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The Santa Ynez Valley, north of Santa Barbara, is renowned for its more than 70 wineries — most are open for visits. Hot air balloons provide an exciting way to admire the valley and surrounding hillsides, while bicycling is a popular option. The valley is also known for its stud farms, and for five acres of lavender at Clairmont Farms. There's even a casino on Chumash Indian lands. Santa Ynez Mission was founded in 1804 as the last mission between San Diego and San Francisco. The current structure is a remake: the original burned to the ground in 1824. Nearby, the quaint town of Solvang is full of Danish charm. Two-thirds of the populace ...

The Santa Ynez Valley, north of Santa Barbara, is renowned for its more than 70 wineries — most are open for visits. Hot air balloons provide an exciting way to admire the valley and surrounding hillsides, while bicycling is a popular option. The valley is also known for its stud farms, and for five acres of lavender at Clairmont Farms. There's even a casino on Chumash Indian lands. Santa Ynez Mission was founded in 1804 as the last mission between San Diego and San Francisco. The current structure is a remake: the original burned to the ground in 1824. Nearby, the quaint town of Solvang is full of Danish charm. Two-thirds of the populace have Danish heritage and the town looks like it could have been transported from Denmark with its authentic Danish half-timbered architecture, smorgasbord restaurants, Danish bakeries, and windmills. The two key sites not to miss are the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, and the Elverhoj Museum (resembling an 18th-century Jutland farmhouse) telling the tale of Danish heritage. The area is blessed with charming country inns. For something fun, opt for the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort, a working cattle ranch with a lingering Old West ambiance.

Christopher Baker
About the Expert

Christopher P. Baker has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, California, and various Caribbean islands for Frommer's, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic, among others.

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Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Anytime is good.