Immerse yourself in the wonders,
where outdoor activities and a vibrant arts scene come together amidst the Valley’s storied horse country charm.
A destination that has long been celebrated for its world-class wine and vineyards, not to mention a revered culinary scene that counts six Michelin-rated restaurants among its ranks, the Santa Ynez Valley is also home to a surprisingly diverse lineup of other attractions, activities, and pastimes that appeal to every kind of traveler.
While wine remains a driving force behind any time spent in the valley, there are an abundance of outdoor activities to connect with the beautiful landscape and animals. For those who are looking to educate themselves on the Valley’s history, there are numerous museums and galleries filled with rich content making this a playground for all who come to visit.
From outdoor activities in scenic landscapes to a historical arts and culture scene, the Santa Ynez Valley has something special for everyone. Following is a list of some of the more notable year-round activities and attractions beyond the vineyards:
Grass Mountain — The 5.2 mile out-and-back trail is located near the town of Los Olivos and Santa Ynez. The trail starts off easy and steadily increases in difficulty as hikers climb 2,411 feet up the mountainside. Once visitors reach the peak, this hike is best known for its picturesque views of the Valley and the variety of wildflowers that inhabit the trail each season.
Nojoqui Falls Park — A favorite site for friends and family to gather, Nojoqui Falls Park features ball fields, a playground, BBQ grill, picnic tables and a hiking trail to a stunning waterfall. The memorable one mile out-and-back hike leads visitors to a stunning view of Nojoqui Falls, and is the perfect escape for an afternoon of fun.
Cachuma Lake — With panoramic views of Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains, Cachuma Lake is an ideal spot for a sunny day. Visitors can rent one of the eight cabins or reserve a campsite for trailers, RVs, and tent camping. Cachuma Lake offers a variety of boat rentals, including kayaks, and is known for its great fishing conditions.
Highline Adventures — One of the newest additions to the Valley’s outdoors scene, Highline Adventures boasts the longest zipline (3,360’) in California, offering a bird’s eye views of the Santa Ynez Valley. Soaring through the hills, families learn the local history of the Santa Ynez Valley and embrace the natural beauty of the ridge lines. Highline Adventures also offers an Adventure Park, where visitors climb ladders, cross rope bridges and maneuver an obstacle course through the treetops in a double clip Via Ferrata style harness system, as well as a prehistoric Protea Flower Tour.
Fess Parker Ranch Horseback Adventures — Explore the property of Fess Parker Ranch on Horseback as you learn the history of the Santa Ynez Valley wine country. Visitors will enjoy a 75-minute private or group horseback ride through 714-acres of countryside, boasting 360-degree views of the Valley. The Parker Family will share stories of the estate and conclude the horseback ride with a complimentary, seated wine tasting experience.
Vino Vaqueros — Vino Vaqueros offers private, guided trail rides through the Santa Ynez Valley countryside that are perfect for a morning, midday, or afternoon adventure. The 75-90 minute experience explores the vineyards of the Round Up Valley Ranch and Estelle Vineyards, and finishes at a rustic barn where guests enjoy a taste of two complimentary varietals from Estelle Vineyards and a full glass of their favorite.
Santa Ynez Valley Horseback Rides — Santa Ynez Valley Horseback Rides is a perfect activity for beginner or experienced riders of any age. Offering an abundance of rides like The Magical Pony Encounter, The Family Fun Ride, River Trail Rides, and a petting zoo, these stables welcome all. Nestled in the Santa Rita Hills canyon, riders are surrounded by the rustic nature of Old California. The quiet and blissful ride takes you across the river and toward a beaver dam where guests may encounter beavers, eagles, and deer. What makes Santa Ynez Valley Horseback Rides unique is that all the horses and ponies are retired champion show, rodeo, and ranch horses.
Seein’ Spots Farm — A place made for animal lovers, Seein’ Spots Farm is a rescue home for more than 150 animals. On Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Seein’ Spots Farm is open to the public for educational tours and animal encounters.
FARMS & RANCHES
Olive & Lavender Farm — Opened in April 2022, Olive & Lavender Farm welcomes visitors to taste the locally grown olive oils and balsamic vinegars in the town of Los Olivos. Owners and longtime friends Randy Spendlove and Jennifer Wood have worked hard to curate a farm that is a perfect place to enjoy the afternoon with friends and family, including a self-serve tasting bar.
