Solvang, Los Olivos, and Camarillo

3 Central California day trips for history buffs and gourmets 
Just a few hours’ drive north, the towns of Camarillo, Los Olivas and Solvang offer a peek at California’s history, but they also have shops, foodie finds, restaurants and art galleries to satisfy the most sophisticated of palates. 


While trendy shops are popping up all over town, Camarillo still pays homage to its roots in Old Town, where bakeries, epicurean eateries, down-home cafés, and laid-back pubs line the main drag. 


Where to Eat

Old Town Café: Fresh and seasonal fare attracts locals and tourists alike to this breakfast and lunch spot. The Wake Me Up! waffle (shot of espresso, chocolate chips, and bacon folded into batter) is as perky as the congenial staff. 2050 E. Ventura Boulevard. 1-805-484-5500;

Institution Ale Company: An after-work crowd queues up at the bar to pair warm, doughy pizzas with rotating craft brews. Folks craving something salty can order a soft pretzel served with IPA mustard and a spicy cheese sauce. 3841 Mission Oaks Boulevard. 1-805-482-3777;

Don’t Miss

Take a docent-led tour (on weekends only) of the 6,000-square-foot Camarillo Ranch House and enjoy an alfresco lunch in the property’s lush gardens. Adolfo Camarillo was just a teen when he took the reins of his family’s 10,000-acre ranch. In 1892, he built the house for his wife and their children. 201 Camarillo Ranch Road. 1-805-389-8182; 

A massive hangar showcases vintage military combat aircraft at the Commemorative Air Force World War II Aviation Museum. Chat with pilots (Saturdays only) and docents about combat aircrafts, including a Japanese Zero and a Mitchell B-25 bomber. Exhibits boast military memorabilia, edge-worn photos, and recruiting posters. Thrill seekers can make arrangements to ride in a classic war bird. 455 Aviation Drive. 1-805-482-0064;

This once-abandoned elementary school campus has morphed into a thriving art enclave. Studio Channel Islands Art Center’s Blackboard Gallery features rotating exhibitions and individual artists’ studios, housed in former classrooms. Hang out with painters, sculptors, weavers, potters, and jewelry makers on the first Saturday of each month. 2222 E. Ventura Boulevard. 1-805-383-1368;


Racks crammed hanger-to-hanger draw clientele in search of designer labels and an array of ageless vintage items at Green Goddess Boutique. Score great deals on beaded bags, feather boas, and fur-trimmed hats. 2215 Ventura Boulevard;

Los Olivos

This small town of 1,000 in the verdant Santa Ynez Valley was under the radar until indie favorite Sideways put Los Olivos on the map. Today, day-trippers visit the tranquil, walkable, five-block downtown for its wine-tasting rooms, art galleries, and restaurants, many of which are housed in historic 100-year-old buildings. 



Los Olivos

Where to Eat

Sides Hardware and Shoes—A Brothers Restaurant: When siblings Jeff and Matt Nichols opened Sides in 2012, they wanted to pay homage to the 1901 building’s original tenant, Milburn Sides, who ran a hardware business. Instead of tools and screws, you’ll find a thick slab of their award-winning Applewood-smoked–bacon steak tucked into their burgers, sandwiches, and even their Bloody Marys. 2375 Alamo Pintado Avenue. 1-805-688-4820; 

The Bear and Star: An ambitious endeavor from the folks at Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, this restaurant takes the farm-to-table concept up a notch. Most of the food served at the restaurant comes from the nearby Fess Parker Winery’s 714-acre ranch, including rabbit, quail eggs, Wagyu cows, organic vegetables, and heirloom fruit. 2860 Grand Avenue. 1-800-446-2455;


Six-foot-tall wind chimes and a comically large red Adirondack chair beckon visitors to explore J. Woeste Home and Garden Treasures. Beautify your yard with succulents, sculptures, birdbaths, and garden gnomes. 2356 Alamo Pintado Avenue. 1-805-693-1951;

In such a western town, it makes sense to visit Jedlicka’s Saddlery, fully stocked with Stetson hats, cowboy boots, riding helmets, and saddles. 2883 Grand Avenue. 1-805-688-2626;

At Barbieri Wine Company, Master Sommelier Paolo Barbieri and wife Erin Kempe offer his-and-her wine lists that range from light rosés to full-bodied cabernets. Barbieri carries cured meats made in San Luis Obispo and artisanal Italian cheeses. 2369 Alamo Pintado Avenue. 1-805-688-8882;

Don’t miss the cupcake and wine pairings at Saarloos and Sons. Flavors include chocolate blackberry Syrah and lemon-thyme chardonnay. 2971 Grand Avenue. 1-805-688-1200;

Sisters Sunita and Anita Stephan at Global Gardens expertly explain olive oil and vinegar origins and pairings at their family’s farm stand, a short drive from downtown. Mom Theo Stephan started the olive oil business in 1998, which has since expanded to include roasted nuts, organic mustards, and beauty products. 2450 Alamo Pintado Road. 1-800-307-0447;


Three Danish immigrants founded Solvang (meaning “sunny field”) in the Santa Ynez Valley in 1911. It’s distinct, marked by Danish-inspired wooden windmills, clock towers, and a 1/3-size bronze mermaid statue modeled after Edvard Eriksen’s beloved Little Mermaid sculpture in Copenhagen, Denmark. 


Where to Eat: Sweets

The Solvang Bakery: Traditional Danish iced kransekage cookies, German chocolate cakes, and almond butter rings are just a few of the drool-worthy pastries and confections at this 30-year-old mainstay. 438 Alisal Road. 1-805-688-4939;

Solvang Restaurant: Come for the aebleskivers. These fluffy, donut-hole-shaped pancakes drizzled with raspberry jam and powdered sugar are a delicious Danish tradition. 1672 Copenhagen Drive. 1-805-688-4645;

Ingeborg’s: Indulge in chocolate-covered, fruit-filled marzipan; orange sticks; chocolate peanut butter bars; dark chocolate mocha truffle bars; and sea salt caramels. 1679 Copenhagen Drive. 1-805-688-5612;

Don’t Miss

The Vintage Motorcycle Museum houses more than 200 rare and limited-edition motorcycles from avid collector Virgil Elings. See a 1914 Indian Direct Drive with original white Goodyear tires and a 1929 Harley JDH (one of only 100 made.) 320 Alisal Road. 1-805-686-9522;

Peruse old letters, black-and-white photos, newspaper clippings, and learn about the city’s storied past at the Elverhøj Museum of History and Art. 1624 Elverhoy Way. 1-805-686-1211;


Make a beeline for B. Living, a boutique co-owned by Santa Ynez designers Karen Nielsen and Nikki Thompson, to shop letterpress stationary, linen napkins, vintage jewelry, and more. 484 Fourth Place. 1-805-688-8006;

Browse modern home goods such as stainless-steel candleholders and industrial-style table lamps designed by Danish architects at The Copenhagen House. The curated store also stocks kid-friendly handmade wooden bears and puffins, and cloth hedgehogs by Maileg, a Danish husband-and-wife design company. 1660 Copenhagen Drive. 1-805-693-5000;

Call to confirm hours and availability of businesses, attractions, and events before you visit. Be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol.