Savor the Santa Ynez Valley
With six superlative towns, top-flight wines, and the coolest culinary scene on the coast, all against a backdrop of rolling hills, the SYV is the ultimate Central Coast California getaway.
There’s a reason we regularly feature the restaurants, hotels, design-forward homes, and wineries of the Santa Ynez Valley in the pages of Sunset: It’s a region that uniquely manages to pack major California country vibes and a big dose of city sophistication into its towns and rolling hills, making it a picture-perfect getaway for travelers of every taste. Situated just 35 minutes north of Santa Barbara, an easy two-hour drive from Los Angeles, and four hours from San Francisco, the Santa Ynez Valley is a food and wine lover’s paradise, and then some. With six diverse and distinct towns—Danish-themed Solvang, country chic Santa Ynez, bucolic Ballard, charming Buellton, foodie hotspot Los Alamos, and vinous wonderland Los Olivos—“the SYV” abounds with more enticing culinary, cultural, and outdoor adventures than you can fit into a single visit… or in a single article! But we’ll try…
Here’s a short list of all you can dive into on a vacation: Horseback ride through vineyards, hike in the Los Padres National Forest, bike winding country roads, walk to rushing waterfalls, feed ostriches, visit organic farms, taste artisanal olive oils, soar above it all on a hot air balloon ride or zipline tour—and attend lively festivals including the region’s signature food and wine festival Taste of the Santa Ynez Valley, happening every year at the end of September.
Over the years the region has rightly earned a reputation as one of the best destinations for food and wine. You could build an entire trip out of simply dining at Michelin-approved eateries such as Bar Le Côte, Bell’s, Coast Range, First & Oak, and peasants FEAST. Each of these restaurants serves world-class food, but with a down-home hospitality that’s truly SYV. And wine lovers know that the Santa Ynez Valley has all the elements of a world-class wine growing region thanks to its warm days and cool nights courtesy of the evening maritime influence from the nearby Pacific Ocean. Everyone from the casual sipper to the vinously obsessed can sip award-winning vintages, discover new varietals, and meet rising-star winemakers at the 150 wineries spread throughout the valley.
The abundance of hotel and resort options will ensure you turn the SYV into your home away from home: With 37 lodging properties, you’re sure to find one that fits your taste and budget. (We’ve got a few in this year’s Sunset Travel Awards!) Whether it’s the upscale, down-home luxury of The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, the cool country scene at Hotel Ynez, or the Danish Modern vibe of The Landsby, each property captures the valley’s singular sense of place with a distinct personality. So now you know how to book, sip, and savor the Santa Ynez Valley!