One of my favorite things about living in Southern California is how easy it is to get away to new places and environments. For instance, Big Bear (mountains), Palm Springs (desert) and Los Olivos (wine country) are all only about a two-hour drive from LA (city/ocean). We’ve always loved Los Olivos when we stop in for lunch while driving up to San Francisco, but never spent a weekend, so I was really excited when it was chosen as the destination for a family trip.
Here’s where we stayed, what we did and our highlights and recommendations…
Where To Stay
We rented this house in Los Olivos. Actually it was technically in Solvang (Solvang, Los Olivos and Santa Ynez are sister towns and are all about a 10-minute drive from each other). It was a perfect set-up for three couples, as there was a main house, and then two detached guest houses, so everyone had their privacy and space.
But it was the outside area that blew us away. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the vineyards, there was a beautiful pool and spa and an outdoor living room and dining room, where we ate most of our meals and spent all of our waking hours. It gave me flashbacks to Tuscany.
I give the Double M Ranch a double thumbs up.
Sunsets from the house were magical.
If you’re not traveling with a group, the Fess Parker in Los Olivos is meant to be lovely (it’s my favorite place to eat in Los Olivos, but have never stayed) or try Hotel Corque in Solvang (my in-laws have stayed there multiple times and recommend it).
When To Visit
The weather was dreamy (end of September/first week of October). Warm and full of sunshine to swim during the day and then brisk in the evening, so it felt like fall.
What To Do
The best part about Los Olivios and about renting a house is that it is so relaxing. You don’t have to do anything, which is so nice. But there were a few things that I really loved doing, such as….
We went to Apple Lane Farm and had fun wandering through the apple orchard.
Right down the road was a pumpkin patch too, complete with a corn field maze. It was so charming.
One of our favorite things to do anywhere anytime is to just hop in the car and explore, and the winding roads of Santa Ynez Valley are perfect for that.
I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit and my mother-in-law volunteered to show me. I am a slow learner when it comes to anything that requires coordination or spacial skills, so needless to say it did not come easy, but I’m slowly getting there and it was fun to get a lesson while overlooking the pool, vineyards and the valley.
I really wanted to go biking but didn’t bring my bike, assuming I could rent one (I really wanted to tandem bike). But the bike rentals are in Solvang and we only looked into it on the weekend, when Solvang was too crowded with tourists to make it desirable. There is a bike rental shop in Santa Ynez but they are more serious road bikes, not cruisers, so next time I’d bring my own bike or try to rent in Solvang on a weekday.
Where To Eat & Drink
Los Olivos is all about vineyards and good farm-to-table food (my favorite) so we enjoyed a little wine tasting and nibbling. Here were my favorites…
So many people on Instagram recommend Demetria winery to us and I have to say thank you, thank you, thank you! While I enjoy wine, for me the fun of wine tasting is more about being in a beautiful setting and less about the wine, and the setting at Demetria was stunning and the family who runs it is lovely.
Tip: Call ahead and make a reservation. Also, leave the bikes at home. I would not recommend biking to Demetria, like my sister and brother-in-law attempted to do, because once you get inside the gates it’s another multi-mile uphill climb to reach the winery. Luckily we had a car and could bring them the rest of the way, but unless you’ve completed the Tour de France, drive.
Perfect for a casual lunch or to pack a picnic, Panino is a local Santa Barbara chain with locations in Santa Ynez, Los Olivos and Solvang that serves up yummy sandwiches, soups and salads. I love the goat cheese, roasted red pepper and sundried tomato sandwich on foccacia so much I had it two days in a row.
For a sweet treat, Enjoy Cupcakes can’t be beat. In fact, we always stop here when driving up to San Francisco to get our sweets fix and to pick up cupcakes to give to friends as gifts. We always get the cupcake flight, which is a tasting of six mini-cupcakes, all in wine-inspired flavors such as Chocolate Blackberry Syrah, served up in a cute egg carton. Located inside of Saarloos & Sons Tasting House, it’s a must.
Tip: Look for the cute pink vintage Shasta trailer out front.
For dinner one night we went to Grappolo in Santa Ynez, a charming, relaxed Italian trattoria with delicious pasta, seafood and wine. It’s not very big and gets crowded on the weekends, so try to make a reservation, but it was the fun kind of bustling that felt convivial and cozy.
The restaurant at Fess Parker in Los Olivos, Petros, is my favorite spot to eat. The menu is really fresh Greek and Mediterranean meets Californian and I always get one of their amazing salads (the watermelon salad is the best and the tomato, cucumber, feta salad with shrimp is so good).
It was a perfect trip and I couldn’t recommend Los Olivos more — especially in the fall — and if you can gather a group and rent a house, it’s such a treat. Hope you enjoyed this guide to Los Olivos and if you have any questions or recommendations to add, please share them in the comments!
And a huge thank you to Fred Baby’s parents for making it a dream trip.
[Photos by Fred Baby and my iPhone]