If the pandemic has you feeling down and you are in need of a socially distant pick me up that won’t require you to drive too far or stray too far from home, then this list is for you. Our valley is overflowing with amazing opportunities to explore, inspiring places to adventure, and invigorating new experiences to try.
1. Wake up early and watch the sunrise along the Santa Ynez River for a soothing start to your day. Those of us who walk the river today do not think much about it, but in the 1940s the Santa Ynez River was thought to have the largest run of steelhead fish south of San Francisco Bay. Prior to the completion of Cachuma Dam in 1953, the steelhead run on the Santa Ynez River was estimated to be as high as 25,000 adults. You can access the river at various points throughout the valley, but the most popular spot to walk is off Alisal Road.
2. Buy a new book and read it in Hans Christian Anderson Park. Not sure what to read? Let our local bookstore The Book Loft select a book for you. Call them and let them know what you would like and pick it up on your way to the park. Or with prearrangement, they will deliver to homes in the Santa Ynez Valley Tuesday and Thursday 1-3 and Saturday 10-12. There is a delivery charge of $5.00 on purchases under $100.
3. Drive up Figueroa Mountain and have a picnic. Enjoy the quiet that comes at 4,000-feet above sea level as you enjoy views of the Santa Ynez Valley. On a clear day you’ll be able to see out towards the ocean in Lompoc.
4. Take an outdoor yoga class with me. I’m teaching a variety of classes from—yoga in a blooming rose garden, to full moon yoga in a vineyard, to a casual yoga + brunch offering at a winery. My classes are for all levels (even beginners) and always incorporate a guided meditation and deep relaxation. Being out in nature enhances the yoga practice for a heightened experience. A recent Swedish study found viewing nature, especially fractals (the organically occurring patterns in tree branches or fern leaves), increased wakeful relaxation and internal focus—two important components of a rewarding yoga practice.
5 Go for a cold water swim at Gaviota State Beach. Experts say when practiced on a regular basis, cold water immersion can provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems that enhance the overall quality of your life. With a few minutes of cold therapy (and a whole lot of grit), you may be able to activate your body’s natural healing powers and promote a greater sense of wellbeing.
6.Hike to the Wind Caves at Gaviota (a little over 2-miles round trip). These unique geological formations run parallel to the Pacific Ocean. As the mountains are pelted with salt spray (carried by the wind) and as the salt crystals grow, they displace the grains of sand. Over the centuries, cavities are formed in the rock as the process continues, one grain at a time.
7. Stroll through the SY Botanical Garden in Buellton and make a wish on the wishing tree, get lost in the willow maze, explore the butterfly garden, and discover the Chumash village. The garden was created by a non-profit group as a source of “inspiration, a venue for arts and crafts, and a peaceful refuge for visitors of all ages.”
8. Book a private outdoor painting session with The Art Spot. If you want to get creative and do something unique, take a plein air painting class. They offer a private small group class in acrylic or watercolor. They’ll come to you or you can book a class in the vineyard. Just like physical exercise, creative stimulation like painting engages and focuses our minds on the task at hand -- and distracts us from feelings of stress and anxiety.
9. Ride your bike to a lovely wine tasting experience at Gainey Vineyard. Make an appointment on their website before you go to ensure yourself a table. Then jump on your bike and head over. Gainey has their entire upper terrace set up with shaded tables spaced 12’ apart. You can sip wine while gazing at their unparalleled vineyard views and if it’s a hot day you’re in luck—they recently installed misters to keep guests cool. On weekends they offer a delectable charcuterie plate that makes a perfect pairing with their wines. No bike? Rent one from Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours.
10. Support our local farmers with your own farm stand tour. Stop by all the different farms in the valley and make yourself a farm-to-table meal with your bounty. I’ve linked their websites so you can check their hours: