First Timer’s Guide to Solvang: Insider tips for the perfect getaway!

Solvang is the most magical getaway! It reminds me of that “perfect” town you see from the movies on the Hallmark channel.

Every street we strolled down, I couldn’t help but think that I was on set for a Hallmark movie. I was obsessed.

Admittedly, this was my first time in Solvang. However, my close friend and travel expert, Brooke Nicole, knew all of the secret spots to explore and the best travel tips to get the most out of our visit.

We felt so lucky to be traveling with Brooke. She curates the best trips. Brooke took us to all of the top wineries, restaurants and even hooked it up with a private car service for the weekend (I would have never thought to do that!).

I couldn’t keep her travel knowledge hidden from you guys any longer… she is the first person I go to for tips on any vacation. I mean… she was also the one that helped me with this Tulum Travel Guide, check it out here!

Brooke has heaps of knowledge on vacationing and traveling. So with that said, I had to bring her on the blog to share her First Timer’s Guide to Solvang.

Please welcome my best friend, local travel curator and event planner – the most talented: Brooke Nicole, to the blog –

First of all thank you Shylah for allowing me to collaborate with you on your blog. Shylah has quickly become one of my nearest and dearest friends and our trip to the Santa Ynez Valley was the girl’s weekend we all needed. 

As an event planner and local travel expert, I thoroughly enjoyed curating our trip to wine country. Based on all the requests Shylah received regarding our weekend, I am beyond happy to share with you the following recommendations so you can live your best lives for a weekend with your friends, family or significant other.  

HOTELS

I’ve visited the Santa Ynez Valley a fair number of times, and I can’t deny I’m a bit obsessed with the area. For our trip, we stayed in the adorable, quaint, Danish-style town called Solvang, which is located in the heart of the SY Valley; however, there are so many other sweet towns in the area that are also worth exploring, and are also centrally located. Based on where I’ve stayed previously, and other hotels I’ve researched extensively, I’ve curated a list of some of my favorites below.

  • Hotel Corque – Solvang, Ca: For our girl’s weekend, I booked us this hotel with points and it was perfectly located for walking into town and exploring all the restaurants and shops.  As you drive up to the hotel, it looks like it’s meant to be in a Hallmark movie. While the interior of the hotel is relatively simple and basic, it’s a great 4-star hotel for the price.  The rooms also included robes for heading down to pool/Jacuzzi area, which we took full advantage of. They also did a great job of maintaining a Covid-safe environment. Masks were mandated in the shared spaces, and each day you stayed at the hotel, they would check your temperature upon entering and provide you with a daily wristband to confirm you don’t have a fever. 
  • The Landsby – Solvang, Ca: While I have not had the pleasure of staying at this “to-die-for” hotel, I’ve had a fair number of friends that have, and highly recommend it. Mind you, this hotel is definitely more on the pricy side, but if you’re looking for a trendy, stylish, boutique hotel and can spend the money, then do it! This hotel is also very centrally located on the main street in Solvang. Upon entering the hotel, you will be greeted with the lobby bar, which has great specialty craft cocktails. The Landsby is also home to one of the best restaurants in town called, Mad & Vin.  Unfortunately they do not have a pool or Jacuzzi, but they do have a great courtyard with plenty of seating areas and fire pits for lounging. 
  • Skyview – Los Alamos, Ca: This mid-century designed hotel is located about 25 minutes north of Solvang in another sweet town called Los Alamos. They have recently transformed this iconic motel, into a boutique hotel lover’s dream, which includes a phenomenal restaurant called Norman, a pool and a working vineyard. They also have outdoor lounge areas with fire pits for winding down after a long day of wine tasting.  It’s very reasonably priced, but does get booked up quickly as it is a smaller hotel. It’s honestly a perfect stay for a weekend away with your significant other as their rooms only sleep max 2 people.
  • Ballard Inn – Ballard, Ca: Now if you’re into Bed & Breakfasts, this is the spot!  While this 15-room B&B is not in town and you can’t walk to restaurants & shops, it is only a 5-minute drive from Solvang. My mom got me a 2-night stay here last Christmas and it is honestly one of the sweetest B&B’s I’ve ever been to. Each room has it’s own style and design, so you can pick your favorite on their website! Most of the rooms come with a wood-burning fireplace, which is great if you’re traveling during fall or winter. They also have an award-winning restaurant called The Gathering Table that features French Asian inspired cuisine.  
Photos in Solvang

RESTAURANTS

Okay, so, this was hard to narrow down my favorites because there are SO MANY amazing restaurants in the Santa Ynez Valley. Most restaurants in this area locally source their ingredients, which makes sense because they are close to so many farms. Keep in mind, it’s a good idea to make reservations ahead of time for many of the restaurants below as they get booked up quick!

