I know a lot of us are under stay at home order right now, but once it’s safe for us to start exploring again & all of these wonderful places can open back up, here’s your guide to Santa Ynez Valley!
During the beginning months of the pandemic I fed my travel bug by continuing to explore my home state of California, clocking in a total of 5 trips up the coast. I started traveling along the 101 with my parents since before I can remember and most likely since I was in my mama’s belly. Our yearly family vacations were always in Cambria, making it basically a second home to us. We’d usually supplement the trip with a drive further up the coast to Big Sur. I also ended up going to college in San Luis Obispo, so have driven 100s of times on that same route. Santa Ynez Valley was always a section off the highway that we we would just drive by. I’m so glad that changed when my friend group planned a wine tasting trip to Los Olivos a handful of years back. Admittedly I didn’t do much more exploring than that until more recently. I’ve only scraped the surface, but am already in love with the small towns that make up the SYV!
I’ve been to the area 3 times in the last year and each stay has been uniquely perfect –– from my usual move (a house rental), to a renovated old school motel (now boutique hotel) and even camping on a farm!
If you want to go down the house rental avenue –– I’m sure you’ve heard of Airbnb & VRBO. I have more experience staying in Airbnbs but we ended up booking a VRBO when Walter and I headed up to the area.
Wine Country Ranch Escape –– 1 bed, bath (sleeps 2)
This spot was perfectly cozy for a couple! Our neighbors were literally horses and I loved the quietude of being somewhat out in the “country”. The kitchen was fully equipped and ready for us to prep meals!
We planned to cook most of our meals at our place and everything turned out perfectly. We loved the various seating areas we could enjoy a coffee, a meal or some peaceful time at sunset!
Need menu ideas? Here are my go-to vacation recipes.
This trip we made shrimp burgers with sweet potato fries, steak & veggies, sandwiches for a picnic, cheese boards and s’mores! I introduced Walter to s’mores on our first trip up the coast together, so we obviously had to make them again. Since we didn’t have a fire pit this time we made them in the oven and they were perfectly toasted. Not quite as fun as camping s’mores around an open fire, but just as delicious.
Here are some Airbnbs that were in the running (linked all individually below):
- Bodega (Los Alamos) –– 2 bedroom, 2 bath (sleeps 4), pet-friendly
- Bob’s Well Bread Unit 1 & Unit 2 (Los Alamos) –– 1 bedroom, 1 bath (sleeps 2)
- Farm Studio (Solvang) –– 2 beds, 1 bath (sleeps 3)
- Popular Downtown Hideout (Solvang) –– 1 bed, 1 bath (sleeps 2 – 4), pet-friendly
- Casa Estrella (Santa Ynez) –– 2 bedroom, 2 bath (sleeps 4)
- Pico Cottage (Los Alamos) –– 1 bedroom, 1 bath (sleeps 3)
Haven’t used Airbnb before? Use this link to save up to $65 on your first booking.
Skyview is an iconic roadside motel turned boutique luxury hotel that offers 33 guest rooms, a full-service restaurant, heated pool, bicycle access, firepits and a working vineyard (be sure to try the perfectly crisp Skyview Rosé during your stay). When I say iconic, I mean supposedly the Beatles stayed there & The Mamas and the Papas wrote “Monday Monday” during a stay on a Monday long ago. Perched on a hillside overlooking Santa Ynez wine country, the 5 acre outpost merges mid century style with modern rustic chic. It often felt like a little slice of Palm Springs on the California Coast.
In response to the pandemic, Skyview has reimagined their operations and environment. Everything felt extremely safe!
If you need anything during your stay, you are given a phone number to text at anytime. Also, if you have leftovers from a meal during your trip, the staff will gladly hold them in the fridge near the front desk for you, with 24hr access, just in case you need a midnight snack.
When you check in, the staff will ask you what time you’d prefer your breakfast delivered! Fresh OJ, coffee & pastries definitely hit the spot! Oh and as you can see, they’re super pet-friendly –– I’d even go as far as saying, pet-encouraged, there were so many pups on the property.
