Ringing in the New Year in Central California

California, Parties, Festivals & Events — By on December 8, 2011 at 9:32 pm
By Gina Douglas
Special to Lost Girls 

Santa Barbara bell tower Central California is home to a stretch of coastline that mixes rural farmland with cosmopolitan ambiance. The blend of beaches, vineyards, scenic drives, warm weather, and hip bars and restaurants makes it an ideal place to spend a long weekend and with the New Year’s weekend coming up soon, I recommend that you ignore the allure of big city lights, and instead spend the final moments of 2011 in central California’s smaller city of Santa Barbara or the quaint little town of Solvang.

Santa Barbara

When Santa Barbara comes to mind, I think cosmopolitan, laid-back, active, beachy, unassuming, cool, affluent, urban. Those thoughts are all over the place, right? Yet that’s Santa Barbara. It’s proximity yet distance from the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles and its bordering of the Santa Ynez valley gives it a mix of vibes – trendy and busy or surfer-chic and laidback. My favorite Santa Barbara vibe? Laidback, bicycling, wine-tasting, local food eating weekend (Santa Barbara is great for making up your own unique interpretation of it – visit and see what you come up with). Whatever your vibe, New Year’s weekend is a great time to experience Santa Barbara.

Where to ring in the New Year

Canary Hotel: Celebrate the start of 2012 at the Le Canary Noir New Year’s Party at the Canary Hotel, located in downtown Santa Barbara. Reservations recommended.

Joe’s: Located on State Street and rumored to serve the stiffest drinks in town.

What to do

State Street: Winter in Santa Barbara is usually warm in the day and State Street in downtown Santa Barbara is a beautiful street for strolling or riding a bike down. There are several shops along Cabrillo Boulevard that rent bikes.

Beach: The warm weather in Santa Barbara over New Year’s usually isn’t hot enough for swimsuit weather (though never say never in California) however, once evening strikes, it is perfect for snuggling up in a sweatshirt on the expansive beach and watching the sunset.

Santa Barbara Courthouse: Head up to the top of the bell tower for panoramic views of the city.

Where to stay

Hyatt Santa Barbara: Located right across from the beach. Large, comfortable rooms with a spa and pool onsite.

Motel 6 Santa Barbara – Beach: A brief walk across the street to the beach.

Hotel Santa Barbara: In the heart of Santa Barbara’s downtown area off of State Street.

Where to eat

Splurge: Bouchon – Uses locally grown ingredients and has a highly-selective wine list highlighting many wines from the region.

Beach: Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach – Right on the sand and not too expensive.

Quick Eat: Mac’s Fish and Chip Shop – Richly battered fish served complete with vinegar and tartar sauce.

Dessert: McConnell’s Ice Cream – Santa Barbara’s famous ice cream’s home store is located a short drive out of the downtown area and is creamy, yummy deliciousness.

Where to drink

Blush: Upscale lounge with outdoor seating located off of State Street.

Oreana Wine Bar: Great for an afternoon drink with its open, warehouse feel inside and a patio outside often accompanied by live music. Located off of Anacapa Street.

Santa Barbara Winery: Santa Barbara’s oldest winery, located a couple blocks from the beach in downtown Santa Barbara.

Dargan’s Irish Pub: If you’re tired of drinking wine, head to this chill bar and order a Guinness or whiskey.

How to get there

Santa Barbara has its own airport, but flights can be much more expensive than nearby Los Angeles (LAX). Santa Barbara is 95 miles north-west of Los Angeles and is about a two-hour drive from LAX.



I don’t think I’ve come across a kitschier town in America then Solvang, California – and I love it. The Danish-inspired town stays true to its heritage with windmills and Danish bakeries on every street. And influenced by its central California coast roots, for every bakery, there’s also a wine tasting room. Solvang is only a 45 minute drive over a mountain pass from Santa Barbara yet the town’s atmosphere is completely different. Even without the stripe-paneled buildings, the tone of Solvang is calm and despite its many visitors, Solvang has a small town, rural vibe. Spending New Year’s weekend in Solvang can also include jaunts to nearby Los Olivos and one of the Santa Ynez Valley wine trails.

Where to ring in the New Year

Root 246: An upscale restaurant serving California-fusion cuisine. They are taking New Year’s Eve reservations for dinner seating and the restaurant bar is a lively place to continue the countdown to midnight.

Solvang Brewery: Tasty comfort food in a chalet-reminiscent environment. Ring in the new year with a pint of their Windmill Wheat Ale.

Where to stay

Solvang Inn and Cottages: Simple, affordable accommodations in the middle of Solvang.

Hotel Corque: Boutique-style hotel located in downtown Solvang, adjacent to Root 246 restaurant.

Fess Parker Winery: Located outside of Solvang in Los Olivos. Perfect for a romantic, wine-country weekend.

Where to drink

Lucas & Lewellen Winery – Located in downtown Solvang, this spacious tasting room pours unique wines to the region such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Foxen Canyon Road Trail – This route will take you through Santa Ynez’s stunning countryside with options to stop at some of the region’s most famous wineries such as Firestone, Cambria, and Fess Parker.

Los Olivos – About ten miles north of Solvang is the small town of Los Olivos, home to over a dozen wine tasting rooms, all located along or adjacent to Grand Avenue in downtown Los Olivos.

El Rancho Marketplace – Located on Route 246 just before you turn to Los Olivos. Gourmet deli-style sandwiches can be ordered to go that are perfect for a picnic lunch at one of the vineyards.

Note: Many of the wineries on the trails and some of the tasting rooms in Los Olivos are closed on January 1 and close early on New Year’s Eve so plan your time accordingly to hit your top spots.

How to get there

Solvang is located 35 miles north-west of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez Valley.


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    1 Comment

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