An autumn escape to the Santa Ynez Valley — where natural beauty meets a rich cultural landscape — can be a midweek rendezvous or a weekend immersion in the wonders of this bountiful countryside.
Set amid the majestic Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains — just 125 miles north of Los Angeles and at the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country — the Santa Ynez Valley is a first-class retreat combined with charming Old-World hospitality.
Choose to book your stay at one of the many popular boutique hotels within the six-village township — Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Solvang — and share in the fall festivities, including the ongoing merriment of Solvang’s centennial celebration.
Be one of the first to see the new Hans Christian Anderson-inspired musical “My Fairytale” on American soil at the Solvang Festival Theater. The work of award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell,” “Pippin,” “Wicked”) debuts on Saturday, Aug. 27 and continues through Sept. 25 (tickets available at www.pcpa.org).
Sept. 17 marks the start of the first-ever Santa Ynez Valley Vintages Week, commencing with the 75th Annual Danish Days celebration, where visitors get the chance to discover the rich history that gives these communities their charm.
Take in some authentic western heritage Sept. 23 through 25 at the 65th Annual Los Alamos Old Days Celebration, where you’ll encounter traditional old-country entertainment: a two-day Peddlers Mart, a classic car show on Saturday, and the “Greatest Little Small Town Parade” on Sunday. A “Vintages” map guides you through the area’s many darling antique shops, museums and cherished landmarks to maximize your experience.
Mary Harris, executive director of the Santa Ynez Valley Hotel Assn. (www.syvha.com) said that the heart of the valley is its vintage heritage — “from the wine we drink to the cars we drive. Like they used to do in the good old days.”
The Valley’s superb fall climate is ideal for combining wine tasting with the great outdoors. Pack a lunch filled with fresh goods from the weekly Solvang Farmers Market and embark on a memorable tasting journey.
On the third Wednesday of each month — for just $20 a person — set out on foot along the Solvang Wine Trail and discover your favorite new wine bar or tasting room — such as Lion’s Peak Winery, the Olive House or the Wandering Dog Wine Bar — to sample speciality menus and pour from vertical (vintage) flights of wine.
Bill Phelps, president of the Santa Ynez Valley Hotel Assn., suggests following the path taken by bikers during the Amgen Tour of California amid the chaparral laced, oak-studded hills or hiking to Buttonwood Farms — a 39-acre vineyard with gorgeous tasting gardens — then continuing down to Lincourt Vineyards, where elegant grounds offer the perfect picnic setting.
Prefer to fine-tune that back swing? Round out your Santa Ynez bucket list with 18-holes of golf at one of the area’s world-class courses designed by renowned architects Robert Muir Graves (La Purisima) and Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (Rancho San Marcos). Each features first-class clubhouses and expert staff ready to accommodate players at every level.
“(Santa Ynez) is a fantastic golfing destination because there is great weather year round,” said Phelps. To maximize your dollar and time spent here, he suggested booking course time and rooms together.
Multiple courses can be played with packages from certain resorts such as the Santa Ynez Valley Marriot, Hotel Corque and the Hadsten House. Bigger discounts are offered midweek as fall approaches.
The fun continues through November with the Santa Ynez Valley Arts Week. From Nov. 12 through 20, experience the best of the Valley’s burgeoning arts community. Meet local artists, watch them work and see the growing exhibits at tasting rooms and coffee houses in the area, like the Corner House Café in Los Olivos.
Join the Wildling Art Museums Valley Artist Studio Tour or check out the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum’s Vaquero Western Art Show and Sale, and see the countryside from a new, more artistic angle with an exclusive peek inside dozens of independent studios. Purchase a new piece for your living room or let your own creativity be sparked by this beautiful microcosm of Central California beauty.
For more information about Santa Ynez Valley accommodations, attractions, activities, events and special offers, or to order a copy of the 2011 Visitors Guide, visit www.syvha.com.
— SARAH KRUBERG
Custom Publishing Writer