Slow Paced Vacationing – Our Santa Ynez Trip


IMG_2107 It wasn’t until after I graduated from UCSB that I even discovered the Santa Ynez Valley, a small area about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara. Known for its countless wineries and gorgeous rolling hills, we started visiting the area for short weekend trips in our mid twenties, and since have usually found an excuse to get up there at least once a yaer. Simply put, the scenery is breathtaking and the pace nice and laid back. Living just a few short miles from the beach, perhaps I’m jaded, but I’d take these views as my everyday over any slice of the Pacific Ocean, and I’d definitely trade the rat race of living in a big city for the serenity of the slow paced lifestyle. The valley is a special place, having an instant relaxing effect on us every time we visit. IMG_2464

As you can tell by the amount of photos in this post, we covered and documented a lot of ground during our trip, but what I thought I’d mostly talk about is vacationing with young kids to a slower paced destination, and finding a way to do things that will make everyone happy (for the most part). When I first told my parents we had settled on Los Olivos/Santa Ynez as our vacation spot for Spring Break, they asked what on Earth we were going to do with the kids and how we’d keep them occupied. Even more pressing to them though, was whether we would be lugging the kids around the entire trip on wine tasting excursions. The answer was a resounding no, but we did fit in a couple of tastings. IMG_2111 IMG_2112

We started off by finding a house to rent on VRBO so we could cook meals and have a couple of separate bedrooms. The house we stayed at was initially out of our budget, but after contacting the property manager we negotiated a lower rate, and had friends stay with us for 2 nights, lowering our cost even more.  The lower cost was just an added bonus of being able to hang with our friends.  If you can find a family or two to occasionally take trips with, I wholeheartedly suggest it.  It gives everyone a break from the usual; kids get to play with their friends and grownups can feel like they’re on a regular vacation since they have others to interact with.  We searched for a place with a yard, a patio and either a pool and/or spa to give the kids something else to do.   The house we found had all of this and more, with the added bonus of a stunning view, bikes to use at our disposal, and an outdoor fireplace so we could roast s’mores. Turns out the kids only went in the spa once, and spent the majority of the time just running around outside and exploring the pond on the property.  Let me know if you’d like the link to the specific property we stayed at.  It was at least 5 acres, and the nearest neighbor was across the other side of the valley.  It was pretty much the most remote place we’ve ever stayed.  The coyotes, frogs and crickets at night were unbelievable.  IMG_2470

We brought along the things that the kids always tend to want to play with at home on the weekends; Legos, and more recently, Chess. When they needed some quiet time, they just sat and built Legos or we played Chess. As a side note, we bought local, hard to find wine a few times while in town so that we could enjoy a glass or two while overlooking the backyard view, and hanging with the kids.  This gave us the feeling and experience of enjoying the fruits the valley has to offer, without dragging the kids around to countless wineries. IMG_2093 IMG_2099 IMG_2098

We chose Los Olivos as the place to stay because of its quiet, small town atmosphere.  It’s located within the Santa Ynez Valley, just a couple of miles away from the town of Buellton and Santa Ynez.  Having access to the town would allow us a place to go when we didn’t want to cook meals and to just stroll around if we did want to get out of the house. Los Olivos has dozens of tasting rooms in town, but I would not recommend taking young kids into them. While the overall atmosphere of the Santa Ynez valley is very casual, the tasting rooms tend to be small and quiet places where grown ups go to enjoy themselves. There’s really nothing at all for the kids to do in them except get bored and get into trouble. We did trade off with our friends though and the guys watched the kids while me and my girlfriend took a tasting, and then we traded. While the grownups were tasting, the kids and the other set of adults hung outside the Cuquelicot tasting room and played bocce ball and ran around.  After we each had our turn, we took the kids to a great local park to play a bit.  The trip was always a bit of a trade off.  We go to a nice meal, then we play Chess for 2 hours.  Hang out and play games out side while the grownups enjoyed a wine tasting, then go to the park.  Endure another meal at another restaurant, then take a ride on a surrey.  Give and take, that’s how we roll 🙂 IMG_2492 IMG_2494

The only other time we went on a proper wine tasting was on our last day when we stopped at Sunstone Winery with a picnic lunch and the Chess set and sat outside eating, playing and tasting. Most wineries are really laid back and it is okay to bring kids, and in fact you often always see kids at the wineries. They have large beautiful grounds that the kids tend to love exploring. IMG_2245 IMG_2220 IMG_2226 IMG_2213 We really tried to strike a balance of not doing much of anything at all, but also get out of the house when we felt like getting out.  The entire trip, we never really felt rushed or an urgent need to actually have to do anything.  Isn’t that what vacation is really all about?  On our third day we did venture into Solvang, a little town just outside of Santa Ynez that was founded by Danish school teachers in the early 1900’s, hence it’s Danish inspired architecture and windmills.  We rented a surrey and cruised around for a little bit, got ice cream and had brunch.  It was nice to feel free to stay as long or as little as we wanted, to not really be on any type of schedule.   IMG_2305 IMG_2267 The wonderful thing about this area is how relatively close everything is to each other, and with no traffic to speak of, getting from point A to B is quick and painless.  In addition to Solvang, there’s a great park for the kids just outside of town, and a petting zoo at one of the local farms.  The area has some great choices for eating out too including Los Olivos Cafe and Sides Hardware and Shoes, both in Los Olivos.  Full Of Life Flatbread Pizza in Los Alamos had amazing food.

I’m certain not every vacation will be a slow paced one like we had last week, but I am certain those are the best ones for our family.  There’s lots we want to see, so as the kids get older we’ll continue to take more adventurous trips that may challenge us a bit more with tight schedules, sights to see and tours to take.  But for now these laid back times to be together as a family away from home and the distractions of housework and home improvement projects and just everyday life are our favorite.  I asked Taylor at the end of our trip what her ideal vacation would be, and she quickly replied, “This, but with horses and other animals.”

Andrea is the founder of For The Love Of, a lifestyle blog dedicated to approachable, modern living. She writes about style, her love of DIY, and living a healthier life through wholesome, nutritious cooking. She is also a regular contributor at Babble. Get in touch: Facebook, Twitter You can find Andrea on Instagram @andreavhowe and @gwynethmademedoit

  • Annie says:

    I love this. My family took lots of “slow” vacations over the years, and they are by far some of our most favorite memories together. I know theme parks are great for some people/families, but by taking things slow, our family was able to enjoy just being together, without too many distractions, and I think that’s made us even closer now that us kids are “grown up.” 🙂 I love seeing families spend fun time together; it makes me hopeful for a family of my own one day!

  • Jane says:

    This sounds like an ideal vacation!

    How did you deal with Hayden’s schedule? Did you just kind of go along with the rest of the family and let him nap on the go or did you come back to the house every time?

    We’re going on a trip soon, and I’m worried about striking the right balance but also not upending my son’s schedule completely (since it took way too much work to get him to sleep properly).

    • Andrea says:

      hi Jane! We focus on at least having him take 1 good nap at home and then let him nap while out and about. So ideally since his most solid nap is in the morning, we would have a slow breakfast and morning, put him down for a nap around 9 and then leave the house about 11 when he woke up, and then we would stay out and about for a few hours, and get him home to have a short little cat nap before dinner. Luckily he’s a pretty easy going baby so we can do this with him and he doesn’t really get fussy and it doesn’t effect his night time sleep. Our other two though were tied to their nap schedules and were beasts if they skipped a nap, so it all depends on your baby’s temperament I’d say. Good luck!

  • Caroline says:

    Your beautiful photos make me long for some sunshine.

  • Tara says:

    We love that area! We live in San Diego but my grandparents are in Santa Maria. We went to spend Spring Break a few weeks ago up in Santa Maria. All the valleys up there are just amazing & I love that area!

  • Erin Redmond says:

    Love your new site redesign. Just seeing this post, and I didn’t know you went to UCSB. I did as well! C/o 2000. We are going to be renting a house in the area with my in-laws for new years next year so love that you liked the house you rented. If you do still have that info I would love to see the property. No rush though as I know you are busy. Thanks!


Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *