Visiting California's Central Coast | Santa Barbara | Solvang | Buellton
Us Los Angelenos have enjoyed weekend getaways to Santa Barbara, a gorgeous city on the Central Coast of California, since the dawn of time. Not really, but you get the idea.
Dubbed the American Riviera, this gorgeous Mediterranean style city is where the mountains and ocean meet great dining, incredible wineries, and utter relaxation or nonstop partying, depending on what you're there for.
It's fun to look back it my own history of travel to the area. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of day trips to Santa Barbara, and especially Solvang, CA. Family trips turned into wild barhopping on State Street trips, to girlfriends wine tasting trips, to romantic weekend getaways, and back to family trips with my own kids. See how that works?
So, what can you do in California's Central Coast during "the time of Pandemic"? A lot!
Where to Stay
The chic Hotel Californian was the perfect place to stay for a family of 4. On this particular trip, we were celebrating my mother's Birthday and needed a room with 4 separate beds. We booked two adjoining 2 queen bed rooms called the Sevilla Rooms. The rooms were large and both had substantial balconies over looking a lovely courtyard.
Check out our room tour HERE.
This hotel is comprised of two separate buildings, across the street from each other. The hotel's restaurant, The Goat Tree, is located caddy-corner to the buildings, so it basically takes up three of four corners. The second building also has a restaurant and a wine tasting room in the building, however neither are affiliated with the hotel.
Bottom line, there are several dining options and lots of shopping all within a 2-5 minute walk of the hotel. But if you are not interested in leaving the building, there are plenty of options, with a 4th floor fire pit patio and a rooftop pool with stunning 360 views of the beach and city.
If staying in is not your thing, the pier is a blast, and is less that a city block away from Hotel Californian. It is one of our favorite walks because the kids and the adults in our party all love the ocean. So we get to stroll and watch the birds frolic as the sail boats sail by.
There are a couple of toy stores that our boys like to frequent for a special treat, several souvenir shops, a museum and of course, an ice cream shop.
No visit to the pier is complete without some fun in the sand on the way back.
Upon arrival, and after checking in at Hotel Californian, we walked directly across the street for some lunch at Goat Tree.
Featuring a large outdoor patio, a lovely water feature, lots of umbrellas for shade and heat lamps for when the sun sets, Goat Tree is the place to be with kids.
I enjoyed the Orecchiette Pasta with artichoke hearts, capers, braised sun dried tomatoes and pine nut salsa. And my mother had the Rigatoni Pasta with pork belly, summer squash, chef's selection mushrooms, walnut dust, preserved lemon crema.
Goat Tree does not have a children's menu, however, they absolutely make it work. Our waitress knee exactly what to do for our boys, who were extremely happy with their order, a cheeseburger split in half, with nothing on it, and a large side of fresh fruit, as well as apple juice to wash it all down.
From the service, to the food, we were very satisfied with our late afternoon lunch, and even ordered it for dinner, as Goat Tree is the hotel's in-room dining restaurant.
We had a great breakfast at Finney's Crafthouse which was located right in our hotel. They have a small patio, but like many restaurants on State Street, they were allowed to set up an outdoor space on the sidewalk.
Finney's has a large and tasty menu, with lots of options for children.
The boys opted for a kids pizza, and a grilled cheese sandwich, with sides of berries and their favorite, apple juice.
I absolutely loved the Mini Ahe Poke Tacos with Avocado, soy, yuzu crema, wonton crisps, and my mom had the Chicken & Waffle Bites with buttermilk fried chicken, sriracha maple butter.
Day Trip to Solvang
While we have taken many family trips to Santa Barbara, this was the boy's first visit to Solvang.
After our lovely breakfast at Finney's, we took the 45 minute drive North to Solvang, a city located in the San Ynez Valley, known for its Danish architecture, wineries, shopping and Ostrich farms.
Our first stop was non other than OstrichLand USA, in Buellton.
Seeing these massive birds in person is an amazing experience, but feeding these massive birds with dinosaur feet (as the boys pointed out) is simply incredible. You truly get to experience their sheer strength and power as they peck food out of the bowl held in your hands.
Of course, neither one of our children wanted to get close enough to feed the Ostriches or the Emu, who reside in a separate enclosure. So, mommy and grandma got to have all the fun while the boys cheered us on from a safe distance.
A few things have changed at OstrichLand USA during the pandemic. The most noticeable is the closure of their indoor gift shop full of unique Ostrich and Emu related buys. For the time being, it has been replaced by a smaller, outdoor shop on property.
You can find hand sanitizer at the entrance, where you pick up Ostrich food, but I would suggest you bring sanitizing wipes to wipe down the handles touched by previous patrons.
Entrance is $5 for adults and $2 for children, with $1 Bird Feed.
There is nothing like driving into the unmistakable Danish themed city of Solvang. Windmills, windmills and more windmills! The architecture, the shops and the bakeries are so overwhelmingly lovely, we had to make our first order of business, the Danish Mill Bakery.
The boys each picked out some delicious treats, while grandma stocked up on freshly baked breads to take home.
We took our time that afternoon and enjoyed all of the little shops and boutiques, and of course, the toy stores.
Several of the streets in Solvang have been closed to through traffic, in order to provide outdoor dining space to the restaurants and bakeries which line the streets. This actually made for a much more enjoyable experience, as us parents were able to let go of those tiny hands and allow them to explore a little more freely.
We even had time to let the boys play at a Solvang park, while mommy and grandma took a little break from our leisurely stroll.
We ended our day and weekend with a wonderful Birthday dinner and Ice Cream.
For more on our Buellton/Solvang day trip, click HERE.
Check out our Room Tour HERE.