or stay in one of their restored vintage Airstreams. Opt for an air-conditioned safari tent or rustic outdoor tent, or choose a fully equipped cottage or cabin. Take advantage of swimming pools, Campfire Cafe, or nearby Sideways Lounge for cocktails.

Sideways Inn – Casual, pet-friendly, with renovated guest rooms, pool, spa, and access to the additional pools, bocce courts, and amenities of nextdoor neighbor, Flying Flags RV Resort, the Sideways Inn is comfortable and convenient.

Vinland Hotel & Lounge – Stylish, sophisticated, and completely refurbished after a two-year renovation project, the Vinland offers a pool, Malin + Goetz bath products, complimentary parking, and contactless check in. Innovative cocktails, local brews and wines, along with tasty dishes, make the V Lounge the place to relax and unwind in Solvang.

The Winston – Fourteen exquisitely decorated guestrooms, each one different, include suites and the splendid Clocktower Suite, a reminder of the hotel’s location in the center of Solvang. Comfy seating areas and a well-stocked honor bar create a welcoming atmosphere. Continental breakfast is delivered to your door each morning at the time you choose, and check-in is “invisible,” with an access code for the building and room emailed to guests.

Santa Ynez Inn – Reminiscent of a historic inn, the luxurious property offers elegant furnishings, spa, an inviting outdoor area with fireplace and firepits, gourmet breakfast, wine hour, and relaxing library room for a glass of wine or tasting of whiskey. The Inn is a popular wedding venue with its lush garden and remodeled Coach House.

Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is a 10,000 acre ranch offering golf, tennis, spa, horseback riding, pool, and Western-themed studios and suites with wood-burning fireplaces.

From Casual to Fine Dining

Industrial Eats in Buellton serves up wood-fired pizzas, fresh creative salads, sandwiches, and seafood in a casual atmosphere.

S.Y. Kitchen offers modern Italian dishes, cocktails, and wine in an intimate farmhouse-style setting in the town of Santa Ynez.

The Hitching Post II specializes in traditional wood-fired Santa Maria Barbecue served with their award-winning wines, made famous in the 2004 movie Sideways.

The Gathering Table at The Ballard Inn features seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients in a blend of Asian and French cuisine served in an intimate atmosphere.

First & Oak in Solvang at the Mirabelle Inn serves wine country cuisine in a style reminiscent of France, with a seasonal menu that includes fresh local seafood and produce.

The Tavern at Zaca Creek, set on a historic property in Buellton, features an onsite Fullblood Wagyu butchery, craft cocktail program, wine cellar, and extensive spirits and liqueurs selection.

V Lounge in Solvang at Vinland Hotel offers sandwiches, salads, and shareable plates in addition to late night bites, desserts, craft beers, wines, and cocktails.

Spirit of the West, a stage coachand horse-drawn vehicle reenactment in Santa Ynez, California
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From Horseback Riding and Hiking to Wine Touring and Tasting

Fertile soil, temperate weather, and the unique geography that allows ocean breezes and foggy mornings to enhance grape growing provide the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara County to produce premium Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and other varieties. Wine tastings and tours are available at most wineries, and reservations are suggested.

Cachuma Lake, a reservoir on the Santa Ynez River, offers camping, guided cruises, fishing, hiking, and nature walks. Horseback riding among the hills, mountain trails, and vineyards can be followed by an optional wine tasting. Explore on two wheels with a bike rental or join a bicycle tour for a day or even longer. Wherever your visit to the Santa Ynez Valley takes you, the beauty of the rolling hills, vineyards, and tree-shaded roads will have you planning your return.

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