Overnight Stay in Santa Ynez Wine Region

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Advisor - Carol Johnston
Curated By

Carol Johnston

  • Santa Barbara

  • California

  • USA

  • Boutique Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Vineyard

  • Small Town

  • Laidback

winding road through hills at sunset
Curator’s statement

The Santa Ynez wine region can easily be added to extend a trip to Santa Barbara. While there are also many superb day trips to this region that begin and end at your Santa Barbara hotel, this guide is for an overnight trip (assuming you are within an hour or two of Santa Ynez to begin). You can easily extend this trip for a few more days, as there are many additional wineries, parks, and olive tasting places to visit. The nearby Danish village of Solvang can also be added.

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Day 1: Drive to Santa Ynez

old fireplace with 2 glasses of red wine set on the small wooden table in a sitting room

The drive from Santa Barbara to Santa Ynez takes under an hour and is a scenic drive. We arrived mid-morning and made a welcomed stop at Pony Espresso in Santa Ynez. As it was a cool morning, we chose to sit inside, but there were quite a few people braving the outdoor tables who seemed quite content. I ordered a cappuccino, excellent and served in a ceramic cup. My husband’s choice was the mocha. Fortunately, I did get a taste of the mocha — which reminded me of the rich, thick, cocoa hot chocolates served in Italy. I ordered avocado toast, which was served with thinly sliced fresh avocados, a thin slice of tomato, and cheese, and my husband ate a breakfast burrito.

After coffee and breakfast, we spent about an hour wandering the shops on the Santa Ynez main street. Most were not yet open, but we did get to visit an amazing hat shop that creates hats by hand. While I did find a few felt cowboy hats to my liking, I was unable to find the more summery straw hat that I was seeking. It was still a treat to talk with the woman making the hats and hearing about the business. We later walked into a furniture store (we are in the midst of remodeling our home — and thus open to ideas for new furniture). Found that perfect sofa!!!! There were also quite a few clothing stores that would appeal to many.

Our next stop was the Firestone Winery Tasting Room. We have always preferred to take our time and enjoy no more than one winery in a day. We chose Firestone because my husband had worked there in the 70s, and because they are connected to the Foley Wine and Food Society (which we joined while staying at the Hotel California in Santa Barbara). Joining this club allowed us discounts at the eating establishments at the Hotel California and free tastings at the tasting room attached to the hotel. Thus, we were given complimentary tastings and a welcoming seat in front of a fireplace to relax and taste several very nice wines. Since they are part of the Foley group, we were able to taste some wines from Napa, Alexander Valley, and of course, those produced locally by Firestone. I was very impressed with several of the Firestone reds — particularly the Chairmans Series Lineage.

After enjoying another short walk, we checked into our room at the For Friends Inn in Santa Ynez. With some time to sit and relax, we made good use of the two rocking chairs in front of our room. The owner of the Inn happened by and stopped to chat for several minutes about the changes to Santa Ynez and the many good restaurants coming to the area.

After changing for dinner, we made a stop at the wine tasting in the lobby — mostly to chat with other guests and to enjoy a small snack before heading to dinner. We had made reservations at SY Kitchen, an Italian restaurant that makes authentic Northern Italian dishes with fresh, local produce. We had actually chosen Santa Ynez specifically to eat again at this restaurant! But, if you have more than 1 night, there were several other restaurants that came highly recommended — Brother’s Restaurant at the Red Barn, Trattoria Grappolo, and the bit further out, Petro’s restaurant (at their winery).

After dinner, we returned to the lobby and enjoyed good conversation in front of the fireplace. Some of us were too full to try the cookies, but we both enjoyed the atmosphere.

Day 2: Back on the road to Santa Barbara

bungalow style houses on small inn property on a cloudy day

Breakfast in the morning was tasty and included fresh berries, yogurt, and granola, in addition to the main dish — for us, scrambled eggs and toast.

Although the rains changed our day, we had planned to complete the short hike to Nojoqui Falls before continuing our drive back to Santa Barbara. This is an easy hike (about 1 mile) to a nice waterfall. Short and sweet, but worth the visit!

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration on the road to Santa Barbara? Check out Fora Advisor Thizel Stassart's guide, Weekend Getaway to Solvang, CA.

Advisor - Carol Johnston

Travel Advisor

Carol Johnston

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.