This post highlights things to do, see, eat and drink in the beautiful town of Los Olivos, California (Santa Barbara County).
Cities. Cities. Cities. Oh, how we love cities. Itineraries such as Rome-Florence-Venice, Prague-Budapest-Vienna, or San Francisco-Los Angeles-San Diego can send mass excitement shivers to hardcore explorers and good life lovers.
I am guilty of being a city devotee (the bigger the better). I have thought about moving to a place with a slower pace but, ironically, this thought gives me an inexplicable sense of anguish. Maybe that is why I have chosen chaotic, out-of-control Los Angeles as my home base.
But one thing I know: never underestimate a town or place for being small, remote, hidden.
Every time I comment about my visits to the Santa Ynez Valley (or Santa Barbara), a necessary question arises.
“Did you go to Los Olivos?”
Yes, at last, I visited the tiny town of Los Olivos. So tiny that in fact, I almost missed it because I got distracted looking at some maps while my husband was driving around. The centrally located flagpole got his attention.
“Have we arrived?” he asked while scanning the streets.
“Ewww,” I murmured while taking a look at the flagpole, “Yes. Pull out here.”
A few hours walking around was enough to discover how this town is small only in physical terms. There are a lot of factors contributing to the star status of Los Olivos.
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Everything started during the 1880s when a young, rich man bought several acres close to the Alamo Pintado Creek. He planted five thousand olive trees and called the property Rancho De Los Olivos. The state of California was booming during those years (people moved to the state during the Gold Rush) and the Pacific Coast Railway extended the train lines to the area. The town was later called Los Olivos (The Olive Trees) because of the nearby ranch.
Today, the Victorian-styled town is a census-designated place in Santa Barbara County. With about 1,000 residents, the town has been featured in the award-winning movie Sideways, episodes of The Bachelor, and wine-related documentaries and shows.
Various celebrities including Steven Segal, David Hasselhoff, and Bo Derek, call or have called this area home. The ranches of President Regan and Michael Jackson were located in the vicinity.
All this indicates the allure of town (and of the surrounding rolling hills) with the rich and famous.
How to Reach Los Olivos
Los Olivos is located on CA-154. The town can be reached in 40 minutes (34 miles) from Santa Barbara, 12 minutes (6 miles) from Solvang, and 2 hours (128 miles) from Los Angeles. I encourage you to make Los Olivos part of a Santa Ynez Valley weekend trip.
The closest major airport is located in Santa Barbara. There are ways to reach the town using public transportation but renting a car is recommendable.
Get ready for a day of sightseeing by bringing the right gear. Here is a list of the items I pack to explore cities and towns in California.
- Walking Shoes – Comfortable walking shoes are a must. I recommend investing in a good pair. My go-to brands are Clarks, Tevas, and Sketchers.
- Anti-Theft Bag – Keep your belongings safe by keeping them in an anti-theft bag. The ones manufactured by Travelon have a 5-points security system including an RFID blocking pocket. >>Check out their crossbody bag here If you prefer a backpack, this one is a good option
- Sweatshirt – A sweatshirt is a must to keep me warm during chilly mornings and nights. >Click to see this California appropriate option here
- Sun Block – Do not leave the house (or the car) without applying sunblock. I repeat, always wear sunblock when outdoors. >Buy sunblock here
- Lip Balm with Sunscreen – Protect your lips by applying a balm with sunscreen. >Get one of the best lip balms here
- Wide Brim Hat – A wide brim hat is a great way to protect your scalp, face, and neck. The ones manufactured by FURTALK come with an anti-UV function. >Buy this amazing hat here
- Hand Sanitizer – Do not forget to pack hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.
- Sunglasses – These are another must when it comes to protecting from the sun. A polarized, sporty pair works better outdoors. >Take a look at this wonderful pair
- Water Bottle – Do not forget to bring water! Keep yours cold by taking a beautiful Hydro Flask water bottle. >Check out the insane options here
- THERMOS Tumblers – I have been a fan of the THERMOS brand since I received a tumbler as a gift. The tumblers keep drinks hot for hours. >>Buy THERMOS insulated tumblers here
- Camera – I have never gotten used to taking pictures exclusively with my phone. I prefer to use the Sony Alpha a6000. It is compact and takes gorgeous pictures. >Buy Sony Camera here
- Tripod – A compact tripod to take your photos and videos to a different level. >>Check out this popular option here
- Portable Power Bank – It is a pain to keep phones charged on trips (more if you are taking pictures, posting on social media, and navigating). Having a power bank is a lifesaver. The Anker portable charger can charge a phone 5 times. >Buy this incredible power bank here
- Since Los Olivos is located in wine country, make sure to pack insulated wine tumblers, a corkscrew, a picnic set, and/or wine tote.
Things to Do in Los Olivos
Well, as I have mentioned, Los Olivos is very small. However, in this case, small is not a synonym for boring. There is a lot to do in town. But, let me warn you. This is a wine-tasting town. The focus is going to be on that aspect. I have tried to provide as much detail as possible about other activities available to visitors.
Wine, Wine, WIne – It is the Center of Everything
Los Olivos is in the middle of wine country and the town takes its surroundings very seriously. It is not necessary to get out of town to get a taste of the valley’s most famous product.
Nobody seems to know how many wine tasting rooms are in town (this number doesn’t include the nearby wineries). Some number them at two dozen and others at more than thirty. But, who really cares about the exact number? The important thing is that there is something for every taste. Plus, you can spend days in town with the excuse of wanting to visit yet another tasting room.
Some of the best tasting rooms in town include:
Carhartt – this wine tasting room is one of the most popular in town because of its variety of wines and super friendly staff. Recently, they moved from their cozy (but small) tasting room to a bigger one in front of the street
Epiphany – this is one of the most expansive properties in town with indoor and outdoor tasting spaces. You can drink full bodies (and super sophisticated) red wines in a place that feel like your backyard. Plus, they have a Bubble Shack, a space dedicated to bubbly wine
E11ven by Andrew Murray – Andrew Murray creates some of the most highly-acclaimed Rhone varietals in the Sant Ynez Valley. You cannot leave without tasting his stuff. He has another wine tasting room at Foxen Canyon
Dragonette Cellars – This is another must for red wine lovers
Coquelicot – This is another place with a great outdoor tasting room. You are allowed to bring a picnic or snacks
Solminer – I am fascinated with this place. This is for those who are looking to try something different since they have several wines from Austrian grapes, a rarity in the Valley. You can add cheese, nuts, and bread to your tasting
Story of Soil – I have asked several locals about their favorite tasting room in Los Olivos and most of them point me to Story of Soil. Locals know best! Follow their advice.
This is just a sample of what can be found in Los Olivos. If you do not know where to begin, do some online research, visit Solvang’s visitor center, ask a local for a recommendation or jump right in into the experience.
Tastings are, in general, $15 per person. Check local visitor’s center for discounts (ex. 2 for 1).
Tip: Visit during the week or early during the weekends if you want a more intimate wine tasting experience.
More Tasting: This Time Beer
If you or somebody in your party is not a fan of wine, well, Los Olivos has beer too. Figueroa Mountain Brewing started operations about 8 years ago in Buellton (another town in the Santa Ynez Valley).
For some time, it was only that taproom, and then, they started to spread around like fire. The Los Olivos location has added diversity (and a fun vibe) to the town. Stop by to check out what they have on tap. Tasting flights are available on request.
Yet More Tasting: Olive Oil
Sounds bizarre? Maybe a little. But tasting olive oil, balsamic vinegar, wine vinegar, and truffle oil is a thing. And, let me tell you, it is a delicious thing. If you have never experienced this, head to Olive Hill Farm in Downtown Los Olivos. I am sure you will be enchanted by one or more products.
Beautiful Things to Buy and Admire
Los Olivos has some of the most beautiful stores I have visited.
Make sure to visit J.W. Oeste. A big outdoor patio is filled with fountains, statues, bushes, flowers, and too many more objects. You can spend hours trying to see every offering in the store. The personnel is very nice and two cute dogs welcome you upon arrival.
Artisans Gallery is another cute shop (they even have a pine tree created with horseshoes). The recently restored old silversmith workshop is now a quaint retail store offering handmade leather designs by a local artist.
For fine and funky home décor, olive oils, soaps, cosmetics, skin and hair products, kitchen utensils, cookbooks, jewelry, and gifts, visit Los Olivos General Store. Plus, everything on sale is made by local artisans or with local products.
For gorgeous cards and stationery, visit Honey Paper. For clothes and accessories, Wildflower Women is a good option.
Just a little bit outside of town (2450 Alamo Pintado Road), Global Gardens, a self-proclaimed farm stand, sells olive oil, balsamic vinegar, creams, soaps, lip balms, and more. Not that far away (2480 Roblar Avenue), Clairmont Farms sells all things lavender.
Explore Wine Country by Bike
Pedego Electric Bikes have set up shop in town and offer a 2-hour guided bike tour with stops at local vendors and an estate (for wine tasting). Group (6 or more) and VIP tours can be arranged too.
Find more info here.
Get a Massage or Beauty Treatment
If you feel like getting pampered on your day trip or weekend visit, you can book 30, 60, or 90 minutes at A Sante (they operate by appointments).
The Spa at Fess Parker Wine Country Inn offers facials, massages, hot stone therapy, and other beauty treatments. You need to call to reserve.
Each June, the town celebrates the Olive and Jazz Festival. July sees the celebration of Bastille Day with tons of food. Other celebrations are the Quickdraw and Artwalk and the Annual Day in the Country.
If you want to wine taste among vineyards, I get you. Some are in search of a more rural experience. For that, you can visit one of the nearby states offering tastings among their gardens, orchards, and vines.
Check Lincourt, Blackjack Ranch, Roblar, or Bridlewood Estate. Or, less than a mile from Downtown Los Olivos, you can take the Zaca Mesa Station Road to start the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.
My post highlighting The Backroads of the Santa Ynez Valley has many pictures showing the beautiful hills and mountains surrounding Los Olivos.
Last but not Least: The People
“From where are you visiting us?” asked a shop owner.
“From Los Angeles,” I replied
“Oh, please. Los Angeles is so general. From where are you visiting us?”
Well, I get it. People living and working in Los Olivos are not interested in the broad and superficial stuff. In a friendly way, they are genuinely interested in knowing you. They make conversation, give recommendations and talk about their own lives. You feel like you are surrounded by old friends. I find this refreshing since people there are actually interested in giving you some of their time. The human factor increases my desire to revisit this town over and over again.
Los Olivos Restaurants
For a small town, Los Olivos has a nice variety of eateries offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Here is a sample of where you can try scrumptious dishes:
Corner House Coffee – This is the perfect place to relax on comfy sofas. For what I experienced, locals seem to be crazy about the place. Besides coffee, you can get sandwiches, wood fire pizza, and ice cream. There are magazines to read and art for sale.
Los Olivos Wine Merchant Café – This is the place to get fresh salads, artisanal cheeses, and hearty entrees.
Panino – This small Santa Barbara County chain serves soups, sandwiches, and salads. There are locations in Solvang and Santa Ynez too.
Bear & Star – Specialize in ranch cuisine prepared with fresh California ingredients
R Country Market – this shop sells all sorts of picnic supplies, snacks, soft drinks, and wine. It has a deli counter serving sandwiches and salads. Check out their daily specials
To satisfy your sweet tooth, visit Stafford’s Famous Chocolates (they even have lavender-infused flavors).
The Santa Ynez Valley is full of beautiful towns and fun attractions. There is plenty to do in the area. Below are some ideas on how to extend your stay in Los Olivos and the surrounding areas.
Solvang – this is California’s Little Denmark. Visit to discover all sorts of Danish treats (architecture, food, sweets). Solvang is located about 6 miles from Los Olivos and has a considerably larger selection of services (restaurants, hotels, etc.)
If you are spending some time in Solvang or visiting for a day, I recommend you take a look at my detailed article on Things to Do in Solvang.
Keep exploring by checking out the following posts:
Solvang Pictures: The Danish Village of my Dreams
Solvang Images: A Piece of Denmark Close to Home
Solvang Bakeries and Sweet Treats
Ostrichland USA (10 miles) – a fun spot where you can feed ostriches and emus
Quicksilver Ranch (3 miles) – ranch breeding miniature horses. The public is welcome to stop by to take a look at the horses for free
Chumash Casino Resort (5 miles) – this is a spot for those who enjoy gambling and buffets
Santa Ynez (5 miles)– this is the cowboy town of the valley
Buellton (10 miles) – another small town with good restaurants and several tasting rooms
Read More: Things to do in Buellton
Lompoc (27 miles) – this town is known for its flower fields, downtown murals, wine ghetto, and beaches
Read More: Things to do in Lompoc
Travel Planning Resources
Book a Hotel: Booking.com is my go-to place to book accommodations. It is hard to beat them when it comes to prices. Plus, once you achieve the Genius level, you will be entitled to discounts. HotelsCombined is another great alternative (if you want to compare prices).
Vacation Homes: Vrbo allows you to book houses, condos, cottages, and cabins.
Short-Term Car Rentals: Zipcar, a car-sharing service, allows you to rent a car for a period of minutes, hours, or day. After renting with an app, you proceed to pick up the car in a designated spot. In this way, you avoid going to a rental office and filling tons of paperwork.
Airport Parking: Airport Parking Reservations allows you to find the parking lot with the lowest price. Park Sleep Fly specializes in packages including hotel (the day before or after the trip), parking, and shuttle to the airport.
Insurance: Travelex offers policies covering trip cancellation/interruption, medical assistance, evacuation, and 24/7 assistance. They tend to pay claims faster than the industry standard.
Day Tours: GetYourGuide has an extensive offering of day tours or day trips. As an independent traveler, I book day tours to get insight into a destination or do fun activities.
More of Southern California
Find out how to spend one fun-filled day in Los Angeles
Get inspiration by reading my Los Angeles Ultimate Bucket List
What are recommendations for things to do in Los Olivos? Have you been to the area?
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