There’s no better place to swirl a glass of Pinot Noir and dive into a delicious cut of rib eye steak roasted over a red oak fire than the Santa Maria Valley. The region prides itself on its award-winning wines and its unique Santa Maria Style Barbecue—but the truth is, you don’t have to be a wine aficionado or barbecue expert to appreciate the area. There are plenty of reasons to visit, including the affordable accommodations, the spectacular views, and the fact that it offers easy access to all of California’s Central Coast.
Approximately 3.5 hours north of Los Angeles by car, this region is an inviting place to kick back and catch up with friends, family, or someone you love. Drive up for a relaxing weekend—or settle in and stay a little longer. The area exudes a welcoming, comfortable feeling that makes even first-time visitors feel right at home. There’s also plenty to explore and experience.
Accommodations include the Historic Santa Maria Inn, a California landmark since 1917; the Wine Stone Inn, the Santa Maria Valley’s newest boutique hotel in Orcutt; and the Radisson Hotel Santa Maria, close to the charming town of Old Orcutt. When you’ve rested up and you’re ready to venture out, you’ll find all sorts of ways to connect with nature. Go for a hike at Oso Flaco Lake and admire the stunning views, take in the natural beauty of the Monarch Dunes Butterfly Habitat, or if you’re feeling adventurous, jump on an ATV and ride the dunes. Check out a part of hidden Hollywood at The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center where you can see the sphinx excavated from the epic silent film, The Ten Commandments. The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes was once an epic backdrop where the movie was produced.
Discover How Unpretentious Wine Country Can Be
The Santa Maria Valley was the first area on California’s Central Coast to be named an American Viticultural Area (AVA), signifying the valley’s geographic pedigree as a wine-grape growing region. Vintners have been growing grapes in the area since the Mexican Colonial period. The coastal climate provides one of California’s longest growing seasons, which continues to attract winemakers today. Local wineries produce impressive Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, among other varietals. The Santa Maria Valley even has a Swirl Machine, a digital-meets real-world experience where you can turn your Santa Maria Style wine swirl into a piece of digital art.
The Santa Maria Valley is home to more than 30 tasting rooms, including Cottonwood Canyon, Presqu’ile, and Riverbench in Santa Maria, and cnagy in Old Orcutt. (The tasting rooms aren’t just a place to sample local wines—many of them regularly host live music and cultural events.) Oftentimes, winemakers can be found conversing with guests in the tasting rooms, instantly creating an inviting feeling. From May to October, hop on the Santa Maria Valley Wine Trolley to loop around several fun-filled stops. Or, take a self-guided tour along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, which features 13 wineries along a scenic 30-mile stretch of Foxen Canyon Road.
Gather ‘Round the Barbecue
In the Santa Maria Valley, barbecuing is a way of life that harkens back 150 years when local ranchers hosted Spanish cowboys or vaqueros. The tradition of Santa Maria Style Barbecue is about how the meat is prepared—typically, tri-tip or top block sirloin rolled in a simple seasoning mixture of salt, pepper, and garlic salt, and then slow-roasted over native red oak. Accompaniments include pinquito beans (also native to the Santa Maria Valley), fresh salsa, tossed green salad and grilled French bread dipped in melted butter. Savor this authentic barbecue style at restaurants such as Far Western Tavern in Orcutt or The Hitching Post in Casmalia. You’ll feel like a Santa Maria Valley local as you raise a glass and reconnect with friends and family over some of the best barbecue in the world.
A getaway to the Santa Maria Valley will make your heart happy—and your social media followers envious. From the meandering hills and vineyards, to the endless outdoor recreation options, to the culinary offerings, come explore where you can do more for less and enjoy life, #SantaMariaStyle.