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Vacationland

5 Amazing Things to do in Santa Maria Valley

5 Amazing Things to do in Santa Maria Valley
Head to northern Santa Barbara County to enjoy wine tasting, golf, and that famous barbecue

A perfect stop roughly midway between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, the Santa Maria Valley blends its historic ranching and farming traditions with an ever-growing reputation as one of California’s top wine regions. Come to this northern Santa Barbara County region for succulent Santa Maria–style barbecue, which Sunset magazine honoured as the West Coast’s best, and tastings of premium wines along the Santa Maria Valley Wine Trail. 

Step back into the past at La Purisima Mission

California history comes alive at La Purisima Mission State Historic Park outside of nearby Lompoc. The most fully restored of the state’s missions, La Purisima takes you inside buildings with rustic beamed ceilings and sacred art that dates to the early 19th century. Hike trails that explore the park’s nearly 809 hectares, a landscape little changed over the centuries.

Tee off at a top golf course

Called “a total hidden gem” and honoured as one of America’s 50 Toughest Golf Courses by Golf Digest, La Purisima Golf Course near Lompoc is as challenging as it is beautiful. Play among the oaks on this hilly, wine country course as you test your game on the 18 holes designed by acclaimed golf course architect Robert Muir Graves.

Find that perfect something at a huge antiques mall

With more than 35 leading dealers, Deja Vu Antiques Mall in Old Orcutt lets you search for everything from traditional furniture to mid-century modern designs. Wander among the dealers displaying their wares in a cavernous loading-dock structure built in 1906. You never know what you’ll find while browsing through collections that include vintage clothing, classic lunch boxes, and fine china.

Bite into a perfect steak at Far Western Tavern

Delicately seasoned and slow-grilled over red oak, there’s nothing like a steak barbecued Santa Maria–style. For more than five decades, the Far Western Tavern has been the place to go for this Central Coast delicacy. Order up a rib eye or the tri-tip while enjoying western art, stained glass, and other decorative details brought over to the tavern’s Old Orcutt location from the original restaurant in Guadalupe.

Visit a dramatic, contemporary winery

Strikingly modern with a V-shaped roofline, Presqu’ile Winery is as surprising as its distinctive name (pronounced press-KEEL, it’s Creole for “almost an island”). Visit this breezy spot overlooking the Santa Maria Valley and you can sample the winery’s celebrated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in a light-filled tasting room constructed of beautiful woods with walls of handlaid local stone. Check the winery’s events calendar and sip a Syrah while watching a live outdoor concert.

Also, don’t miss…

To experience the best of the local wine scene, follow the Santa Maria Valley Wine Trail, which leads to 15 area wineries. Take a ride on the Wine Trolley, which on Saturdays and Sundays makes a 75-minute circuit through the valley to reach both leading wineries and foodie destinations in the area. Speaking of food, you’ll want to pair some of that great local wine with a big plate of Santa Maria–style barbecue at valley restaurants that specialise in this regional tradition. 

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Alex Farnum

Central California

Discover the Central Coast

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December
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19°
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June - Aug
22°
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Sept - Nov
22°
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From the epic grandeur of Big Sur to the Mediterranean-style stretch of Santa Barbara coastline nicknamed “the American Riviera,” this region of picturesque hamlets, jagged sea cliffs, and rolling wine country has long attracted—not surprisingly—writers and artists mesmerized by its dreamlike beauty.

Monterey served as California’s first capital when the state’s first constitution was signed in in the coastal city in 1849.

Take the epic Highway One drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles to discover secret beaches and soaring cliffs along Big Sur, stroll a redwood trail, spy a sea otter at the incomparable Monterey Bay Aquarium, and sip Pinot Noir at sunset in the romantic Santa Ynez Valley.

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Casa de Fruta Courtesy of Casa De Fruta

Casa de Fruta Orchard Resort

Part fruit stall, part theme park, this Central Coast stop is the perfect place to fill your belly

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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Spotlight: Santa Barbara

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Mediterranean style magic and a perfect ocean breeze

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Michele W/Flickr
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Kodiak Greenwood

Spotlight: Big Sur

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Art and nature merge on this rugged coast, one of California’s most spectacular settings

Welcome to one of the world’s most unforgettable stretches of coastline. This roughly 144 kilometre-long stretch of redwood- and fog-trimmed...

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Castroville produces 95 percent of the nation's artichokes. In 1948, Marilyn Monroe was crowned the town's first "Artichoke Queen."
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Photo by Laura Flippen

Central Coast Wine Country

Miles of coastline, sunny hills, relaxing wineries

Historic ranchlands, a romantic coast, country roads, stay-a-while towns, and grapes—lots and lots grapes—make the Central Coast an outstanding...

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Get the inside scoop on California's most celebrated commodity

With more than 3,000 wineries statewide, California lets you sample award-winning wines almost anywhere you go. These classic and up-and-coming wine roads—some too packed with wineries to tackle...

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Temecula Valley by Kodiak Greenwood
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Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

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John/ Flickr
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Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

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Christina Lauren/Flickr
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Ken Lund/Flickr

Ventura County Wine Trail

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Visit vineyards in coastal hills and communities

Sip your way along the Ventura County Wine Trail, where you will find nearly 20 wineries and tasting rooms in settings ranging from urban...

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Big-city-worthy events liven the sleepy Central Coast

Bookended by the big cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Central Coast may be known for its mellow pace, but the closeness of those major gateways bring big names to relatively small...

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Photo courtesy of Monterey Jazz Festival
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May 11 - May 20
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Beautiful locations, luxurious comforts

Get the starry nights, the campfire stories, the cosy sleeping bag, and all the best parts of camping in some of California’s most beautiful settings—but without the hassle of hauling loads of...

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El Capitan Canyon
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Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city-park charmers, boisterous adventures—smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play. These smaller parks offer old-...

Safari West
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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Solvang

A Danish stronghold makes a charming outpost surrounded by ranchlands and vineyards

Imagine a village where fresh-cut flowers and warm-from-the-oven pastries scent the air. Add gingerbread architecture, twirling windmills,...

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Central Coast Missions

Visit some of California’s most beautiful missions to discover the state’s Spanish roots

Strung like Spanish pearls along an 824-mile trail from San Diego to Sonoma, California’s 21 historic missions offer a wealth of treasures, from...

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Santa Barbara ranks in the nation’s top 20 counties for bicycle commuters, with nearly 5,000 residents commuting to work by bicycle.
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Jason O. Watson/Alamy Stock Photo

Pea Soup Andersen’s

Relive history—and try the famous soup—at this roadside icon

If a California road trip takes you north on Highway 101 or Interstate 5, plan a lunch stop at...