With kid-friendly attractions, family-friendly wineries, and much to explore, the Santa Ynez Valley makes for a surprising family getaway
The terms “wine country” and “family friendly” don’t often go hand in hand. But the Santa Ynez Valley is no ordinary wine country destination — a rare place that is as appealing to families as it is to foodies and wine-lovers.
Now is often the time when parents begin to plan for a summer spent with the kids and search for an experience that meets the needs of everyone in the family: children, parents, and even grandparents included. Just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, a scenic four-hour jaunt from San Francisco, and 30 minutes from Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, the six distinct communities of the Santa Ynez Valley are such a place.
With more than 100 wineries, the Santa Ynez Valley is undeniably a playground for oenophiles both for its wines as well as the opportunity to taste them in a setting far less crowded than other similarly world-class wine destinations. And with wine inevitably comes food, and imaginative local chefs and the region’s deep agricultural roots combine to create a culinary scene steeped in the farm-to-table movement.
Beyond food and wine, the Santa Ynez Valley combines a fascinating and diverse history to explore, rolling hills that call to outdoor adventurists, and one-of-a kind attractions to offer a unique destination that is both educational and adventurous.
Below are just a few of the attractions that make the Santa Ynez Valley a surprisingly family-friendly destination:
Nature to explore: Hike rolling hills and take in the breathtaking vistas offered along hundreds of miles of Santa Ynez Valley trails, or visit an 80-foot waterfall at Nojoqui Falls Park. View native bald eagles, osprey, and hawks, or learn about the region’s cultural history, with boating and nature tours of Cachuma Lake.
The Valley by horseback: This is horse country, and there’s no better way to tap into Santa Ynez Valley’s Old West roots than with a horseback ride. With Vino Vaqueros, KAP Land & Cattle, Rancho Oso Guest Ranch & Stables — just to name a few — SYV offers no shortage of opportunity to create a memory that everyone in the family will be sure to cherish.
Dive into history: Founded in 1804, Old Mission Santa Inés has a rich history to unearth. And with its traditional Danish architecture and authentic bakeries, downtown Solvang itself is a testament to the Northern European roots of its early settlers. The Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and Elverhoj Museum of History and Art are among the many museums that will both enlighten and entertain.
Something a bit offbeat: Ever feed an ostrich? It’s possible, along with Emus at Ostrichland USA, one of the many one-of-a-kind attractions in the Santa Ynez Valley. Spend time at Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch, introduce the kids to the works of Hans Christian Andersen, or rev things up at the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum.
Fun in the food we eat: Farm tours offer a window into what makes the Santa Ynez Valley the breadbasket of California’s Central Coast. Visit an olive farm such as Global Gardens and taste some of the most sought-after olive oils anywhere. Many of the Santa Ynez Valley’s wineries are more than just vineyards, too. Some, like Buttonwood Farms Winery & Vineyards are working farms meant to be enjoyed by guests of all ages. Or visit Clairmont Farms, an entirely organic lavender farm, for an altogether different experience.
Sometimes the fun is where you stay: Whether interested in a dude ranch experience at the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, a casual stay at the King Frederik Inn, “glamping” in a safari tent or vintage Airstream trailer at Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, or something in between, the Santa Ynez Valley has family-friendly lodging options to fit an array of budgets and interests.
Planning a trip to the Santa Ynez Valley is simple at visitsyv.com, where families can research events and attractions, book lodging and activities, and create a custom travel itinerary.
About the Santa Ynez Valley:
Barely two hours from Los Angeles, a scenic four-hour drive from San Francisco, and just 30 minutes from Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, the Santa Ynez Valley still feels a world apart. With six distinct communities encompassing everything from classic California wine country to Northern European traditions to the very best of the Old West, the Santa Ynez Valley is home to endless possibilities. Here in and around the towns of Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Solvang visitors will find more than 100 wineries, incredible food, special events and a unique, rich heritage. For more information, including a complete listing of wedding venues, restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms and events, go to VisitSYV.com.