By Kerry Botensten
Los Angeles is known for the Westside’s white sandy beaches with tanned surfers and Eastside’s glamorous Hollywood with ritzy 90210-ers. But let’s cover what you may not know yet. Put the top down in your (rented) Mustang convertible and cruise up the PCH to the quaint Danish town of Solvang. Google maps says it’ll take 2.5 hours, but with all the Instagram worthy stops, it make take triple that! Anything for the gram, right? Let’s get going.
For starters, a jaunt up the coast is not complete without a stop at Point Dume. The towering recognizable bluffs and crescent shaped beach has been the backdrop in numerous movies, such as The Big Lebowski and Ironman. Take one of the easy hiking trails to peaks where you can spot dolphins and go down to a local beach to explore beach caves.
Further north off the PCH, you’ll spot Neptune’s Net, a local dive seafood joint known to have more motorcycles than cars. Grab a picnic bench with epic views of the Pacific Ocean, watch surfers and eat an array of fresh caught fish and yummy burgers. Continuing up the coast past world famous surf spots, you’ll quickly realize why it’s one of the most scenic drives in the world.
Passing through Santa Barbara, head inland through the rolling hills and vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley. Think Tuscany landscape or just watch the movie Sideways (filmed in this region) for visuals. Ladies! If you enjoy wine as much as I do, then you may never return home. There are plenty of wine sipping spots such as Fess Parker, the Daniel Boone american pioneer themed vineyard. Or recreate the Sideways movie by stopping at the Hitching Post II.
Take a quick detour and head just north of our final destination to Los Olivos, which is tucked away from the semi-bustle of Santa Barbara. Some say this Victorian town has the best wine tasting and restaurants in Santa Barbara County. I tend to agree! This quiet country town is filled with adirondack (wine sipping) chairs, farm stands, prairie style homes, art galleries and tasting rooms. Go back in time and stop by Mattei’s Tavern which was established in 1887 as a hotel for stagecoach travelers or play bocce ball with the locals.
A visit to Los Olivos is not complete without seeing the iconic Neverland Valley Ranch, once the home of the late Michael Jackson. For most of us, only the entrance of the 3,000 acre estate is viewable by car, but it’s still worth a peek.
Continuing the Euro trip theme, the next stop is Clairmont Lavender Farms. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the blooming season (summer months), you will feel like you’re in the renowned French Provence lavender region. Olive trees line the drive to the farm house where you can spot 300-year-old oak trees and thousands of lavender plants. After filling your basket with healing lavender oils and taking epic photos of skipping in the fields, your road trip will continue on to the final destination…Solvang!
Within minutes, the mountainous vineyard views transform into thatched roof buildings. The streets become lined with colorful traditional windmills, endless Danish bakeries (try Mortensens) and outdoor eateries. You will immediately feel like you’ve been transported to a charming Danish village, which was founded by three Danish immigrants in 1911.
Park along Copenhagen Drive and get camera ready. Stroll through the streets or hop on the local trolley. They even have a Wine Express bus stop in the city center! It’s inevitable that you will fall in love with this picturesque town. Exploring this tiny city means filling your belly with delectable Danish pastries, Paula’s Pancakes and then walking it off through Hans Christian Andersen Park, named after the famous Danish author. The park’s castle style entrance will make you feel like you’re entering one of his fairy tales. As the day closes, find a seat at the Copenhagen Sausage Garden or at one of the outdoor free concerts to relax and enjoy your faux European vacation! Cheers! Skal! Prost!
Kerry Botensten is a former Wall Street businesswoman turned international travel blogger focusing on local spots. She’s the Head of Trips and Content at Tripsha, a platform that connects like minded travelers to join and create dynamic trips.