A Perfect Day in the Santa Ynez Valley

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A Perfect Day in the Santa Ynez Valley – exploring Solvang, Santa Ynez, Los Alamos, and Ballard California for great food and wine, fresh farmers market finds, and great shopping in California’s Central Coast. 

This post is sponsored by Visit California. All opinions are my own.

I love to partner with companies I know my readers will love just as much as I do – and there is no place on earth like California for a vacation!

I took a four part road trip to taste my way from Santa Monica California, through Oxnard, and on to the Santa Ynez Valley and San Luis Obispo to check out California Restaurant Month, and all the amazing food throughout California’s Central Coast.

To see my entire road trip plan, please start here. 

 

To learn more about California Restaurant Month and get ideas for your own culinary trip through California, please head here.

There is never a better time than now to Visit California – heading in the off-season saves a ton of money, but is also ideal for less crowds, and amazing restaurant specials.

 

 

A Perfect Day in the Santa Ynez Valley

From Los Alamos to Solvang, Santa Ynez, and Ballard – where to go, what to do, and what to see if you find yourself with one perfect day to spend in Central California’s Santa Ynez Valley.

Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for a printable guide of everywhere I stayed and everything I ate, with addresses and menu recommendations. 

 

Where to Stay in the Santa Ynez Valley

With lots of small, charming hotels – as well as fabulous home rentals – there is no shortage of beautiful places to stay in the Santa Ynez Valley. 

If you’re looking for an incredibly amazing and charming romantic B&B, the Ballard Inn should be your first choice.

While this hotel isn’t great for kids, it is one of the most romantic and lovely places to stay – I was really sad to leave. 

 

Ballard Inn 

2436 Baseline Ave, Ballard, CA 93463

$-$$$ depending on season

Romantic themed B&B with luxury out-fittings, antique decor, and fireplaces in every room. 

Tips:

Bike rentals are available through the hotel.

Every evening, there is a gorgeous cheese plate and plenty of wine and coffee for guests to enjoy.

There is only one television on property in the common room. Rooms do not have their own television.

Every room has a different theme – some rooms are bright white, some have a funky country feel, some more like a mountain cabin. 

If you browse through the website before you book, you can pick a room with a style you love. 

Breakfast in Los Alamos, California

With an abundance of fresh ingredients and world class chefs, the Santa Ynez Valley has tons of options for fantastic breakfasts – but for value and style, my pick is Plenty on Bell in sleepy Los Alamos. 

Plenty on Bell has tons of gorgeous, generously portioned breakfasts and lunches that are focused around fresh California ingredients. 

Plenty on Bell 

508 Bell St, Los Alamos, CA 93440

$$-$$$

California focused breakfast and lunch classics. Closed Mondays. 

 

 

 

Sweet C’s Picks:

Mimosa

Latte

Avocado Toast

Hash

Burger

 

Lunch In Santa Ynez, California

Santa Ynez has a multitude of great options for lunch – but I couldn’t help to fall in love immediately with S.Y. Kitchen in Santa Ynez. 

From the gorgeous interior and a locally sourced refined Italian menu, to the slow drip manhattans and a knockout craft cocktail program, S.Y. Kitchen is an easy choice for lunch or dinner when visiting Santa Ynez. 

S.Y. Kitchen

1110 Faraday St, Santa Ynez, CA 93460

$$-$$$

Refined Italian with a fresh California twist; exceptional local wine list and craft cocktail program in a gorgeous space with indoor and outdoor space. 

I can’t pick fault with anything from my lunch at S.Y. Kitchen – it was absolutely amazing. 

The house-made pasta was full of flavor and the perfect texture – hearty, salty, and creamy – but the real standout was the fresh pea salad. 

It might sound funny, but I have been dreaming about the fresh pea salad since dining with S.Y. Kitchen.

It was light, but full of sweet, salty, and crisp flavor thanks to the peas, dried ricotta, and celeriac root. 

I haven’t had time to make a recreation of it – but I WILL be figuring out how to make a similar salad at home…. it was so good! 

 

Sweet C’s Picks:

Fresh Pea Salad

Gigli Al Ropeton Pasta

Affogato

El Viejo Cocktail

 

Dinner in Ballard, California

 

If you’re staying at the Ballard Inn, there is no reason NOT to go to the Gathering Table, the in-house restaurant. 

But even if you’re not staying in-house, the Gathering Table is one restaurant in the Santa Ynez Valley you don’t want to miss. 

