Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Over the Hill to the Santa Ynez Valley

Last Sunday the sun came out after six straight days of rain! Very unusual here in Camelot.

Santa Barbarians seem to hibernate when it rains, so I decided to take a day off from Open Houses. My husband and I took take a drive over to one of our favorite spots in our area. The Santa Ynez Valley which is gorgeous this time of year, as is the 30 minute drive to get there.

We decided to take the Old San Marcos Pass (hwy 154) route going, and return along the Ocean and hwy 101.

Amazing dusting of snow on the Santa Ynez Mountain Range
Our Lake Cachuma named after the native Chumash Indians

Lake Cachuma is the water reservoir for the greater Santa Barbara Area
currently at 73% of capacity! Boating and Fishing ok but NO Swimming.

Another peek at the snow dusted SY Mountain Range
framed by the area's beautiful Live Oak Trees
Lake Cachuma is located in the Los Padres National Forest
There is a wonderful camp ground at the Lake, along with terrific fishing.

There are also outstanding lake tours with a guide to introduce visitors to the history of Bradbury Dam and the creation of the Lake as a reservoir, along with information about native wildlife. Information at

Historically the Santa Ynez Valley was known for its cattle ranching, equestrian ranches, alfalfa and wheat farming.

More recently, it's become known internationally as a fabulous wine growing region. The movie 'Sideways' was filmed here. Offering privacy and incredible geographical beauty, the Valley has also become home for many famous residents such as the former Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, former resident Jane Fonda's Laurel Springs Ranch, Tennis great Jimmy Conner, Bo Derrick of the movie "Ten"; and of course President Reagan's Western Whitehouse.

The Alisal Guest Ranch and Golf Course is well known to golfers. It's a terrific get-a-way offering tennis, fishing, golf, 1st class accommodations, spa and fine dining. Rancho San Marcos Golf Course is located along Highway 154, and the River Course is located just outside of Solvang
Two must stops are the Cold Spring Tavern a fabulous restaurant and tavern serving lunch and dinner (including wild game); located at the beginning of the San Marcos Pass traveling north from Santa Barbara, just beyond the large suspension bridge. Mattei's Tavern outside of Los Olivos is also an outstanding restaurant for lunch and dinner. Both house fabulous restaurants. Cold Spring Tavern used to have a Jail right next to the Tavern. These were the two stops the Stage Coach made when traveling along the San Marcos Pass many years ago.

These two views are North West of Santa Ynez and Solvang looking back to San Marcos Pass
This is the heart of Wine Country

The rain has sure made the Valley beautiful. In another month or so, when the weather warms this area will be worth another trip to view the Wild Flowers!
Other points of interest are the Danish Town of Solvang. Lots of Danish Bakeries, shops, winetasting rooms and an exquisite Antique Shop. My husband loved his Knackwurst, sour kraut and red cabbage lunch at the Heidelberg Inn. This is also the home of Mission Santa Ynez.
Santa Ynez is actually a small adjacent village offering some wonderful shops and restaurants with more of an Old West flair.
The Chumash Casino 4 diamond Resort, is the spot for those who love to gamble and play cards Las Vegas style or catch a great show. It is a venue for great performers and features a luxurious spa. The Chumash Resort is accessible by bus from Santa Barbara.

Also available for wine country tours is the Purple Bus from the movie "Sideways". Leave the driving to them and enjoy numerous wine tasting stops. I have taken guest both ways, driving myself (as DD) and the bus. Obviously I prefer the bus..and I learned a lot about the history of the wineries from the wonderful tour guide.
Coming soon...our stop in charming Los Olivos!

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