Ever heard of a small town named Buellton in the Central Coast of California? I admit that despite being a native Angeleno who has been to Santa Barbara over dozens of times, I had not heard of this hidden gem just 30 minutes north of there. Buellton is a small town with big adventures located in Santa Ynez Valley and the heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country. Unlike it’s busier sister cities of Solvang and Santa Ynez, Buellton has a tiny population just shy of 5000 people. Yet, there’s so many things to do which I’ll share in this ultimate travel guide to Buellton.
The Ultimate Travel Guide to Buellton
Buellton is an ideal 3 to 4 day weekend getaway for those like me who prefer to avoid large crowds. Check your mind out of the busy city and experience off the beaten path food adventures, whether for romance, girlfriend’s getaway or a group wine-tasting tour.
Farm-To-Table Food, Passionate Chefs, Down to Earth People and
Quality Wine off the Californian Coast
The most ideal charm of Buellton is the unassuming, yet incredibly impressive Gastronomic, Wine and Local Brew scene. Farm-to-table style dining is all the rage with Chefs who select meat from local farmers, produce from local gardens or markets. The small community here loves to support each other. The Wineries are quiet, peaceful, unpopulated and absolutely serene and the weather is close to perfect all year round. Locals pride themselves over the craft beers. Play some golf, spend time in nature with animals, explore the city on Segways or play a game of Bocce Ball with the locals.
Buellton: Off the Beaten Path Adventures
An up and coming area where people want to move to
Buellton is the type of place young people as well as those retiring move to for more affordable real estate, a close-knit community and a quality life. All the while still being within driving distance to California’s more buzzing cities. Since 2004, Buellton became one of the fastest-growing towns in central Santa Barbara County. And you’ll easily understand why once you arrive. It is a common rest stop for travelers driving up the U.S. Highway 101 en route to northern California after Santa Barbara. Buellton is the first town after the scenic and undeveloped stretch of about 25 miles through the Gaviota Coast. Most that know Buellton will know it for the famous Pea Soup Andersen Restaurant.
But there’s way more to explore if you’re into authentic experiences
in a small town with big adventures.
Here are the Highlights of my Trip which I will go into Detail in my Top 10 List Below:
- Sipping Rosé at Brick Barn Wine Estate while painting with soothing French Music playing with Gypsy Studio Art
- Making friends with Ostriches and Emus at Ostrichland USA
- Getting into a friendly competition during a mini Bocce ball tournament at happy hour by the outdoor fireplace of the Hamptons Inn
- Visiting the Mendenhall Museum, a personal collection of unique gas station and automobile memorabilia.
- Savoring a juicy Rib-Eye Steak, tasting the Hitching Post Highliner at the Hitching Post II where the movie Sideways was filmed
- Tasting spirits at the very first distillery opened since Prohibition in Santa Barbara County, Ascendant Spirits
- Renting an electric bike with Pedego to tour the town
- Hopping around Wine Tasting Rooms all within steps of each other in the Industrial Wine Works plaza with dear friends who love wine as much as I do
- Brewery Tour & eating the Chef’s Burger like there’s no tomorrow at Firestone Walker & Taproom
- Finding the best restaurant in town, Industrial Eats, on Industrial Way
10 Best Experiences in Buellton:
In Adventure, Art, Culture, Quality Food, Outdoors and Wine
1. Sip Rosé and Paint with Local Gypsy Artists
The landscape and weather of Buellton brings in the best environment for lighter wines such as their world-renown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Due to the climate, there are around 50 varietals grown here. The whole Central Coast Valley also brings together that hippie and gypsy vibe that loves art and the free-spirited lifestyle.
Buellton is also where the famous wine and philosophical movie Sideways was filmed.
Brick Barn Wine Estate started in the early 1970s which was originally used as a world class Arabian Horse farm stable created by an Italian Stoneman. 36 stall brick barn housed these extraordinarily sexy horses. Today, Brick Barn Wine Estate has been transformed into a Winery. It’s weather and location works best for lighter wines, perfectly paired with California weather all year round. Also perfect place to host events or weddings!
Take a Tour of Brick Barn Wine Estate with the Connoisseur as you taste through each section of the massive wine estate. Stay as long as you wish in their beautifully decorated tasting rooms. Enjoy some more Rosé as you paint the winery landscape with Gypsy Studio Art.
Hire Gypsy Studios Art
Even though Brick Barn Wine Estate and Gypsy Studios Art are two separate businesses, they often collaborate. Gypsy Studio Art is a popular full-service art studio on wheels that can come to you, wherever you are. Or hire them to come to your private house party!
We used Acrylic Paint on our blank white canvas as our friendly Gypsy Artist instructor began to teach us step-by-step instructions on layers to paint on. Everyone’s paintings came out different but that’s the beauty of art. There are no two pieces of art that are every the same. Just as you cannot step into the same river twice.
Gypsy Studios Art focuses on Landscape Painting, “Plein Air”
“Plein air style is our jam. We paint what we see….whatever this particular day is serving up in the way of light and clouds, blooms and branches, dry or lush. It’s the way we capture the moment. It’s how we stay present and grateful for today.
Gypsy Studios is really all about making a space for creative expression in an environment that is real and now and hits every sense with which a human is gifted…it’s about the experience. And, it’s about leaving a painting class or a vineyard painting session with a newfound appreciation for the world we live in and our own unique creative contribution. It’s an exercise in remembering that we are special, important and unique…that we take up an important space on this earth and that we have been designed to be in connection with that space.”
2. Make Buddies with Ostriches & Emus
OstrichLand USA is a unique farm to visit and experience. You can feed and make friends with Emus and Ostriches while learning more about these fascinating creatures! The farm technically sits on both Buellton and Solvang, so these birds wanderlust between 2 cities daily!
Did you know?
- Ostrich eggs are known to be rich and creamy. Especially tasty to use for deviled eggs and other egg recipes!
- Ostriches can be quite aggressive so be careful as they can peck at you, especially when you are feeding them.
- Female ostriches will sit on their eggs during the day, and the males will at night. What an example of effective co-parenting!
- The female’s light coloring helps her blend into the sand better during the day. While the male’s darker coloring offers nighttime protection of the nest.
- Male ostriches are quite strategic in protecting their colonies. They will feign injury to lure predators away from chicks and females.
- Ostriches grow a foot per month until they reach 8 or 9 feet tall.
- They are the only birds with two toes per foot that can propel them to sustained speeds of 35 mph with bursts to 45 mph.
Address: 610 E Highway 246 Solvang, CA 93463
3. Master the Game of Bocce Ball!
Bocce Ball is incredibly popular throughout Santa Ynez Valley and every hotel in Buellton has their own courts on the lawn. There are various local teams and tournaments in Buellton that happen throughout the year. And the locals take it incredibly serious so sharpen your skills and don’t mess around! Spend an afternoon perfecting your Bocce throw, similar to bowling but with smaller, lighter balls. Who knows, you may become the next famed Bocce champion! A good place to do this is at the Hamptons Inn which hosts happy hour daily from 5-7pm.
4. Mendenhall Museum of Gasoline Pumps & Petroliana
The Mendenhall Museum is a personal collection of unique gas station and automobile memorabilia. This museum has one of the largest petroliana collections on the West Coast, including gasoline pumps, globes, porcelain gas, oil & road signs, race cars, racing memorabilia, license plates, and more. The collection was started over fifty years ago by the late Jack Mendenhall and is carried on today by his son and daughter in law, Mark and Vickie. Tours are available on a first come first serve basis for $15 donation per person.
Address: 24 Zaca St, Buellton CA 93427
5. Dine at Hitching Post 2 where Sideways was filmed
Hitching post 2 is a Buellton landmark not just because it’s been there for decades. But because the chef pours his heart and passion into the ingredients he puts in the dishes while creating a cozy environment for guests to stay for hours. You may have spotted the owner/chef/wine-maker, Frank Ostini, in the movie, Sideways. Locals hang out at this cozy, rustic, unassuming, all-American Steakhouse regularly. Those that visit also love the Santa Maria BBQ and chill vibes.
Hitching Post 2 is that restaurant in Buellton, much like Cheers where everyone knows your name. There’s the main restaurant and then the newest addition as of this past summer. A smaller tasting room “Hitching Post Wine” with a more casual setting. There, people can taste wine, enjoy a full bar or casual dining.
It’s where locals come to catch the game, unwind from their work day or get filled in on local gossip.
Frank, the owner, along with his long-time bud, Gray Hartley, has been producing wine since 1979 in Santa Barbara County. This has led to the inspiration of opening the adjacent tasting room. So do visit, pay your respect to these passionate wine makers and chef. Order the Artichoke for appetizer and Ribeye for main course.
Try the Hitching Post Highliner, their specialty wine, is a Pinot Noir known to be “the best of their fleet“. Along with their Pinot, they are also known for their Rosé, Syrah and Merlot. The winery has 12,000 barrels and produces about 17,000 cases a year.
Address: 37 Industrial Way #103, Buellton, CA 93427
6. Visit the First Distillery Founded since Prohibition
Ascendant Spirits, founded by Steve Gertman is a fun, unique spirit-tasting experience as part of your must do in Buellton. Wine-tasting and Brewery Tours never get old, but spice things up by tasting some harder liquor! Especially for those that love learning about various types of spirits.
“On California’s Central Coast, most people make wine.
But liquor also loves the Central Coast’s warm days and cool nights.”
Buellton is home to the first distillery since prohibition in Santa Barbara County, Ascendant Spirits. And the town has a continually growing distillery scene. Ascendant Spirits produces award-winning whiskey, vodka and gin using local ingredients.
Visitors can learn more about the process of distilling by going on a tour of Ascendant Spirits’ distillery and tasting the final product. Unfortunately, you cannot buy directly from them but you can at local liquor stores.
Tours & Tastings Available: Fridays 4-8p / Weekends 1-7
Address:37 Industrial Way #103, Buellton, CA 93427
Read more on The Hedonistic Guide to Buellton:
Wine, Beer and Spirit Tasting in Buellton here!
7. Rent an Electric Bike through Pedego
Rent an electric bike through Pedego which is America’s biggest and best brand of Electric Bikes. They are stylish, safe and fun to ride with various speeds to choose from. The friendly staff in the store will also give you various route options. The closest store to Buellton is just 10 minutes away in Los Olivos.
8. Hop around Tasting Rooms in Industrial Wine Works
Dive deep into Buellton’s wine and food culture and head on over to Industrial Way. As the street name suggests, this street use to be an industrial area with businesses, warehouses and light manufacturing. But in recent years, Industrial Way has been vamped up and transformed into THEE hip street with:
- Wine-Tasting Rooms
- Alma Rosa
- Bottles Winery
- Cholame Vineyard
- Margerum Wine Company
- Roark Wine Co.
- Tierra y Vino
- Unique Dining Experiences
- Industrial Eats
- The Grand Room attached to the right of Industrial Eats is where you can host your own private dining experience!
- Figueroa Mountain Brewing Kitchen
- Bottlest Winery, Bar & Bistro
- Industrial Eats
- A Craft Brewery & Tasting Room
- Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company
- 2 Distilleries
- Ascendant Spirit which I mentioned above
- Dorwood Distillery
In the middle of Industrial way is Industrial WineWorks which is a parking complex with 6 wine tasting rooms, each with their own unique greatness. While they are each independent wineries, the winemakers have formed a tight bond and community that supports one another.
Industrial Wine Works is a very unique area to taste wine. Each winemaker has their own distinct and creative style while all within steps from each other. The winemakers bring their own unique perspective and fresh ideas to the wine scene. You’re sure to taste something very different than what you’ve tasted before. We tried wine from two of the tasting rooms:
2 of the Featured Tasting Rooms I Recommend:
Helix Tasting Room
Helix Tasting Room is a small, cozy tasting room owned in by Kalyra Winery since 2016. Kalyra has been producing wine though since 2002 in Santa Ynez. Helix Tasting Room was initially started to showcase Kalyra’s specialty Sparkling and Dessert wines. Now, Kalyra has a few other wine she sells including the newest wine product “239 Wine“.
Mike Brown, the owner and winemaker is Australian born and has had a long history of producing award winning dessert wines. The DNA Helix wine glass logo represents 239’s evolutionary wine, a fortified wine that is 23.9% alcohol designed to be used to elevate wine cocktail mixology to a new level. For cocktail connoisseurs, the 239 wine opens up a plethora of new recipes and creativity to create wine cocktails.
Grab your wine glass and head 10 steps out the door to shop at the Helix Vintage Trailer, a sip and shop flea market, which sells eclectic sparkly wine & bar accessories.
Imagine Wine Tasting Room
Imagine Wine is a boutique winery with aromatic, luscious wine for every taste bud. Owned by husband and wife Ross and Lyn Dee Rankin, Ross started in the wine industry in the early 1990’s.
Besides their fine wine, they are well-known for their classic artwork labels (from the earlier 20th century) with beautiful nude women on the bottle. As Alabama outlawed this 10 years ago, wine makers in California took this as a blessing.
Tip: On the east end of Industrial Way is Route 246 which heads west to world-class vineyards of Sta. Rita Hills, an American Viticultural Area. Heading north takes you to Lompoc or south to Solvang. Buy a Winter Pass, your ticket to fabulous wine tasting at some of the best wineries throughout Santa Ynez Valley for only $50 each on SantaYnezWineCountry.com (they will mail the pass to you). Or purchase directly from the Tasting Rooms for $55. Participating wineries are listed here.
9. Firestone Walker Taproom and Barrelworks Tasting Room
Santa Barbara and Ventura Country’s most famous beer, 805 by Firestone Walker, has a very strong presence in Buellton. Just steps away from the cozy Hamptons Inn Hotel, enjoy a gastronomic, all-American lunch at their restaurant, Taproom.
The Barrelworks Tasting Room and Blending Center features beers from their wild ale program. Also offered are their one-off selections from their barrel-aging spirits program. I highly recommend ordering one of the tasters so you can enjoy a variety of their craft brews. (Single barrel and small batch brews are limited in quantity and available only while supplies last.)
Side Note: Why is the beer named 805? Because that’s the area code of this region! 805 beer and Firestone is a household name especially to anyone in the Central Coast: Ventura and Santa Barbara County knows this brand real well as it’s been a long time favorite in America’s west coast.
Address: 620 McMurray Rd, Buellton, CA 93427
10. Eat Uni Appetizers and Pizzas at the Best Restaurant in Buellton, Industrial Eats
Not just a Trendy Restaurant..
But also a Community that Loves Art and Culture
Industrial Eats is a quality-centered dining experience tucked away in a re-purposed warehouse on Industrial Way in Buellton. It’s less than a 5 minute walk from the Wine Tasting Rooms on the same street. The walls of this artistic, charming restaurant is tattooed with produce and grocery graffiti on it’s exterior wall. The craft butcher counter is a sight to enjoy, filled with house made treats and extensive indulgences. There are two open wood-fired ovens which churn out thousands of seasonal dishes every year, all sourced from sustainable farms and food pioneers.
Industrial Eats is filled with knick knacks and books lining the walls, some on sale, some on display. There are items collected from years of random hobbies and ‘cultivated impulse buying’ by the owners. The rows of communal tables invite guests to intermingle while dining and discuss the latest politics or their memes.
Also ask for a tour of their ‘Grand Room‘ next door which is reserved for private parties. There are some very creative, interesting framed art on the wall there!
Must Order: the Uni Appetizer Tasters – on avocado, on kimchi and on fresh tomato & basil. (Uni freshly caught by the only female Uni diver in California, Stephanie Mutz)
The owners, Jeff and Janet Olsson, along with their expert crew,
value bringing people together through a shared feasting environment
by serving respectfully honest great food.
Address: 181 Industrial Way, Buellton, CA 93427
Festivals & Events in Buellton in 2019:
- JANUARY/FEBRUARY: Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant Week happens on January 27th – February 10th, 2019! Participating restaurants offer three-course meals at $20.19 each, reservations recommended. Many Tasting Rooms and Wineries will also offer tastings and appetizers at the same price. To see a list of the participating restaurants from 2018, click on the link!
- MARCH: Buellton Wine and Chili (and Craft Beer) Festival will host their 6th annual event on March 17th from 12pm-4:30pm at the beautiful Flying Flags RV Resort. Guests are invited to taste from a number of local wineries, craft breweries and spirit companies. In addition to enjoying the local wine and beers, guests are invited to taste the best chili on the Central Coast with live music playing.
- March 17, 2019 will be Pea Soup Andersen’s 95th Anniversary and you know that the whole town of Buellton will be celebrating!
- MAY: Buellton Brew Fest will be on May 4th, 2019. 2019 will be the eighth annual event taking place at the enchanting River View Park. This is one of the premiere beer festivals on the Central Coast. There are regularly more than 50 craft breweries, ciders, wineries and spirit companies on hand for guests to taste!
- OCTOBER: Fall is a fun time to visit Buellton due to it’s perfect weather and breeze. It’s also Scarecrow Fest all over the city! Restaurants, Bars, Wineries and Hotels all participate which makes the town very festive. We went during this time and it is obvious that Buellton takes their pumpkin contest, scarecrow competition and decorations very seriously!
- October 12, 2019: Celebrating Sideways, the movie’s, 15th Anniversary. It’s Wine time!
- DECEMBER 2020: Buellton Winter Fest & Centennial Celebration
Where to Stay: Hamptons Inn by the Hilton
The Hamptons Inn in Buellton is not your typical ‘Hamptons’ or big chain hotel as you’d imagine. Situated on untouched rolling hills of Santa Barbara county in the backdrop, the hotel feels boutique with a ‘coming home’ warmth.
Continental breakfast and a friendly, helpful staff is included in your stay. Bocce Ball Happy Hour is offered Monday to Thursday from 5-7pm on their back lawn just steps away from the warm fireplace where guests can mingle with other travelers or find their own oasis.
Hamptons Inn is festive all year long. Just a 3 minute walk to the Firestone Walker Brewery & Restaurant. It’s an easy stumble home after indulging in the yummy food and a few too many IPAs.
How to Get to Buellton and Around Town
Buellton is just a 30 minute drive north of Santa Barbara. To fly in, Santa Barbara would be the closest small airport or LAX as the International airport. Having a car is highly recommended to get around although everything mentioned above is all within a 5-10 minute drive. Or as mentioned above, rent an electric bike with Pedego!