The heated pool was perfect on the gloomy morning we took a dip! Be sure to schedule your 2 hour time slot beforehand so everyone stays safe while enjoying the property. Obviously I had to order an Aperol Spritz to enjoy poolside once the bar opened up at 11AM.
If you’re feeling a little famished after that aforementioned dip, or just craving a delicious cocktail, you’re in luck because Skyview’s on-site restaurant, Norman is just steps from the pool (they’re currently offering patio seating and require reservations, but that’s just one phone call or text away). We grabbed a quick lunch and I HAD to try the Old Fashioned, because duh it’s me. The Beet Hummus and the Old Fashioned are both a MUST order.
A friend and I decided to skip town the day of the election. It was a much needed getaway and the perfect way to catch up. We found a super chill location at Summerset Farm through Hip Camp. It’s an organic pick your own vegetable and fruit farm! When we stayed they had rows of sunflowers blooming, plus a bunch of pumpkins and gourds in their farm stand. I’d browsed Hip Camp before, but never booked a spot. I love the ease of booking, the opportunity to stay in not-so-ordinary places, how affordable it is, and the contact-free check in!
Curious about Hip Camp? Use this link for a discount off of your first booking!
Where to Eat & Drink (wine & cocktails)
I highly recommend making a reservation/appointment for any of the places that take them! I’ve always been a fan of planning meals ahead, but in our current world I find the peace of mind even more helpful.
Bob’s Well Bread (Los Alamos & Ballard)
Mushroom Toast A mix of seasonal mushrooms sautéed with Sherry vinegar, creme fraiche, bacon lardons and shallots over a peppery house-made biscuit, and topped with a poached farm egg
Breakfast Sandwich House made turkey sausage on our own english muffin with scrambled egg, arugula and provolone cheese
And you can’t go wrong with any of the pastries!
Peasant’s Feast (Solvang)
Cauliflower Soup, Solvang Hot Chicken spicy buttermilk fried chicken, pickled red onion, fresh herbs, shredded cabbage, ranch, sesame brioche bun
Must order: Porchetta Sandwich, Salted Caramel Panna Cotta & if you have room for 2 desserts order this one too ––> Nannie’s Frozen Lime Pie graham cracker crust, lime sherbet, Italian meringue
SY Kitchen (Santa Ynez)
Uhm just literally order it all! Here’s a comprehensive list of what we got.
Yellow Beet pickled plum, hazelnuts, goat cheese, fresh lemon, thyme⠀
Diavola Pizza Spicy salame, cremini mushrooms, tomato, fior di latte, parmigiano⠀
T-bone Truffle Sliders Truffle cheese, caramelized shallots, parmigiano crisp, potatoes
Wild Mushroom Pappardelle Fresh wild mushrooms, thyme, parmigiano⠀
Tahitian Vanilla Panna Cotta Caramel, ladies’ kisses crunch cookies⠀
Chocolate Gelato Homemade gelato, caramelized banana
This tasting room also offers dim sum, including dumplings and small plates! I am absolutely obsessed with all of the wines we tasted, but my favorites were The Feminist Party GSM, Clementine Carter Grenache Rosé & Apple Grape Wine (Yeah, like an apple grape cider! If this is available when you go, you HAVE to try!) Walter’s favorite was Clementine Carter Grenache Sta Rita Hills. For Beer lovers, you’ve come to the right place as well : Babi’s Beer Emporium, Casa Dumetz’s sister business is located under the same roof!
Pickled Wood Ear Mushroom Salad black vinegar, garlic, ginger, scallion, fresnos
Sama Signature Wings free-range Mary’s chicken, sweet & spicy tamarind glaze, cilantro, lime
Pork & Shrimp Shu Mai ginger, scallion, soy, ginger
Pico & Lumen Wines (Los Alamos)
Located in the original General Store in Los Alamos, this is the place to go if you’re looking for a dinner in a dreamy garden patio! Founded in 2016 by winemaker Will Henry and restaurateur Kali Kopley, Pico is a destination for eclectic California cuisine, with influences from Europe, Asia, and the American South. They create innovative food from local ingredients (some even grown in their very own on-site garden) and carefully sourced from farmers committed to sustainable, organic, and humane practices.
