24-Hours in the Santa Ynez Valley: A Complete List of What to Do and Where to Stay

The Santa Ynez Valley is a beautiful hilly valley with a weave of roaming grapevines and vineyards. I grew up just one hour southwest of the valley and would visit the various towns that made up the golden rolling hill valley.

As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate the six towns and each of their character that make up the Santa Ynez Valley (SYV), which consists of Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Ballard, Buellton, Solvang, and Santa Ynez.

Woven within those towns are the seven wine regions, which are, according to the Santa Barbara County Wines website:

Seven federally-sanctioned American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) lie within the region of Santa Barbara County: Santa Maria Valley, California’s second oldest AVA is located most north with distinct climate and soil. Santa Ynez Valley is an overlying AVA which is then broken down into four sub-AVAs (West to East): Sta. Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, Los Olivos District, and Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. Alisos Canyon is our newest AVA and is located at the doorstep of Los Alamos.

These seven regions all deliver a wide range of award-winning wines, from full-bodied to mild and every flavor in between. My taste buds melt into the warm, earthy, yet fruity, soft, and fresh notes of the wines I’ve tasted.

I have some recommendations if you plan a trip to any of the majestic yet quaint towns in the Santa Ynez Valley.

One of the nice things about visiting Santa Ynez is you can explore so much in just 24 hours. The small towns are packed with restaurants, shops, and wine tasting in just a few miles or slightly more. Nonetheless, whether you’re walking through to grab yourself a delicious sandwich, a nice gift or souvenir, or an exceptional bottle of wine, your time will be filled with something worth bringing home and enticing you to come back.

Here is my list of where I recommend you stay, eat, drink, and explore during your next visit to the SYV.



I loved staying at this hotel for many reasons. For one, as you walk onto the hotel’s property, you are greeted by a big, beautiful, and luscious garden. Within the garden are vignettes with seating areas that you can cozy up to with a firepit, picnic tables, and what I would describe as cushioned seating pods.

I stayed in the Deluxe room, which included a fireplace. Because our stay took place in December, and it was already getting chilly, the fireplace was a great addition.


LOS OLIVOS (Grand Avenue)

Grand Avenue is the main street that passes through Los Olivos and houses some of the valley’s finest wines and tasting rooms. If you’re not a wine drinker, they have a couple of restaurants and boutiques to shop at, a brewery, and an excellent coffee shop.

Carhartt Cabin and Tasting Room

The first stop on my stay was the Carhartt Wines tasting room, also known as the Carhartt Cabin. As I mentioned previously, my visit also took place in the cold months of Fall, so as soon as I walked into the cozy ambiance of the cabin, coupled with the heat permeating through it, I knew it was the right spot to land and sip on a light, fresh, yet a slightly earthy glass of wine.

Sunstone Winery

Sunstone Winery is a destination for more than its full-bodied wine, but for the location and property. As soon as you arrive at the Sunstone Winery, you are greeted by a castle-like structure. Add the friendly and fun tasting room associates and wine, and you’re guaranteed a great wine-tasting experience. And that is precisely what my husband and I had.

As soon as we sat on the oversized chairs, I melted right into them and had a clear view, looking out to the courtyard. Once seated, we were greeted by a knowledgeable and friendly associate. Of course, when it comes to wine, I need food to complement it, so I was happy to see a food truck on site.

Fit for the fabulous and delicious wine that Sunstone makes and offers, they also had the best food for nibbling and making happy taste buds. The food was a selection of Mediterranean gyros, labneh, tzatziki, and other snacks. So let’s say it hit the spot.


The Victor Restaurant and Bar

A day of fine wine drinking isn’t complete without an evening of fine dining. I chose The Victor for its elegance and charm, as well as for the menu and the quality of its food. On The Victor website, they describe their food as:

“Inspired by our location in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley, our offerings focus on live fire, land, and sea. Each dish is made with fresh, seasonal ingredients from California’s central coast.”

We arrived early for our reservation about fifteen minutes early, so we sat at the bar and had a drink, and they were excellent.

As we walked in, I felt like I was walking into a friend’s cozy country home. The lighting was low, warm, moody, and romantic. The lights were turned down just enough to set the tone of the evening, filling the room with the season’s warmth.

There is so much more to explore than I have listed here, but I am proud to share the places I visited during my short, extraordinary stay.

Whether you drive up for the day, the night, or a weekend, the Santa Ynez valley has so much to offer. If you’re interested in seeing what else the valley has to offer, I’ve included links to the Santa Ynez Valley and Los Olivos websites for you to check out in the more resources section at the bottom of this post.

More Lodging + Places to Eat in Los Olivos

You can stay at two hotels in the town, The Fess Parker Wine Country Inn and the newly constructed Inn at Mattei’s Tavern, an Auberge resort. At the time of this post, January 2023, the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern isn’t fully open to hotel guests but is available for dining. The website states that the hotel will be open Winter of 2023.

As for The Fess Parker, it is a more established hotel in the community and is also known for its wine. I’ve never stayed there, but their wine comes highly recommended by people I know that are also wine members. They also recently opened a restaurant and bar called Nella Kitchen & Bar.

More resources: