Flights are expensive and if you’ve learned anything from the 2009 psychological thriller “A Perfect Getaway”, exotic locales may seem fantastic until you find out murderers are on the loose! Joking aside, I say, cut your expenses and apprehension about flying far away and keep your vacation in your own state.
Only two hours from where I live in Los Angeles is the Santa Ynez Valley, full of lush trees, farmland, lakes, wine country and fantastic camp sites. One weekend night away can seem like four nights, and the end result: priceless relaxation. I’m no travel guide, but I like exploring, so I want to share some tips that really made a stressful month of work just wash away.
The first thing to do when deciding on a place to travel to within your state is to Google or Bing or (Whatever Search Engine You Use) recommended restaurants, camp sites, even natural sites to see within 10-100 miles from your home. Seems obvious, but “fun”, “romantic”, “relaxing” and “beautiful” can be key words. Also, a lot of small town getaway destinations have websites about the towns themselves and the places you can visit within them. If you want to get away for a weekend, book a place to stay six months in advance, especially during holidays or the summer, or else prices can get super ridiculous. If you’re a camper like me, and you’re in California, I recommend El Capitan Canyon, specifically the Lone Stone and Peace Tree Villages, if you want to get meditative. If that’s too pricey for you, rent a yurt at Lake Cachuma. And if you want a hotel and you can afford it, or if you can’t afford it but want to feel like a fancy grownup for one night, the Fess Parker Inn, Mirabelle Inn, Hadsten House and Peterson Village Inn are beautiful, elegant and definitely spots that if you were to have a wedding on a farm in Santa Barbara, you’d want your family to stay there. But, let’s talk affordable vacations – NOT weddings.
I knew about the Santa Ynez Valley because friends and “Sideways” recommended wine tasting in Santa Barbara, but I never thought to explore the small towns around Santa Barbara, and when I Googled “Must See Places to Visit Within the Santa Ynez Valley”, I was pleasantly surprised by every destination I visited. I started my getaway walking around the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens. I got to hang out with redwoods and way cool rocks while hiking around some small trails. Next time, I’m going to hike at Inspiration Point, which is near the Gardens and gives you a view of the entire coast.
My next stop was Los Olivos, which not only has great food and fantastic accommodations, but also THE BEST wine tasting spot called Saarloos & Sons. Each wine you taste is paired with the most incredibly decadent, yet light and fluffy cupcakes by Enjoy Cupcakes (6 mini cupcakes, 6 wines, all for $15)! The watermelon/strawberry buttercream, lavender lemon, chocolate mascarpone and the salty caramel/chocolate/peanut butter cupcakes made my dreams come true. The baked magical treats are small, but I was satisfied with just two bites per cupcake, and shared the rest with my man. We even shared the glasses of wine and felt the perfect kind of tipsy. For dinner, we went to Los Olivos Café and shared a mushroom pizza. Affordable, incredibly delicious and filling. As for the dessert? Let’s just say, bring me back the Chocolate Scream… and then go back to Enjoy Cupcakes and purchase a few boxes of mini cupcakes to bring home to your friends.
The best part of coming back to El Capitan Canyon at night was dipping into the pool then roasting marshmallows in the fire pit in front of our cabin. When I woke up, I felt like I had had 24 hours of sleep. For breakfast, I Googled “yummy/fresh/organic restaurants near Santa Barbara” and Bell St. Farm popped up. It was a bit of a drive to get there, but it was so worth it because when we got there, the manager was wearing a cowboy hat, the baked egg was heaven and it felt so homey sitting in their back patio.
After eating, we walked up and down the one street that is Los Alamos and explored the antique shops and art galleries. Then, we started driving home. We stopped along the way to enjoy some breathtaking nature and we gorged ourselves on ice cream at Santa Barbara’s best: McConnell’s.
You can enjoy a fun getaway in your state. Indulge a little with some great food and breathtaking nature. Drive somewhere and get lost in a free-spirited sorta way. As “Park and Rec”‘s Tom and Donna would say: “Treat. Yo. Self.”
Tell us your favorite local vacation spot in the comments below!