The Santa Ynez Valley is home to a variety of unique festivals and events. If you’re planning a Santa Ynez Valley vacation this year, put one of these local festivals on the agenda. The Valley is bursting with personality and plays a welcome host to a variety of events throughout the year.
This month, we put together a list of the top 10 festivals in the Santa Ynez Valley to give you 10 more reasons to visit the Valley.
Many people are familiar with Santa Barbara events and festivals. But beyond the sea, did you know there’s even more exciting events and fun things to do? There are several popular wine-themed festivals you don’t want to miss. There’s also plenty of music, dance, food and live performances to be enjoyed as well.
Below, we’ve compiled our top ten Santa Ynez Valley events to help you plan your vacation.
1. Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week
Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week is every foodie’s dream. For as little as $20, you can sample three-course meals from some of Santa Ynez’s best restaurants, including Bell Street Farm, Ballard Inn and Restaurant, and Hadsten House Inn and Restaurant. The festival runs over seven days, so there’s plenty of time to sample the delicious offerings. It wouldn’t be a Santa Ynez festival without a couple of wine tasting rooms, where you can learn to pair wine with small bites. Hungry? You’ll have to wait until January 22nd to take part in these festivities.
2. Taste of Solvang
If you prefer your food with a more Scandinavian feel, then come down to the Taste of Solvang festival every third weekend of March for a Danish-inspired gourmet experience. Many of the area’s local bakers, chefs, and winemakers participate in this five-day festival, which includes red wine tasting, as well as samples from local craft beer producers, and plenty of sweet and savory nibbles.
3. Buellton Brew Fest
Beer lovers unite at the annual Buellton Brew Fest! The festival takes place in May every year at the beautiful River View Park in Buellton, and features over 50 local breweries, 10 wineries, and several food trucks. There’s usually a great lineup of local music and entertainment as well. Kick off the Central Coast beer festival season with one of the best festivals in Santa Barbara County.
You’ll need to purchase a ticket beforehand, and you can do this by visiting the festival’s website. General admission is $45, but hard-core beer lovers usually purchase the special VIP ticket for $55, which will get you into the venue an hour earlier. Anyone under 21 is not permitted, and responsible drinking is encouraged. A brew bus is available for those who don’t trust themselves to drive home.
4. Los Alamos Old Days
Los Alamos Old Days Celebration takes place every year to celebrate the town’s Western heritage. The festival runs over a whole weekend and includes free entertainment, Peddlers Mart, a Classic Car Show and Sunday morning’s Greatest Little Small Town Parade.
Lovers of all things chili will definitely appreciate the Old Days Chili Kick-Off Party with its traditional offerings of chili, corn bread, salads, and all the usual trimmings provided by Jesper Johansson. There’s also a pancake breakfast, and a muscle car show.
5. Danish Days
The little village of Solvang can trace its heritage back to 1911, when the first Danish settlers arrived there. And every year, locals celebrate the village’s Danish culture with festivities that include some of the best food and wine the town has to offer.
But it’s not just all about Danish pastries. Past festivals featured a range of Danish-inspired live entertainment including traditional dancers, an equestrian event, musicians, stage shows, Vikings Beer and Wine Garden, and a Lego corner for the kids.
6. Celebration of Harvest
If you’re in Santa Ynez during the Columbus Day weekend, check out the Celebration of Harvest Festival located in the heart of Santa Barbara Wine County. With over 120 wineries participating, it’s one of the largest wine festivals in Santa Ynez Valley. Celebrations include winemaker dinners, open houses, parties, and more.
One thing you shouldn’t miss is the Silent Auction, where you get the chance to bid on special edition bottles. All proceeds from the auction go towards the Santa Barbara Vintners Foundation, a charity organization that provides scholarships to local high school students.
7. Los Olivos Jazz & Olive Festival
Presented by the Los Olivos Rotary Club, the Los Olivos Jazz & Olive Festival is held in the first week of June every year. Make yourself a picnic under the shady trees at Campbell Park and be entertained by world-class jazz groups, as you sip wines from over 30 different local wineries.
As its name suggests, Los Olivos is famous for its olives, and the festival features a range of culinary delights, all of which are designed to celebrate the diverse range of dishes derived from this versatile fruit.
