Are you ready for a road trip? If you're visiting Santa Barbara and have a hankering to hit the road, this is the perfect scenic tour for you. Get ready to see some windmills and taste some wine, because you're going around the world in just one day!
Start in Solvang, just a half an hour or so from Santa Barbara by car. Settled by Danish-Americans in 1911, this windmill-dotted town is a thriving hub of Scandinavian architecture and culture on the West Coast. Hop on the Solvang Trolley for a tour of downtown in a horse-drawn carriage. This is the best way to get your bearings.
Windmills are run-of-the-mill in the Danish town of Solvang, just north of Santa Barbara — Photo courtesy of Ming-yen Hsu
While you're there, be sure to check out some of the best attractions in Solvang, including Mission Santa Ines and the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum. You might also want to grab a nibble at one of the numerous cafes that line the main streets. We recommend the aebelskivers - traditional Danish pancakes that are spherical, rather than flat, and topped with powdered sugar and jam.
Your next stop is just a short drive away, but it will feel like you're worlds apart again. Hop in the car and head to Rusack Vineyards off of Ballard Canyon Road. The way there is unbelievably scenic, offering you many opportunities to stop and take that perfect picture of California wine country you've always wanted to frame.
You'll know you've arrived when you spot a tasting room surrounded by dozens of blooming rose bushes. Park your car out front, and slip inside to taste some of the Pinot Noir and Syrah varietals that have made the Central Coast famous in wine circles. Your tasting fee includes a logo glass; it's like an instant souvernir!
Settle in for some scenic wine tasting at Rusack Vineyards, just outside of downtown Solvang — Photo courtesy of Rusack Vineyards
Rusack also offers an assortment of charcuterie and cheeses that you can purchase. Pair it with your wine tasting, and enjoy a nosh on the patio tables out front. The view is stunning.
In the evening, head into Los Olivos for a bite. If you're early enough, you can also do a little more wine tasting. There are dozens of tasting rooms in this small town, but many close around 5 p.m. (at the latest).
There are a lot of restaurants in Los Olivos, but Sides Hardware and Shoes is one of the best. Locals and visitors alike flock there to enjoy the California menu stylings of the Nichols brothers. Locals allege that it is home to the best burger for miles around. Sides is well-known for their pork dishes and seafood, too. Just don't forget to make a reservation; evenings are packed here.
After dinner, you can head back into Santa Barbara with full bellies and an epic adventure under your belts. And what's better than that?