Santa Ynez is a cowboys dream with a sophisticated twist that will make you think you are in an old western but also in current time. The juxtaposition is a perfect getaway for adventurers, families, or relaxed weekenders. Santa Ynez is located in Santa Barbara County, California. Known for its western charm,delightful views and numerous attractions such as wine tasting, hiking, art galleries, antique stores and casino, this culturally rich town is one that no one would want to miss. It is definitely a retreat that I will not forget.
I was lucky enough to start my time in Santa Ynez at the beautiful Ballard Inn nestled in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley. Built in the 1850s this gorgeous bed and breakfast offers a comfortable and sophisticated vibe with rustic, clean accents. You can tell at the Ballard Inn they definitely celebrate their western roots and mix that with some class. You can enjoy multiple amenities such as riding horseback through orchards, wine tasting, or hitting some clubs at their celebrated golf courses. The top amenity in my opinion would be their delicious restaurant called The Gathering Table. Again with a comfortable but elegant feel The Gathering Table is a place for families and friends to gather and eat up some of the delectable creations that Chef Budi Kazali is offering up. A delightful twist on two cultures merging into one this Asian and French fusion restaurant is offering some creative approaches to food. Budi Kazali originally born in Indonesia and growing up in Santa Barbara, CA has created a menu filled with local fresh produce, most often picked that day, that is limitless due to the fusion of these two cultures. To say The Gathering Table is an experience like no other would be very fair. The food is delectable, fresh and will leave a good taste in your mouth for years to come.
If you are coming to Santa Ynez then there is one thing that you must not miss...vineyards. I got to visit two very complex, beautiful wineries during my time here and they are not to be overlooked if you make your way to Santa Ynez.
The first is Rusack Vineyards. A boutique winery nestled among oak- studded rolling hills in Ballard County, Rusack Vineyards creates world class wines that reflect the region that they love and are apart of. Every decadent sip of any wine that you try here you see the commitment and delicate balance or “elegance and power” that each wine brings. Rusack Vineyards tasting room is absolutely stunning, completely custom made, with a bunch of pottery relevant to time period and of course a plethora of wines. The tasting room is accompanied by a beautiful deck that allows visitors to overlook the estate, vineyard, and the oak rolling hills. It is absolutely picture perfect.
The second is Ridaeu Vineyards. This family owned and operated vineyard has been bringing hand crafted wines to Santa Barbara County for over 20 years. Ridaeu Vineyards has always been focused on bringing hand crafted small lot wines from grapes that are handpicked from their sustainably farmed vineyard that displays the land it comes from. From each sip of wine you can tell the level of intricacy that goes into every single wine. This winery offers a comfortable atmosphere, with views to spare. Their tasting room is definitely worth a visit if you are in the Santa Ynez area.
For our next couple of destinations, we travel to the danish town of Solvang right outside of the Santa Ynez Valley. Their old world danish architecture brings a lot of charm, delicious bakeries, and a ton of boutique shopping. Walking through Solvang feels like you are in Denmark enjoying the european atmosphere. It is a perfect little town to do a California Eurotrip in. It is also home to our next destination.
Our next destination is a fun for all and a unique, quirky stop at Ostrich Land USA. Ostrich Land USA is considered a central coast landmark and greets hundreds of visitors every day. They have hundreds…yes...hundreds of Ostriches and Emus that you can interact with, feed, or just enjoy their majestic beauty. Ostrich Land USA provides a safe, large roaming area for these giant creatures. It is definitely something that is fun for the whole family and an experience you will never forget.
As mentioned earlier Solvang is home to more than 150 different, unique boutique shops. Whether you are looking to go antiquing, get a delicious danish, update your wardrobe or experience some never before seen stores, you can spend days exploring.
Here are just some of the amazing off the beaten path stores that you can stop by, when you are visiting Solvang;
Solvang’s Antiques could be a destination all in itself. You can spend as little as ten minutes here or as much as a few hours. It is recognized as the country’s finest antique gallery with over 40 years of experience. With their 3000 square foot showroom Solvang’s has antiques for novice buyers to the most advanced collectors. It is definitely a stop you want to make to get lost among hundreds of years of history.
The next boutique is a must visit if you are a known bookworm or are looking for a good read. The Book Loft is a full service book joint with an extremely attentive staff ready to help you find the most well known book to an out of print novel. They are also there to make some fabulous book recommendations to help you find something new. Their scandenavian section is not to be missed and caters to the Danish population that still resides in Solvang.
Last we have First Street Leather which has been providing Solvang with fine leather goods since 1972. Their shop features a collection of luxurious goods such as jackets, belts, gloves, purses and so much more. Their passion for fashion and attention to detail is unmatched. If you have been looking for an accessory or something that sets you apart from the crowd look no further.
Our final destination is also in Solvang and is definitely a favorite among travelers. Quick Silver Ranch is a family owned ranch that breeding thoroughbreds and mini horses. Now I happen to be petrified of horses because I was thrown off of one and suffered pretty severe injuries but I have to say Quick Silver’s minis made me feel at ease. If you are passing through Solvang this cute free spot is great for the whole family to see their beautiful mini horses.
Santa Ynez is an experience that I will never forget. There is so much to do no matter what the group size or the occasion. I cannot wait to go back and experience the beauty that Santa Ynez has to offer.