The scenic Santa Ynez Valley is located on the Central Coast of California about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Situated at the center of Santa Barbara County, it is partially surrounded by national forest and is home to much of California’s fabled wine country. Cultural activities abound in the area, especially wine tasting, venting, and equestrian activities. Its beautiful scenery, laid back attitude and first class amenities have made it a tempting location for celebrities and superstars seeking peace, quiet and quick access to their jobs in Hollywood or elsewhere. The moderate Mediterranean climate adds to the natural appeal of the area and allows multiple outdoor activities year round. The Valley lies along California’s Scenic Coastal Route 1, and Surf Beach is only 9 miles outside the Valley.

One such example of a celebrity taking up residence in the Santa Ynez Valley is the late singer/songwriter Michael Jackson, who chose the Valley to locate his famed Neverland Ranch near Los Olivos from 1988 to 2005. The ranch was previously known as the Sycamore Valley Ranch. Jackson renamed the property after Neverland from Peter Pan. Some reports even rumor that pop superstar Lady Gaga hopes to take over Neverland Ranch and restore it.

President Ronald Reagan (who also had a radio, television and film acting career) called Rancho del Cielo, near Solvang, the “Western White House” during his two terms in office.  Other luminaries to make the Valley their home or who have secondary homes at this time include musicians Dolly Parton, David Crosby and Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. Bernie Taupin, songwriting partner of Sir Elton John, resides in the area, as does famed director Steven Spielberg. Actors Robert Carradine, John Corbett, Bo Derek, Steven Seagal, and Noah Wyle of E.R. fame have all called the idyllic Santa Ynez Valley home.

Movie Sideways Still

The 2004 film Sideways was set and filmed on location in the Santa Ynez Valley, particularly in the Buellton area. Since that time, fans of the movie often make the trip from the Buellton windmill to the Hitching Post restaurant. This Buellton original restaurant is still a major roadside stop and landmark along Route 101. The movie stars Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen. For those who want relive the Sideways journey, the characters stay at the visit the Buellton windmill hotel, learn the finer points of wine tasting at Sanford Winery on Santa Rosa Rd., and eat the Hitching Post on Highway 246and Spurs. Click here to download the Sideways wine tasting map. If you want to visit the same sites the Sideways characters did, you can stay at the Sycamore Hill Estate in Buellton, which is just minutes to all of these sites.

The area is a perfect setting for a trip filled with beauty, activity and fine wines. Visitors can tour local wineries and meet vintners and winemakers. Several world-class wine tasting festivals occur throughout the year amid the vines and ancient oaks in the rolling hills of the Valley. Art venues in the Valley towns abound, as do historical sights from the California Mission Period and others. Plan a weekend, a week or longer becoming familiar with the unique delights of the Santa Ynez Valley.