8. Vintners Spring Weekend
Every year in April, something special happens in Buellton – The Vintners Spring Weekend. The location is the beautiful River View Park, where you can relax and enjoy the largest wine-tasting event in Santa Barbara County.
A general admission ticket ($75) gives you unlimited wine tasting from over 100 different local wineries, as well as food samplings from over 30 different local eateries.
Festival organizers recommend taking a bus, cab or uber available from your Santa Ynez Valley hotel, which you can organize in advance to ensure a stress-free day.
9. Vaquero Show & Sale
Set for November 11 – 13, 2016, the Vaquero Show & Sale is a celebration of the early Vaquero culture which originated on the Central Coast of California. Known for their legendary equestrian skills the Vaqueros developed a unique style of horsemanship while tending the immense early California rancho herds.
For this special event, The Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum is transformed into a showcase for over 50 noted artisans, craftsmen and collectors from throughout the western United States. They will gather to display and sell custom, hand-tooled leather saddles, braided Vaquero styled riatas, silver spurs, bridles, bits, reins and other Vaquero inspired horse tack. The exhibitors spend their Saturday and Sunday answering questions about the Vaquero lifestyle and sharing their own stories about this unique culture. This is a history lesson you won’t want to miss.
10. Christmas in the Santa Ynez Valley
With so much holiday spirit in the Valley, we couldn’t pick just one event to share for the month of December.
If you’re looking for some good old family Christmas fun, then make sure you check out the Olde-Fashioned Christmas in Los Olivos. Expect lots of fun-filled activities for the kids, including Gingerbread Wonderland, crafts, petting zoo, and a visit from Santa Claus. Mom and Dad will find plenty of opportunities to get their last-minute gifts before relaxing in one of the many restaurants and tasting rooms. Don’t miss the Official Lighting of the Christmas tree at the flagpole, and make sure you bring a new toy for the Christmas charity collection.
Stop in to Santa Ynez for their Annual Christmas Tree Lighting, which boasts the largest tree lighting in the Valley on Sagunto Street.
Be sure to bring the kids to Buellton Winter Fest. After Breakfast with Santa, they’ll have the chance to play in 20 tons of snow on Avenue of the Flags.
Then head over to Los Alamos for their Holiday Evening Stroll. Businesses stay open late, offering hot cocoa and treats, as friends and family stroll Bell Street, lined for the evening with beautiful luminaries.
Next, get ready for Christmas Danish style at the annual Solvang Julefest. The Valley is renowned for its love of wine, and Christmas is the perfect time to discover some of the region’s delicacies with the Julefest Wine and Beer Walk, where you stroll around downtown and sample the local vintages. You’ll need to purchase tickets for the walk, but at only $40 per person, it’s great value. There are also plenty of opportunities for Christmas gift shopping at one of the town’s many boutique shops, a traditional nativity play, and the annual Christmas tree burn.
Now you see why Santa Ynez Valley is renowned for being a mecca for food and wine lovers. And with a festival taking place just about every month, there’s no excuse not to come and enjoy the local hospitality. Plan a vacation in Santa Ynez Valley around one of these events to make your stay both richly relaxing and delightfully entertaining.
About The Author: Shelby Sim grew up just 30 minutes south of the Santa Ynez Valley on the coast in Goleta, CA. After living in many different states and traveling the world, he returned to the area and discovered the many quality wines being produced here. Shelby has worked in the area for the last 11 years as a wine tour host, while acting as director of business development with the Goleta chamber, and later as a sales manager for Bacara Resort and Spa. He recently moved his family to Buellton and is honored to be executive director of Visit the Santa Ynez Valley, the premier destination marketing organization (DMO) for the region.
About VisitSYV.com: Visit Santa Ynez Valley provides listings of the best Santa Ynez wineries, best places to eat in Solvang, Santa Ynez hotels and inns, and things to do in Santa Ynez Valley. Visit the website at www.VisitSYV.com for complete travel and visitor services. “Like” the Facebook page for ideas on planning Santa Ynez vacations. Email info@VisitSYV.com for help planning your next vacation in the Santa Ynez Valley.