Just 35 miles north of Santa Barbara, past scenic Lake Cachuma and tucked away amidst the Santa Ynez and San Rafael mountain ranges, the Santa Ynez Valley is a scenic California treasure not to be missed. Between the valley's verdant landscape, expansive vineyard properties, magnificent estates, and sprawling equestrian ranches, this area offers a wide variety of ways to enjoy incredible luxury lifestyle opportunities.
The Santa Ynez Valley is celebrated for its world-class vineyards and wineries. Boasting the greatest concentration of wineries in Santa Barbara County, this region produces some of the finest wines in the world. Most of the wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley are owned and operated by families or individuals, allowing for a more personalized, intimate experience with the added benefit of supporting the local economy and small businesses.
However, the rich agriculture in the Santa Ynez Valley is certainly not limited to vineyards. There is ample opportunity to spend your afternoons strolling through apple and walnut orchards as well as berry and lavender farms while enjoying breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Many of these orchards will also allow you to pick your own – it doesn’t get fresher than this!
The township of Santa Ynez was originally an area inhabited by the Chumash Indians, who had lived in the valley long before the discovery of the Americas. The Chumash people are known for their beautiful, elaborate cave paintings dating back hundreds and hundreds of years, which have been carefully preserved. In the mid-18th-century, farmers and ranchers from various parts of the country began to settle in the area and the town was divided into ranches and some of the earliest local orchards and vineyards.
Today, Santa Ynez still has an Old West feel while simultaneously hosting AAA-four diamond rated hotels and fine dining. Enjoy cycling tours through the vineyards or simply take in the unspoiled beauty of the valley from any of the valley's luxury lodgings. For the more adventurous, glider rides are offered at the Santa Ynez airport. From high above the valley, one can truly appreciate the splendor of the lush, rolling hills and mountains and look down upon the fruitful vineyards and orchards below.
Within the Santa Ynez Valley lies the historic city of Solvang (Danish for "sunny fields"), which was built up around the Mission Santa Inès in the early 1900s by a group of Danes seeking a reprise from harsh Midwestern winters. In this little town, it's easy to feel as if you've been whisked away to quaint Northern Europe – so authentic is this town that it has hosted visits from Danish royalty. Each year in September, residents and visitors from around the world celebrate Solvang's history during Danish Days. The town's dedication to its rich Danish roots is evident in its Danish Provincial style architecture, authentic dining options, festivals, and of course its four windmills!
Just outside of downtown Solvang is the luxurious Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, an exceptional hideaway with the romantic charm of the Old West, steeped in history and tradition. It has attracted guests such as Clark Gable, who married Lady Silvia in the old library and Doris Day, who visited regularly. Offering a world-class golf course, horseback riding, tennis, fishing, first-class accommodations, spa services, and the finest dining, The Alisal remains a well-kept secret among distinguished celebrities and luxury vacationers.
Another special point of interest in the Santa Ynez Valley is the tiny town of Ballard, founded in 1880 at the location of a Wells Fargo stage line station. This sleepy town is a prized residential area - the combination of small town ambiance with all the amenities of an upscale bedroom community makes it truly one-of-a-kind.
Ballard is also home to Santa Barbara County's oldest school. The Ballard School is an iconic red schoolhouse which has been holding classes since 1883. This school perfectly captures the essence of this charming rural town. Within walking distance of the school is The Ballard Inn, an ideal country getaway. Each room is unique and designed to reflect Santa Ynez's history, with authentic antique furniture and a gorgeous front porch which looks out over a lush garden lined with a white picket fence. The Inn hosts its own wine tasting room, featuring the best wines produced in the valley.
Los Olivos, a Victorian-style retreat destination, was named for a nearby ranch consisting of over 5,000 olive trees at the time of its founding in 1887. Enjoy an equestrian adventure by taking horseback rides on any of the numerous trails leading through the stunning Los Olivos countryside and award-winning vineyards, and complete your afternoon by indulging in an exclusive wine tasting.
While in Los Olivos, don't miss the opportunity to dine at Mattei's Tavern, originally opened in 1886 by Felix Mattei as an inn and restaurant for stagecoach travelers. Having survived the switch from stagecoach to rail, the emergence of the motorcar, world wars, prohibition, and national economic ups and downs, the restaurant is a distinctive and resilient slice of history. The building itself consists of a series of authentic Old West rooms and gardens, creating the charming atmosphere of a bygone era. Today, the tavern serves time-honored dishes made from scratch and an extensive selection of fine regional wines.
The Santa Ynez Valley offers an exceptional mingling of a relaxed countryside paradise and an exclusive luxury lifestyle. Its many wineries, luxurious hotels and homes, fine equestrian trails and facilities, and dedication to its rich history make the Santa Ynez Valley a one-of-a-kind destination.
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