Gathering Table 

2436 Baseline Ave, Ballard, CA 93463

$$$-$$$$

Indonesian meets French with an emphasis on local California sourced ingredients. 

Besides the food being phenomenal, the Gathering Table was an exceptional experience in part because of Chef Budi Kazali who is honestly one of the nicest, most welcoming chefs I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Learning a bit about how he was born in Indonesia, raised in California, and trained in France helped me connect with his food even more – you can taste each influence in every dish. 

The menu at Gathering Table changes often – and I got to sample some of the Santa Ynez Restaurant Week dishes that aren’t always on the menu – but I am confident in saying I don’t think there is a dish at Gathering Table I wouldn’t be completely in love with. 

If you’re a bit adventurous and don’t mind being surprised, be sure to ask them to bring something interesting, or that the staff loves. I actually didn’t order off the menu at all – just let the staff know my food allergies and asked to be surprised – and it was seriously amazing. 

I can’t wait to head back soon with my husband and eat our way through the menu some more! 

Sweet C’s Picks:

Hamachi 

Seafood Chowder – a Santa Ynez Restaurant Week pick

Steak

Pudding

Wine Tasting in Santa Ynez, California

If you’ve ever watched the movie Sideways – which was filmed in the Santa Yenez Valley – you know how well known the Santa Yenez Valley is for winemaking.

With over 120 wineries, it is hard to pick where to visit – but if you’re dying to replicate Sideways, you’ll want to start at Kalyra Winery, where Sandra Oh’s character was featured in the tasting room.

Kalyra Winery

9302, 343 N Refugio Rd, Santa Ynez, CA 93460

$$-$$$

As featured in Sideways – California wines with an Australian focus. 

Kalyra’s varietals have a distinctly Australian focus – the varietals are a bit more crisp and sweeter than some of the big, bold, peppery fruit-bomb Californian wines I’ve become used to. It’s a nice change, and definitely stands out from the crowd.

 

Shopping in Solvang, California

Solvang Farmers Market 

1st St, Solvang, CA 93463

With a focus on fresh, local produce and nutritious locally processed foods, the Solvang Farmers Market every Wednesday is a must-visit if you’re there on a Wednesday.

The Solvang Farmers Market runs every Wednesday rain or shine – and I can vouch for the fact there were still plenty of people even though I visited while it was pouring rain!

Parking is available throughout town, watch closely for any restrictions.

Hans Christian Andersen Museum and The Book Loft Book Store 

1680 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463

Bookstore featuring games, new books, used books, and features a small museum dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen with a working Gutenberg Press and other historic artifacts. 

The Book Loft is located on Mission Drive just a few steps from the Solvang Farmers Market, and is a deceptively large corner building that looks like two storefronts.

If you enter one side, you’re greeted with a book store with signs for a used books section upstairs – and if you enter the other side, it is a game shop with signs inviting you upstairs to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum (which is small and free to enter) upstairs.

The spaces sort of feel like 4 connected spaces built into one, making it a great place for groups where some like to shop and some enjoy history, all under one roof.

 

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A Perfect Day in the Santa Ynez Valley

Instructions

Where to Stay in the Santa Ynez Valley

Ballard Inn 

2436 Baseline Ave, Ballard, CA 93463

$-$$$ depending on season

Romantic themed B&B with luxury out-fittings, antique decor, and fireplaces in every room. 

 

Breakfast in Los Alamos, California

Plenty on Bell 

508 Bell St, Los Alamos, CA 93440

$$-$$$

California focused breakfast and lunch classics. Closed Mondays. 

 

 

Lunch In Santa Ynez, California 

S.Y. Kitchen

1110 Faraday St, Santa Ynez, CA 93460

$$-$$$

Refined Italian with a fresh California twist; exceptional local wine list and craft cocktail program. 

 

Dinner in Ballard, California

Gathering Table 

2436 Baseline Ave, Ballard, CA 93463

$$$-$$$$

Indonesian meets French with an emphasis on local California sourced ingredients. 

 

 

 

Wine Tasting in Santa Ynez, California 

Kalyra Winery

9302, 343 N Refugio Rd, Santa Ynez, CA 93460

$$-$$$

As featured in Sideways - California wines with an Australian focus. 

 

Shopping in Solvang, California 

Solvang Farmers Market 

1st St, Solvang, CA 93463

 

Hans Christian Andersen Museum and The Book Loft Book Store 

1680 Mission Dr, Solvang, CA 93463

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About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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