A Listing of Santa Barbara Wine Country Locales to Fulfill Your Inner Instagrammer
If you take a trip and don’t post a resulting photo stream to Insta, did that vacation really happen??? Thanks to the force of social media that is Instagram, many of us seek out perfect backdrops for documenting our adventures and experiences, wine country or otherwise. And just a couple of hours north of Los Angeles, or a handful of hours south of San Francisco, on the historically-road tripped California Central Coast, you’ll find six Santa Ynez Valley towns full of scenescapes – all ready and waiting for their close-up.
With all of this photographic content at your fingertips, you’ll need to make the Santa Ynez Valley more than just a day-trip. Book your stay to start populating that Insta feed…c’mon, do it for the gram.
In the tiny town of Los Alamos, a former stagecoach stop and depot for the Pacific Coast Railway, preserved Old West scenes mingle with mid-century structures and architecture – and nowhere are the town’s Western wiles more apparent than at the 1880 Union Hotel and Saloon, which still houses a stagecoach office within the private event space of the Hotel, a popular wedding venue. The open-to-the-public Saloon has photographic details galore, and the weathered, wood-paneled building’s frontier-town façade always offers up plenty of lens personality.
Accommodations at boutique, cactus-adorned The Alamo Motel, come complete with Southwestern-chic décor elements and an on-property outpost of Santa Barbara County wine label, Municipal Winemakers, in the form of a photogenic wine tasting “cabin”.
Skyview Los Alamos, an extensively-rehabbed 1950s motor lodge, still boasts the property’s original road-side signage and swimming pool, around which a lounge-y scene of craft cocktails and elevated “hotel food” has emerged (hint: don’t miss the oysters). The 1864 exterior of the Victorian Mansion Bed & Breakfast makes for a pretty picture, but the six themed suites on the inside (1950s, Gypsy, Roman, Egyptian, Pirate, French) really take the Instagram cake.
At Los Olivos garden art and home accessories shopping wonderland, J. Woeste, seat yourself in a bright red, larger-than-life Adirondack chair.
Downtown Los Olivos’ Instagram title of “Miss Congeniality” has been decidedly bestowed upon Los Olivos Lemons, a giant, yellow citrus-shaped stand doling out gourmet lemonade, adjacent to the kid-friendly (of both the “big” and “little” varieties) Saarloos + Sons wine tasting room.
On the culinary spectrum of things to do in Los Olivos, sits Global Gardens®, with an olive oil tasting bar and a #gramworthy, hand-painted butterfly mural.
Rowdy, raucous and raring to go: the Western-Victorian town of Santa Ynez is known most in nightlife circles, for The Maverick Saloon. Fabled live entertainment and dance venue, bar and now, eatery, “The Mav” has been the location of many a photo session, some clearly remembered, some slightly hazy (in the best possible way). Strike a pose with one of the many authentic, history-filled horse-drawn transports at the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum’s Carriage House. A nod to the Valley’s Victorian era may be found in the opulently-renovated Santa Ynez Inn, with its rambling grounds and event spaces.
At one of the Santa Ynez Valley’s vineyard gems, Sunstone Vineyards & Winery, the organically-farmed vineyards loll out from under the estate’s Provençal French courtyards, stone barrel-aging caves, and picturesque picnic havens.
Ballard and Solvang
The “burg” of Ballard is in and of itself, fantastically photo-ready, but its crowning jewel is the bucolic lodging and restaurant duo, Chef Budi Kazali’s Ballard Inn and The Gathering Table. Down the country road, lies agri-centric Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard, with its Instagram “influencer”-favorited 1946 farm truck. In the heart of downtown Solvang, the Danish-settled village displays numerous hints at its rich cultural past, many of which make for renowned modern photo opps. Solvang’s multiple windmills pull double-duty as businesses and backdrops: in three of the most famous, you’ll find CrossHatch Winery (436 Alisal Road), Sevtap Winery (1622 Copenhagen Drive), and Solvang Brewing Company (1547 Mission Drive).
No visit to “Little Denmark” would be whole, without a pause for pictures in front of The Little Mermaid fountain (Mission Drive and Alisal Road). And who could resist the vivid, vast circumferences of the Danish pancakes at Paula’s Pancake House? Not anyone who would also regale the iconic pastry offerings from one of the many Solvang bakeries, or those frequently-portrayed Danish dough rounds, Aebleskiver. Shopping in Solvang is plentiful, and noticeably popular among visitors is the home of the big red clog – the famously-photographable footwear residing curbside at the Solvang Shoe Store (Copenhagen Drive and First Street). On the outskirts of Solvang, saddle up at The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort for a luxe getaway’s worth of Instagrammable activities like horseback riding, golf, spa time, BBQ dinners and campfire moments.
The award-winning 2004 movie Sideways was filmed in numerous Santa Ynez Valley spots. But one of the film’s most famous settings is now the Sideways Inn, which also features one of the most memorable windmills in the “SYV”, outside of Solvang. Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground, Sideways Inn’s sister property which adjoins the hotel’s grounds, is an Instagram dream – from the life-size rhino guarding one of the “glamping” sections of the funtastic vacation destination, to the row of meticulously-restored vintage and Airstream travel trailers, to the variety of themed cottages and tents (Surf, Wine, Brewhaus, National Park, Safari and Tiki), to the private, gated Santa Ynez Guest Ranch and the cinematic luxury getaway that it provides. More Sideways movie nostalgia may be found at the famed Hitching Post 2 restaurant, now accompanied by next-door wine tasting location extraordinaire, for chef/restaurateur, Frank Ostini’s, and Gray Hartley’s Hitching Post Wines. Neighboring the twin Hitching Post properties, OstrichLand USA provides eponymously-opportune memories, photographic and otherwise, via its fine-feathered residents.
Save some iPhone memory for Buellton’s picture-perfect roadside history, a grand portion of which is captured in the private collection of the family-owned Mendenhall Museum of Gasoline Pumps & Petroliana. Equally as intriguing to highway travel history buffs, is the often-posted Pea Soup Andersen’s – whose billboards up and down Highway 101 paint the way to the storied rest stop.
Let’s get to the root of the matter.
What would a Santa Barbara wine country experience be, without a visit to the vines that produce the region’s awarded wines? Best bets for essay-caliber vineyard photos may be found throughout the Santa Ynez Valley, with some newer entrants to the pictorial game – plus some classic viticulture standbys – stretching from Lompoc to Los Olivos: Melville Vineyards & Winery, Spear Vineyards & Winery, Dierberg Star Lane Vineyards, Brick Barn Wine Estate, Demetria Estate, and Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards, to name just a few.