Global Gardens — Founded in 1998 by Theo Stephan, Global Gardens is a California food company inspiring worldly flavors. Offering more than 40 products including vinegars, spice blends, organic snacks, mustards, and more, Global Gardens is pioneering a new “Caliterranean” movement in the region and beyond and recently opened a new Tasting and Provisions Store in the town of Santa Ynez.
Santa Rita Hills Lavender Farm — Located in the beautiful hills of the Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Rita Hills Lavender Farm grows over 3,000 lavender plants using regenerative farming practices. Owned and operated by the mother and son duo of Denise and Lucas Newmann, Santa Rita Hills Lavender Farm welcomes visitors and hosts a variety of classes including DIY Lavender Wreath Making and Lavender Distillation.
Ostrichland USA — Ostrichland USA is a Central Coast landmark and popular destination for all who are interested in feeding ostriches and emus. With an up close experience with these unique animals, people of all ages are invited to stop in Buellton for an unforgettable afternoon.
MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
Elverhøj Museum — Elverhøj Museum is a hidden gem in the heart of Solvang. Visit the museum Thursday through Monday to learn the rich history of Solvang, how Danish culture is celebrated, and the experience of Danish-American Immigrants. With style inspiration from a 19th century farmhouse in northern Denmark, the museum incorporates elements of Scandinavian architecture using ironwork, carved redwood, and hand painted panels. Visitors will see exhibits filled with photographs, videos, models, and artifacts that represent the foundations of Solvang and its evolution throughout the decades.
Mendenhall Museum — Mendenhall Museum of Gasoline Pumps and Petroliana is a collection started more than fifty years ago by the late Jack Mendenhall. One of the West Coast’s largest petroliana collections, visitors will see old gasoline pumps, globes, and porcelain gas, oil, and road signs. Beyond these memorable antiques, the museum is filled with race cars, racing memorabilia, license plates, and other vintage gas and oil items. The museum offers private tours to learn the story behind the collection, and also hosts special events such as birthday parties, reunions, and weddings.
Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum — The Santa Ynez Historical Society was organized by a group of valley residents in 1961 to preserve the local history. After years of collecting, the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum exhibits artifacts from the Chumash period through the early 20th Century. Included in the museum is the Ellen Gleason Memorial Library which holds shelves of maps, county legal documents, newspapers, photographs and more historical records. Visitors can also explore the adjoining Parks-Janeway Carriage House, one of the country’s most renowned collections of wagons, carts, stagecoach, and other modes of horse-drawn transportation.
Wildling Museum — The Wildling Museum takes a unique approach to educating visitors on conservation of wildlife and natural areas through art. Opened in 2000, the Wildling Museum organizes various exhibitions from inspiring artists like Ansel Adams, Georgia O’keeffe, Maynard Dixon, and so many more. Each floor of the museum has a unique purpose to educate and actively support the efforts of being environmentally responsible.
Hans Christian Andersen Museum — The Hans Christian Andersen Museum is a captivating tribute to the life and literary works of one of Denmark’s most renowned storytellers, Hans Christian Andersen. Awarded the Solvang Heritage Trail Designation in 2011 for outstanding contribution to the cultural heritage of Solvang, the museum is located above The Book Loft, an independent bookstore founded in 1970 on Mission Drive in downtown Solvang.
Solvang Amber & Viking Museum — Located inside The Copenhagen House in downtown Solvang, the museum is inspired by its “sister museum” in Copenhagen. The Solvang Amber Museum takes visitors along a fascinating journey tracing the rich history of amber. The museum’s collection holds pieces that are up to 80 million years old, including amber antiques, artifacts, and entombed insects. The Great Hall of the Danes Viking exhibit features an expansive display of Viking artifacts.
For more information on Santa Ynez Valley activities and attractions beyond the wine, or to research attractions, book lodging and activities, and create a custom travel itinerary, visit VisitSYV.com or follow along on Instagram @visitsyv.
About the Santa Ynez Valley:
Barely two hours from Los Angeles and a scenic four-hour drive from San Francisco, the Santa Ynez Valley is home to six distinct towns each with its own culture, vibe, and menu of experiences. Blanketed with fruitful farms and vineyards, the California Central Coast wine region’s temperate weather allows for year-round activities of all sorts, spread throughout the historical communities of Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Solvang. Destination dining and world-class wines await, accompanied by lodging at every level, all painted into atmospheric backdrops that colorfully mesh Old World and Old West. Visit more than 100 wineries, feast on chef-driven cuisine, and enjoy festive events and design details from Victorian-era to mid-century to modern Danish. For more information, including a listing of wedding venues, restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms, and events, go to VisitSYV.com.