BREAKFAST/ LUNCH

  • Bob’s Well Bread Bakery – Los Alamos, Ca & Ballard, Ca: With two locations, this restaurant is a local hotspot for both breakfast and lunch.  They make fresh baked pastries and breads that are so yummy, but also have more hearty breakfast items like the Egg-in-a-jar or Mushroom Toast. If you’re going wine tasting for the day, you could easily stop here for breakfast and get some sandwiches to go for lunch.
  • Paula’s Pancake House: So I’ve only been here once and it was quite a long time ago, but I feel like it’s such a staple in Solvang that I had to mention it. Now, if you’re a morning person and can get to the restaurant early or if you have the patience to wait in line for a bit then definitely make the effort! It’s a Danish restaurant and they have an extensive breakfast menu. Their specialty is a thin Danish pancake that is pretty delicious, so don’t forget to order that!

DINNER

  • SY Kitchen – Santa Ynez, Ca: Who doesn’t love fresh homemade pasta?  This super small modern Italian restaurant offers farm to table dishes and delicious craft cocktails. SY Kitchen is the perfect wine country vibe too – just picture rustic, cozy farmhouse. My favorite dishes include the Octopus Salad, the Black Truffle Pizza, and the Wild Mushroom Pappardelle Pasta.
  • Hitching Post II – Buellton, Ca: If you have seen Sideways, then you might recognize the name of this restaurant. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, then I would check it out before your trip up to the Santa Ynez Valley and make a stop at this gem. Hitching Post II has been open for about 25 years now and is a staple in the area. They pride themselves on their Santa Maria Style BBQ and their award winning wines that pair perfectly with their meals.   
  • Succulent Café – Solvang, Ca: Succulent Café is located in the heart of Solvang, and they service breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are known for preparing the best comfort food all made from scratch, and they have quite an extensive wine list. If you decide to go for dinner, you will find that their outside patio is covered in string lights, and highlights the Danish-style building – windmill and all, and don’t worry about being cold, they have plenty of heaters.  Expect great service and a full tummy. 
Solvang wineries

WINERIES

Now for the real reason you’re making your way to the SY Valley – WINE!  There are so many amazing wineries in this region, and while I’m going to highlight a few, I’ll share some of my other favorites as well in a shortlist.  I highly suggest hiring a private car service for your wine tasting day, so you can really enjoy yourself without having to worry about driving. Other important factors for planning your day: lay out which wineries you want to go to on a map to help you determine drive time in between tastings (estimate an hour and a half spent at each winery), and make reservations for tastings at least 2 weeks in advance (all wineries are currently requiring reservations due to Covid anyways).

  • Demetria Estate – Los Olivos, Ca: First of all, I absolutely adore this winery.  So much so, that I signed up for their wine club when we went a few weeks ago.  Now this winery has always required reservations even prior to Covid as it is located on a private estate. I recommend booking this as your last tasting, because the staff is so nice, they give you heavy pours, and sometimes if you’re lucky there’s live music. Upon entering the property, you will drive for about 2 miles on a dirt road and it is truly stunning. They have guests sit outside on their patio that overlooks the rolling hills of the estate. There’s not a bad seat in the house.  Oh and most important, their wines are insane. You’ll probably end up leaving with a case.
  • Brave & Maiden Estate – Santa Ynez, Ca: This is by far the most aesthetically pleasing winery I’ve ever been to, and definitely in line with Shylah’s home vibe. The tasting property looks like a beautiful, modern farmhouse featuring lightwood, lots of glass windows and a black roof. This sustainably farmed vineyard estate is new to the area, but their wines taste like they’ve been around for a while. You’ll find yourself surrounded by beautiful olive trees and a stunning landscape during your tasting.
  • Sunstone Winery – Santa Ynez, Ca: Want to feel like you’re in France?  Well this is the spot. Sunstone is a massive French villa-styled property and they accommodate plenty of tastings each day. You might find yourself tasting wine in the sun on a large grassy field surrounded by lavender, or in their quaint courtyard that makes it seem like you’re in the French countryside. This winery is great for large groups, and there’s so much to explore. Make sure to try their 2018 Zephyr Red Blend – it’s to die.

Additional Wineries

  • Brick Barn Wine Estate, Buellton, Ca
  • Dierberg & Starlane- Lompoc, Ca
  • Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard – Los Olivos, Ca
  • Stolpman Tasting Room – Los Olivos, Ca
  • Zaca Mesa Winery – Los Olivos, Ca

PRIVATE CAR SERVICE

  • Silk Road Transportation: I’ve hired this company almost every time I’ve been up to the Santa Ynez Valley, and they are very reliable. They have a wide range of vehicles including sedans, SUVs, and party buses. They can also help you with booking wine tastings, planning your route, and they can even provide you with lunch options, which they will pick up for you and bring to your midday wine tasting.

Thank you so much Brooke for sharing all of this detail on Solvang!

If you have any questions on traveling to Solvang or need help curating your next vacation, please do not hesitate to email Brooke here.

OR feel free to DM Brooke on Instagram here.

She is incredibly helpful <3

Xoxo

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