When you venture to the Santa Ynez Valley, you’re in for a treat. Tucked between the Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains, the valley spans six communities, each with its own unique charm and allure. Because these communities are so close to one another, we’ve spotlighted some of the best ways to spend a weekend getaway in the area, complete with the perfect hotel for every whim. At Expedia.com, we’ve chosen recommendations for local activities and places to stay during your next adventure around the Santa Ynez Valley.
Begin your valley adventures in Los Alamos, which is located in the northwest region. If you like to mosey, this is the town for you. Dotted with antique shops and historic buildings, Los Alamos is tailor made for a walking tour of its gems. The town’s main thoroughfare, Bell Street, is home to a number of vintage shops; meander through more than 60 vendors selling treasures at the Depot Mall and Pub and don’t miss the trinkets at Gussied Up Antiques. Next, stroll around the 19th-century attractions, from the 1882 Crowell House to the 1876 Bell School Site to get a sense of the local history.
Looking to spend the night? Cozy up at the Alamo Motel. Reminiscent of a classic California motor lodge and rocking a southwestern vibe, the Alamo Motel offers rooms and suites with printed textiles, animal skins and wood accents; a wine tasting room; and an outdoor area with a fire pit.
They say “every weekend is a small-town wine fest” in Los Olivos, so count us in! Overlooking Santa Barbara County vineyards, Los Olivos has major roots in the wine scene. The town boasts more than two dozen tasting rooms, from Andrew Murray Vineyards to Barbieri Wine Company, where you can sample the fermented fruits of each winery’s labor. Lavender is another popular purple crop in this neck of the valley—simply follow your nose to the rows of flowers at Clairmont Lavender Farm. Picnic among the floral fields and stock up on some lavender-infused products at the boutique.
If you’re planning on staying in town, rest up at Fess Parker Wine Country Inn. Dig into some divine “California-Hellenistic” cuisine at its on-site restaurant, Petros Los Olivos, and make time for an Elemis Rhythmic Pressure Massage at the hotel’s spa.
Continue your adventures south to the charming community of Ballard. What it lacks in size as the smallest town in the region, it more than makes up for in charm. Take a look at the 1883 Little Red Schoolhouse, which still houses students and rings its iconic school bell every morning. While you’re in the area, don’t miss a stop at the Seein’ Spots Farm. This family-run farm breeds miniature donkeys, and is also home to rescued pigs, turkeys, goats, sheep and other typical farm animals. Swing by and make friends with the tiny equines!
When it’s time to rest up, make yourself at home at the Ballard Inn & Restaurant. This
elegant inn features classic, deluxe and premier rooms appointed with antique furniture. The on-site restaurant, which boasts an intimate setting and serves dishes such as local black cod, grilled beef tenderloin, and rack of lamb, is as popular with locals as it is with guests of the Inn.
Just west of Ballard you’ll stumble across Buellton, which is next to the Santa Rita Hills wine growing region that is best known for its excellent Pinot Noir wines. While you’re in town, sip on some crisp white wine from the nearby vineyards, but if you’re craving a local brew, make a beeline to Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.’s taproom. The father-son duo crafts beers that appeal to everyone’s tastes, from the Hoppy Poppy IPA to the Paradise Rd Pilsner. Not all activities in Buellton are wine- and beer-centric though; Mendenhall’s Museum of Gasoline and Petroliana is a quirky attraction, while the Buellton Historical Society explains the city’s old nickname “Service Town USA.”
When it comes to overnight options, consider the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott. Wake up to a full buffet breakfast or go the continental route to start your day on the right foot. The comfortable accommodation also includes the Starting Gate Restaurant, which serves American fare inside the eatery and outside on the patio.
Head farther south and say “hej” to the traditional Danish-inspired city of Solvang. Decked out in half-timbered architecture, this village celebrates its Danish history and traditions ranging from its iconic windmill and annual Danish Days celebration, to an abundance of Danish pastries and the famous Aebleskiver dessert treat. Dig into some authentic Danish cuisine, and roam the exhibits at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. Prefer to venture outside of the culturally themed attractions? Feed the long-legged birds at OstrichLand USA, check out the bikes at Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum and don’t miss a summer performance at the outdoor, Elizabethan-style Solvang Festival Theater.
Stick around town for a bit and book a room in one of the inviting spa suites at Hadsten House Inn. The European-style lodging includes an indoor pool, outdoor whirl pool, spa and even a bistro to ensure your stay is a memorable one.
The town of Santa Ynez is located in the southeastern corner of the valley. Unique in that it’s reminiscent of the Old West – right down to the wooden sidewalks – this town features saloons and feed shops that give it an old-timey feel. While you’re exploring the Old West vibes, get a sense of its pioneer days at the local Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and Parks-Janeway Carriage House. After some fascinating history lessons, meet up with Lady Luck at the nearby Chumash Casino Resort to test out your poker face on the game tables. Winning the jackpot sure would be an epic way to round out the day.
Ready to put your feet up and relax? Let yourself be dazzled by the finer things at ForFriends Inn. The bed and breakfast is modeled after a Craftsman farmhouse, with seven bedrooms and two separate private cottages. Make friends on the wraparound porch or sip wine from the comfort of your own private balcony during your stay at ForFriends Inn.
Whether you’re visiting from across the globe or across the valley, there’s so much to see and do in the Santa Ynez Valley. Whether you do it all, or do nothing at all, it’s time you discovered the appeal of the Santa Ynez Valley firsthand.
Written by Expedia Editorial Team
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