Lumen Wines : A passion project of Will Henry and Lane Tanner. Lane was the first independent female winemaker in Santa Barbara County, and the first to dedicate her entire winery to Pinot Noir. Her wines were always more old-world in style, and built for aging gracefully. We got to taste a Pinot from the 90s and OMG it was delicious! Nowadays Will & Lane make wines from the best cool-climate vineyards in Santa Barbara County, following a regimen consistent with California’s early days of hands-on, honest winemaking. I highly recommend doing a Lumen Wines tasting alongside your dinner at Pico.
Pico also focuses on fine, hand-crafted, small-batch spirits from distillers around the world. Their craft cocktails are made with fresh juices and house-made products, using spirits with no artificial additives or coloring.
It looks like the menu is different from when we ate at Pico, since it’s super seasonal, but here’s what we ordered : Watermelon Sashimi, Housemade Summer Pasta, Pine Nut crusted Local Halibut
Dessert was UNREAL : Deconstructed Smoked Plum Pie, Chocolate Lava Cake
We didn’t want to leave that magical garden, so we ordered some craft cocktails and enjoyed them by the fire pit! I got the Barrel Aged Mezcal Old Fashioned & Ilana got the Barrel Aged Mezcal Negroni. They were perfect!
High Roller Tiki Lounge (Solvang)
This is the first and only craft beer and wine bar exclusively featuring tiki style wine-based cocktails. You’ll find tiki drinks like the painkilla, mai tai, suffering Scandinavian and more.
The decor is SPOT ON and I look forward to returning when it’s safe enough to drink inside bars again!
We ordered : Suffering Scandinavian, Old Fashioned and a seasonal pick!
Walter and I spent a perfect afternoon under a willow tree at Fess Parker! We made an appointment to taste a few of their wines then chose a bottle to share on the lawn. Our favorite was actually the Chardonnay, which is very rare for me! There is plenty of room on this property for everyone to adequately socially distance.
Nella & Liquid Farm (Los Olivos)
We headed to Nella for a nightcap after dinner at SY Kitchen. They actually share ownership. I asked the bartender to make me something delicious for an Old Fashioned drinker & it did not let me down! They do also serve food, but we were still stuffed from dinner.
Liquid Farm supports local viticulture and honors their palates’ love for old world wines. They decided to make what they most love to drink –– Chardonnay that is earth and mineral driven from cool climates with little or no new oak. This is exactly why I enjoyed the Chardonnays they produce! I was also a huge fan of their Rosé & Pinot Noir! Schedule a tasting and you’ll probably go home with a couple bottles to enjoy later.
Head into Santa Ynez Valley Opportunity Shop if you are a fan of thrifting. I found some gems (picnic basket, fabric, dress, earrings) for such a good deal! I highly recommend parking at one end of the Main Street in SY and walk around to explore.
If you want to see some cute animals, drive by (or even stop in at) Quicksilver Ranch to see the mini horses or Ostrichland USA for ostriches of course! I actually haven’t been here before but have driven by and ogled at those cuties!
If you’re looking for some beautiful vintage jewelry or just feel like playing dress up, stop by Designs in Gold in Solvang.
I would highly recommend having a beach day at Gaviota Beach in the off season when it isn’t open for camping. I am not sure if this was because of the pandemic or the season, but it was wonderful and peaceful with only a few other people.
If you find yourself in the SYV area in the fall before November 1st, you have to make a stop at the Solvang Pumpkin Patch!
It so happens that today Gavin Newson is supposed to make a decision about the stay at home orders, so I know a bunch of these wonderful places are holding their breath. Whenever it is safe again to travel around, dine out and enjoy a wine tasting –– I cannot wait to head back up the coast to delve even deeper into my home state!
Stay healthy and travel safe,
Corey, Miss Foodie Problems