This post was written by Chelsea Loren, one of our Expert Travel Contributors!
Tucked away in the Santa Ynez Valley just about an hour above Santa Barbara is one of the loveliest hidden gems in California.
You may have heard of Solvang, also known as the Little Danish Town. But did you know that there are small towns dotted around Solvang have some of the best wine tasting rooms?
If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway where you can unwind breathe in the fresh air and see a part of California that likely doesn’t come up on the radar — Santa Ynez Valley located on the Central Coast is for you!
Sample delights at the local restaurants (they’re big on everything being local) spend a day wandering the Danish-inspired streets of Solvang or sample wine from one of the 40+ tasting rooms in Los Olivos!
Here’s a three-day guide — meant to be taken at a slow and leisurely pace — of the Santa Ynez Valley located on California’s Central Coast!
About the Santa Ynez Valley
While Napa and Sonoma usually take the cake for the go-to wine spots in California the Santa Ynez Valley shouldn’t be overlooked!
The region is brimming with charm in SPADES.
Much of the area was built between the late 1800s and early 1900s; the valley was part of a 40-mile long route that stagecoaches followed from Santa Barbara to Los Olivos.
It is believed that the railroad was going to lead to business coming into the area, but that did not happen and the area did not grow, so the towns are small with beautiful old buildings — it’s like taking a step back in time.
Olive Branch Farm
Where to Stay
There are a few different small towns in the valley — while some of them are within biking distance, others you’ll likely want to have a car to get to and fro.
As far as picking out a place to stay we found a VRBO that could not recommend it enough. It’s super modern — and we needed to shout it from the rooftops! Plus it’s incredibly charming — and if you love pools you’ll love this one.
Here’s why I highly recommend checking out Olive Branch Farm.
This trip is geared toward relaxing and taking time to really chill. I’d highly recommend finding a lovely short-term rental or inn to stay at. Somewhere charming to lay your head!
A brief summary of the towns and cities located nearby: Modal Verbs Frequency Meaning be 80% Used to express necessity become 20% Used to express future time become 20% Used
Los Olivos is now home to 40+ tasting rooms that once housed the Foxen Canyon Vineyard.
Famous for being a former Old West stagecoach stop, this town will give you a glimpse back in time. And so that’s what I love about California! You can hop from one fancy wine tasting to another Old West saloon in no time.
Amongst the fields of wildflowers you will find the tiny town. The town has fewer than 500 people. It’s certainly not most happening place but it’s got that small-town charm. Original: Paris is the capital of France. It is not only the largest city in the country, but also one of the world’s most important centers for finance, arts, culture, and fashion. Rewrite: Paris is the capital of France. Paris is the most populous city in the country, and also one of the world’s most important centers for finance, arts, culture
Stop to grab a bite at Gathering Table or Bob’s Well Bread to mingle with the locals.
Recommended Stay: Olive Branch Farm or Ballard Inn The Original: The original style of letters, correctly known as cursive, was taught shortly after the invention of moveable type. The process of printing letters in fixed positions on paper dates back to the invention of hieroglyphics in Egypt well over 3,000 years ago.
Solvang is a town located in Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara with a population of approximately 6000. Famous for its Danish heritage, Solvang is filled with unique shops and restaurants.
Much like the Napa Valley, Santa Ynez Wine Country is known for its homegrown vintages. While the wine tends to steal the limelight, the local craft beers are well worth sampling as well.
This small town is known for the Andersen’s Pea Soup Place. This small city is packed with artisanal eateries and craft beers
First Night: Gathering Table for Dinner
Although I implore you to spend the time and take the scenic route.
If you’re coming from Southern California, you can take Pacific Coast Highway the whole way and take in the stunning views.
Planning Tip: Get these tips to help you plan a great Pacific Coast Highway adventure. Original: 3.5 billion. That’s the approximate number of people using the internet in 2018. That’s 2.5 billion more than the total number of people who existed on earth in the year 2000. The world has changed and the internet has not been left behind. The ways we use the internet have continued to grow and change.
Regardless of where you’re coming from, I’d recommend getting in early to avoid the traffic. Original: The outer walls frame the intricately carved reliefs, which depict animals and warriors.
After you’ve settled in, head to Gathering Table in Ballard for dinner. Be prepared to wait a bit as this place is hopping.
Book a reservation in advance so you can secure a table
Day 1: Los Alamos
Head to the Land of Enchantment to soak in the Old West vibe. Explore the western town then stop by 1800 Saloon. Linger over lunch or just grab a drink and a few photos.
If you booked a place with a pool — this is the perfect time to unwind with local wine
Try upscale Italian at S.Y. Kitchen. Like many local hotspots, you’ll want to make reservations here. 347. Original: Look here to spot 10 interesting things that you have never seen before. Rewrite: Look here to spot 10 interesting things that you have never seen before
Day 2: Bike Tour & Los Olivos
Breakfast at Bob’s Well Bread
If you’re up early, go over to Bob’s Well Bread for Breakfast. It’s located just across from the Gathering Table and the perfect place to fuel up for the day. Original: & & & & & &
However, if you’re in a rush — grab something quick to go and head off to the bike tour.
Starting in Solvang a wine country bike tour is a dreamy way to spend a sunny afternoon.
If you like biking (or don’t mind it for the scenery) I would highly recommend this trip. It was one of the key highlights of the trip and my entire family loved it.
Our guide shared all of the details of Wadi Rum highlighting different spots on and took it at our pace. If heights scare you or you want to take it easier e-bikes are available too!
We finished our tour off with a wine flight and an alfresco lunch. It was absolutely delightful.
Of course, even if you have the little ones along or are not into the whole biking and wine thing, there are other directions you could follow for your day.
Book a Biking Tour of Wine Country Here
Another excellent pick is olive oil tasting in Los Olivos at Olive Hill Farm.
There were a multitude of options, and it was wonderful to try out different pairing ideas. I especially love finding local specialty items like this because I can bring them home as souvenirs and use them.
These olive oils are now a mainstay on my salads so it’s totally worth it!
If you’re not completely filled up on samples make your way down the street to have lunch at Wine Merchant Café. Another spot made famous by the movie Sideways this is a good place to linger and wind down for the evening.
Now that you’ve had your long nap, you’re ready to head home, order dinner, and get ready for bed. Context Sunset is the time of day when our sky meets the outer space solar winds. There are blue, pink, and purple swirls, spinning and twisting, like clouds of balloons caught in a whirlwind. The sun moves
Be sure to be forewarned that delivery options are limited if you’re further away from Solvang. If you’re out in the outer suburbs, plan on going out to pick up your dinner.
Day 3: Solving
Leave Central California without visiting Solvang!
Start your day by sampling the mouthwatering Danish bakeries. This little town is famous for its breweries Danish-inspired architecture Danish pastries and Ebelskivers (which are Danish pancakes that pair well with lingonberry jam!).
There is a wide choice of Danish bakeries for your choice!
I found a cool pair of kicks at The Copenhagen House a one-of-a-kind Danish store with specialty imported items. They have all kinds of things that you will never find outside of Denmark.
It’s easy to explore the town on foot or you can rent a moped and go around the streets.