CA Central Coast Trip

Old Oct 28th, 2020, 04:42 AM
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Originally Posted by jamie99 View Post
I liked Carmel to stay in, and last time we visited was in May, very pretty and not too busy. But it has gotten a bit too "twee" for my tastes nowadays so I would pick Santa Barbara. It had a lovely climate, terrific restaurants both in town and in the Santa Ynez Valley (you could add a night or two staying in that area to visit a few wineries). As far as the wines themselves go, this is purely personal tastes but I prefer the wines in Paso (Santa Ynez is heavy on a lot of Rhones) but the countryside in the Santa Ynez Valley wins hands down with its gently rolling hills and live oaks.
Thx! We are actually thinking now that we will fly directly into and out of Santa Barbara - fly in Mon, and spend Mon night, Tues night and Wed night. Thurs drive to Los Olivos and spend the Thurs and Fri night. Drive back to SB Sat and either spend the night or fly out that day depending on flight schedules.

We know the trip may not happen next year. We are in the very beginning stages of planning and to be honest just need something to look forward to, whether it happens in 2021 or 2022.

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Old Oct 28th, 2020, 07:38 AM
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Rather than check in/out of SB hotels twice, I would drive to Los Olivos after arrival and put the SB nights together at the end. The drive is under an hour. Otherwise, you might get tangled up by minimum stay requirements in both places as Saturday nights are tricky. Unless the trip would be well out of high season, the LO hotel might require a stay including Saturday, and a single Saturday night in SB would probably be hard to find. Of course, if your days of arrival and departure change, you'll have to look again at how you divide your hotel stays.

I guess Paso Robles is off the table?
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Old Oct 28th, 2020, 08:22 AM
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"Rather than check in/out of SB hotels twice, I would drive to Los Olivos after arrival and put the SB nights together at the end. "

Absolutely ditto that. Land in SB, get car, head to Los Olivos (or Paso Robles if you decide to go that way instead). Stay 2 nights, drive back to SB and stay the rest of your time there. Fly home.
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Old Oct 28th, 2020, 04:06 PM
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must sees for Santa Barbara?
The highlight is probably the Courthouse, free, free tours at set times, tower with views over city

The SB Mission, supposedly the California mission in the best condition.

There are gardens in Montecito, Lotusland is famous, limited tours some days, reservations req, $50 in 2019. There are others.

Where you stay should be given some thought, parking and homeless people are a slight issue downtown. There were charming B&Bs a few streets southwest of the main drag.

i found the street sign typeface (Chinese menu bamboo) illegible so bring a GPS.

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Old Oct 28th, 2020, 05:28 PM
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Check to see who is performing at the Santa Barbara Bowl. It's such a nice venue that we have been known to drive up from L.A. just for lunch/dinner and the concert, and then drive home. IMO, no bad seats.
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 03:34 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
"Rather than check in/out of SB hotels twice, I would drive to Los Olivos after arrival and put the SB nights together at the end. "

Absolutely ditto that. Land in SB, get car, head to Los Olivos (or Paso Robles if you decide to go that way instead). Stay 2 nights, drive back to SB and stay the rest of your time there. Fly home.
Is Santa Ynez Valley or Paso Robles area better to visit?
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 03:36 AM
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Originally Posted by tom_mn View Post
The highlight is probably the Courthouse, free, free tours at set times, tower with views over city

The SB Mission, supposedly the California mission in the best condition.

There are gardens in Montecito, Lotusland is famous, limited tours some days, reservations req, $50 in 2019. There are others.

Where you stay should be given some thought, parking and homeless people are a slight issue downtown. There were charming B&Bs a few streets southwest of the main drag.

i found the street sign typeface (Chinese menu bamboo) illegible so bring a GPS.
Thank you. The Santa Barbara visitor guide breaks the hotels/B&Bs down into these areas - Downtown, Funk Zone, Waterfront District and Uptown. Which would be the nicest/safest area to look for accommodations? Is 3 nights too much?
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 03:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Jean View Post
Rather than check in/out of SB hotels twice, I would drive to Los Olivos after arrival and put the SB nights together at the end. The drive is under an hour. Otherwise, you might get tangled up by minimum stay requirements in both places as Saturday nights are tricky. Unless the trip would be well out of high season, the LO hotel might require a stay including Saturday, and a single Saturday night in SB would probably be hard to find. Of course, if your days of arrival and departure change, you'll have to look again at how you divide your hotel stays.

I guess Paso Robles is off the table?
Thank you. I don't know why we didn't think of that. We don't really know never having been to the area how to decide between Paso Robles and Santa Ynez valley. I guess our only thought was since Santa Ynez is closer to SB we would have more time to enjoy the area. But if there's not much in Santa Ynez Valley maybe that doesn't make sense.
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 03:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Jean View Post
Check to see who is performing at the Santa Barbara Bowl. It's such a nice venue that we have been known to drive up from L.A. just for lunch/dinner and the concert, and then drive home. IMO, no bad seats.
Thank you for the suggestion!
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 05:28 AM
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Are you assuming no COVID restrictions? Be careful of following any old guidance from websites or even Fodorites who may be going on last year's info.

I am not sure you will be able to count on indoor things being open next year. No one knows at this point. Hearst will likely remain closed, as will any interior tours of the Santa Barbara Courthouse and probably any other museum interiors (such as the historic buildings in downtown Santa Barbara). Outdoor venues such as gardens and the outside of mission grounds may be open but require reservations. Same with outdoor tastings at wineries.

Personally I am more a fan of the Solvang/Santa Ynez/Los Olivos corridor than Paso Robles. I like Morro Bay (better than Pismo) and Montana de Oro as well as Cambria and San Luis Obispo. Morro has some cute sea otters in the harbor (so you don't have to go to Carmel to see them) and elephant seals at Piedras Blancas near San Simeon are an alternative to Ano Nuevo. Lompoc has a "Wine Ghetto" and is near the Santa Ynez Wine trail and Mission La Purisima.

I don't think you really need to do Carmel this trip and can spend the entire time at the Central Coast. If Hwy 1 holds up you can drive Big Sur as a day trip from the Central Coast also.

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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 06:36 AM
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The Santa Barbara visitor guide breaks the hotels/B&Bs down into these areas - Downtown, Funk Zone, Waterfront District and Uptown. Which would be the nicest/safest area to look for accommodations? Is 3 nights too much?
Hopefully a more experienced visitor can make a lodging recommendation, but I'm not sure that safety is really an issue anywhere.

As to the length of visit, it's not a place of 3, 4, and 5 star tourist attractions so unless you are happy just hanging out, visiting the beach, strolling and browsing, enjoying the pretty setting, then 3 nights may be too much. A trip to Montecito to see a garden would make seeing the Courthouse and Mission the same day a bit of a rush. The garden I wanted to see was not open the days of my visit.

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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by wanderer1 View Post
Is Santa Ynez Valley or Paso Robles area better to visit?
Personal choice... I think a lot depends on how long this trip is, how much time you want to spend driving, and what time of year. Santa Ynez Valley is very close to Santa Barbara. But if wines are a priority, I prefer Paso Robles.

I have family in Santa Barbara, so my visits there are not tourist oriented. I'm also not a shopper or meanderer. Two full days in SB would be more than enough for me. As I've mentioned more than once, Solvang just isn't my thing, but obviously lots of people enjoy going there. Los Olivos is charming but tiny.
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Old Oct 29th, 2020, 11:41 AM
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I've always stayed on Cabrillo, which I guess you would call Waterfront and I prefer the area called East Beach.This is just one of those personal preference things.
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Old Oct 30th, 2020, 05:16 AM
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My husband really wants to see Paso Robles, so what we are thinking is fly into Santa Barbara and drive to Santa Ynez Valley. The trip looks to be about 40 min. We will be tired due to the time change, and after getting out of the airport and gathering our rental car. Stay in SYV for 2 nights. Then head toward Paso Robles, stopping in SLO for lunch and to meander around. (SLO is definnitely worth a visit but it seemed it would be better to stay in SYV - am I right?), then on to Paso Robles. Our plan is to stay there for 2 nights, and then head down to Santa Barbara, heading out early, stopping in Cambria and Morro Bay on the way down. Not sure where to stop for lunch (any recommendations?). Once we reach Santa Barbara, we will spend 2 nights, and then fly out of SB Airport home.

Does this sound like a reasonable plan? Again, our target is May next year (is that a good time of year to go weather wise? Neither of us can tolerate intense heat, and I heard Paso Robles gets very hot in the summer). Also, these dates are totally dependant on COVID, our dog (she's older), our finances, etc. We are just planning so we can get an idea of how much time we need and potential cost. This may very well be a 2022 trip.

Out of these towns in SYV, which are worth a visit - Los Olivos, Los Alamos, Buellton, Ballard, Solvang, Santa Ynez and which would have lunch/breakfast spots? Does 2 nights sound right for each overnight place - Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara?
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Old Oct 30th, 2020, 08:28 AM
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Random thoughts:

A "reasonable plan" is whatever works for you based on your interests and how much driving you want to do.

How many nights/days you spend anywhere should be determined by what you want to do there. Two nights is only one full day. It's still not clear (to me anyway) what your interests are other than seeing/wandering different towns.

May is a great time for Paso and Santa Ynez Valley. Green hills, probably still some wildflowers. But the closer you get to the coast the more likely you may have fog, at least in the morning hours.

I think it's too soon to micro-plan things like lunch and breakfast.

Could you fly into SLO and out of SB? Or vice versa? Not having to drive a full circle would save time.
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Old Oct 30th, 2020, 11:39 AM
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If things improve by your trip in May, try and stop at Jocko's in Nipomo (wide spot in the road about a 20-25 minute drive south of SLO) for BBQ. They are open for lunch and dinner but they do not fire up the red oak barbecue until 4pm. Their beef is terrific, we first visited the place about 15-18 years ago, it was recommended by folks we met in Santa Barbara who drove up to eat there almost weekly. Right now they are only doing curbside pickup from 4pm.
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Old Oct 30th, 2020, 03:44 PM
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Paso Robles is also olive oil country. If that’s of interest, I’dl recommend Fandango farm, a discovery on a trip in 2011.
From my trip report, “I’d done some research before leaving home and had learned about Fandango(www.fandangooliveoil.com), a family farm just a mile outside Paso Robles which produces award-winning organic olive oils. Although they don’t normally do tastings, Jerry and Carolyn Shaffer opened their beautiful home to us, Jerry took us on a tour of the olive grove and explained how they make the oil, and Carolyn and Jerry provided tastes of their three delicious varietals. Highly recommended--we purchased some of all three.”

Jerry and Carolyn, a delightful couple, have continued to win awards and now have a proper tasting room. I continue to order three or four varietals of their olive oil every year, and they make excellent gifts.
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Old Oct 30th, 2020, 05:42 PM
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There are also several interesting distilleries in Paso and nearby Templeton.

Paso Robles Distillery Trail

And a great live music venue in Paso... Vina Robles Amphitheater... which is currently closed due to Covid. They hope to re-open June 4th with Train. We've seen Train in concert. They put on a great show.

https://vinaroblesamphitheatre.com/
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 07:02 AM
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If you do fly into SBA, you don't have to rent a car there. The northbound Amtrak Coast Starlight is in Santa Barbara at 12:40 and is in SLO about 3:30. Rent a car in SLO and go to Paso Robles at your own pace.
Amtrak also has Pacific Surfliner trains that run earlier and later than the Coast Starlight as far north as SLO.
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Old Oct 31st, 2020, 07:36 AM
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Train departures are infrequent, and the trains don't always run on time. The SB airport is an hour from the SB Amtrak station, and the overall journey from SB airport to SLO takes three times as long by train as by car. Yes, the train runs along the coast, but I'd say the drive on Hwy. 154 from SB to Los Olivos is equally if not more appealing in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming. Depending on your timing, Coldspring Tavern could be a stop.

https://www.coldspringtavern.com/
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