Fortunately for all of us living and vacationing on the central California coast, temperatures rarely drop below 70 degrees. This allows for almost all travel and tourism activities to be considered year round. However some activities are even more spectacular after the first rains announce the coming of the winter months.

This winter vacation itinerary is perfect for family traveling to the Santa Ynez Valley during the cooler months – December, January and February. If you are getting ready to pack up and head to the Valley this winter, this itinerary is loaded activities for all ages. We may be biased, but Santa Ynez is one of the best areas to stay during the cooler months around the holidays, and there is no shortage of holiday fun and entertainment!

Festive Holiday Evening

Believe it or not, our sunny Solvang was voted one of the top 10 small towns for the Holidays by The Huffington Post and Smarter TravelSpend an evening checking out the spectacular light displays and keep an eye out for Santa’s Christmas Clydesdale horses, then wander down to Sevtap Winery in downtown Solvang, inside the windmill, for a holiday glass of red wine or live music on Saturday nights.

Solvang CA at Christmas

Fireside Cocktails

Those of us accustomed to southern California temperatures find this winter weather a bit frigid. Our solution? Toast to yourself by the fire at The Bear and Star with their signature Grand Avenue Smash, a sustainable sourced craft cocktail.

Bear and Star Restaurant Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez Holidays

Photo by Emily Martin – Jetsetting Fashionista

Los Olivos Olde Fashioned Christmas

Los Olivos invites you to start the holiday season by experiencing the warm and friendly small-town fun of an Olde Fashioned Christmas on December 2, 2017 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.. A fun-filled day of exciting and enjoyable activities has been planned to celebrate Christmas in Los Olivos. Created for the entire family, there will be a variety of crafts and activities for the kids and an abundance of Christmas shopping opportunities for the adults. Many folks will also want to visit the Open Houses at our shops, restaurants and tasting-rooms.

Julefest Parade & Tree Lighting Ceremony

The annual Danish Julefest Parade starts at 11:00 a.m. on December 8, 2017 down the main streets of Solvang, featuring vintage cars, horses, dancers, local organizations and festive floats. Following the parade, Santa Claus will be paying Solvang Park a visit and at 5:00 p.m., the picturesque Tree Lighting Ceremony will begin. Stay a while for the dancers, carolers and live entertainment.

Christmas Tree Lighting Santa Ynez

Los Alamos Annual Holiday Stroll

On December 8, 2017 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., Los Alamos celebrates the holiday spirit and old-western style town with their annual Holiday Stroll on Bell Street. Expect shops and tasting rooms to stay open late while offering hot chocolate, apple cider and free holiday goodies. Enjoy live music, cheerful carolers, the community tree-lighting, a warm bonfire and Santa Claus visits!

New Year’s Celebration

S.Y. Kitchen curates a dynamite tasting menu paired with both local and Italian wines for New Year’s Eve every year from 5:00 p.m. to close with prices ranging from $18 to $40. Feast on a la carte seasonal offerings and signature dishes while you celebrate with a glass of Adami ‘Garbel’ Prosecco or a Fig & Licorice Margarita by the extraordinary mixologist Alberto Battaglini. Call for reservations at (805) 691-9794 and preview their past menu here.

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week

The long-awaited annual Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week will be held January 21 to 31, 2018. Restaurants throughout the Valley offer special, discounted 3-course tastings and pairings. Menus debut in January and are posted on Dine SYV to help plan your trip. Reservations at your choice restaurants are highly recommended as this is always a popular event for locals and visitors alike. Try some of the newest world-renowned restaurants and wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley such as: First & Oak, Industrial Eats, The Lucky Hen Larder, Eleven Wine Lounge, Brander Vineyard and so much more.

SYV Winter Restaurant Week, January 2018

Najoqui Falls

Beneath the shading oak trees and through the back country of Santa Ynez, Najoqui Falls is a short, yet stimulating walk to a beautiful sight. Najoqui (Naw-ho-wee) Falls is a seasonal waterfall located in the Najoqui Park several miles south of Hwy 246 on Alisal Road (signs will indicate where to park for the falls). Throughout summer and autumn the water flow is reduced to barely a ribbon, but after the first rains the falls cascade down an 80-foot wall of fern-lined sandstone, a sort of lush green tapestry. Just under a mile round trip, the wide trail takes you through an old forest of oaks and laurels (and occasionally poison oak – stick to the trail!), over a wooden bridge, and up a few stone steps to arrive at a stone viewing platform.

Wine Country Massage at the Fess Parker Inn

Now is the time to relax and indulge in getting pampered while vacationing in the Santa Ynez Valley. The Spa at the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn in Los Olivos offers a variety of services in an elegant and serene setting. Our favorite service is the Hot Stone Therapy Massage where the contrast of temperature assists to induce deep relaxation and enhance well-being while reducing inflammation and restoring balance to the body. Contact the Fess Parker Spa at (805) 686-9202, or browse our full list of massage and spa services.

Get Artsy While You Sip

With Gypsy Studios Art, you can enjoy painting while sipping on delicious wines at stunning vineyards throughout Santa Barbara County’s Wine Country. Their ‘signature Painting in the Vineyard events will delight your senses with fantastic views and delicious wines from local wineries. During these two hour sessions, you’ll experience the beauty of our valley vineyards, and walk away with a masterpiece of your own.

Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Vineyard 2017

Shopping for the Holidays

Get your holiday shopping done while supporting the Valley’s small local businesses. Both Los Olivos and Santa Ynez have evolved into destination shopping locations.

Private Dining Experiences

Imagine waking up to the smell of a beautifully prepared breakfast spread or sitting down at Rancho Santuario with your closest family and friends while enjoying a delectable farm-to-table holiday roast or a locally sourced Italian meal (without the hassle of preparing it yourself). We have a wide variety of talented private chefs and caterers just waiting to impress your pallet! View our full list of privates chefs, personal cooks, catering and meal preparation services here.

Royal Oaks Ranch Private Dinner Party Santa Ynez



Follow us on Instagram @SantaYnezVR for holiday discounts and daily features on local shops and restaurants throughout the winter months. Need help with trip planning? Contact our travel concierge or view our list of Concierge Services here.