Our original road trip plan had been to drive Hwy 1 from LA to San Francisco but unfortunately the route between LA and Monterey was closed due to some major landslides so we had to head inland. The bright side to all of this is not only did we get to see a different part of California, we did it while eating Danish pastries and sipping wine in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Day 9 – From LA to Solvang
It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from LA to Solvang so of course it took us all day! Fuelled up with free hotel coffee and some pop-tarts we headed north on Hwy 1. It was actually raining as we left and I had to wear my down jacket when we stopped to feed the little guy at Robert Meyer Memorial State Park.
The weather improved as we headed north, stopping to buy strawberries from a roadside vendor before pulling into Santa Barbara for another break.
Santa Barbara has a lovely waterfront and it was so quiet and clean after Venice Beach that we took a nice long walk and had a bit of baby play time in the park before moving on.
We headed along the coast again for a bit and then followed the 101 inland where it definitely started to warm up. We arrived in the tiny town of Solvang around 3:30 pm and checked into our room at the Wine Valley Inn.
We were starving after only eating strawberries for lunch so we went out in search of an early dinner. For a tourist town there are not a lot of eatery options open in the evening but we finally settled on Chinese. After dinner we took a short walk around town before heading back to our hotel where we sampled a glass of local wine and got some recommendations for wineries to visit.
Day 10 – Exploring the Santa Ynez Valley
We’re not wine connoisseurs but do enjoy winery visits – which was one of the main draws to Solvang as there are a ton of wineries within a very short drive. Our hotel had recommended a few wineries in the town of Los Olivos so we decided to focus our adventures on things that could be done between Solvang and Los Olivos (which is only a 15 minute drive away).
After breakfast in our hotel, our first order of business was to pick up a few Danish baked goods before heading out on the road. Our first stop was just outside of town at Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch where you can wander around to check out the miniature horses.
From there it is just another 5 minutes into the tiny town of Los Olivos. The little guy was already hungry so I fed him in the park before we went for a walk to check out the town. It’s very tiny but very pretty.
One thing that we found different from the Okanagan is that most wineries had a tasting room located in town not at their actual winery. There are several tasting rooms in Los Olivos but we decided to try Refugio Ranch since we had a complimentary tasting.
We shared a tasting where we sampled two whites and three reds, The tasting room was super quiet on a Thursday morning – just us and another couple who also had their kids with them. The wine was pretty good and we left with two bottles.
We wanted to stop at one more winery and chose Buttonwood Farms since it was on the way home and had a tasting room located at the actual winery. The tasting room is quite small but opens onto a huge garden where you can take your glass and enjoy until you are ready to sample your next wine. There was one group picnicking which seemed like the perfect way to spend a day.
After our wine tasting we drove back to Solvang to explore the town. We wandered around, looking at the different buildings and windmills and finally sampling some ableskiver – which do taste just like pancakes.
We also took a walk over to check out Old Mission Santa Ines which has some information about the history of the mission and some views out over the valley.
We finished up our day in Solvang with an early dinner at Succulent Cafe Wine and Charcuterie. We split their two and two charcuterie platter (two meat and two cheese) which was HUGE as well as a serving of roasted brussel sprouts and some artichoke and feta dip. It was perfect to sit outside on the patio and having a relaxing dinner (they have blankets and patio heaters to make sure you can sit around and enjoy your meal even after the sun goes down).
Then it was back to our hotel for some much deserved rest before heading out the next morning to our next destination – Monterey.
Final Thoughts on Solvang
- The town was fairly busy during the day but quieted down in the evenings. Restaurants seemed to close early so maybe don’t wait for a late dinner.
- Save a few bucks by asking your hotel if they have vouchers for free tastings at any of the wineries. We only used one but our hotel gave us coupons for free or reduced price tastings at several different wineries.
- One full day is enough to cover off the highlights – but you could probably spend a second day doing more tastings or venturing out to hike the surrounding area.