Thursday, September 2, 2010

Vacation on the Central Coast of California

I have a secret...I've been on vacation!  After the past month, my family was in need of some rest and relaxation before school starts.  One of my favorite get-aways is the Central Coast of California.  The beauty of the Central Coast always soothes my soul and the slow pace forces you to stop and taste the cupcakes (and the wine!). 

This was really the first "family" vacation we have taken.  My daughter has traveled to see family in Vancouver etc., but this was our first long vacation as a family.  My husband and I are seasoned travelers, but I have to say the thought of traveling with a little person (my daughter is five) did scare us.  We wondered if it would be relaxing at all.  We wondered if we would be bored doing "kid-friendly" activities.  We wondered if she be bored doing the things that would interest us.  But a little planning and ingenuity proved that, although a vacation with a child in tow is very different than what we are used to, it can be relaxing and fun to travel with children.  In fact, our daughter's enthusiasm for everything helped us really appreciate all the little moments.  Over the next couple of posts, I'll tell you about our trip, make recommendations for sightseeing, eating and hotels, and share a few tips that allowed us all to have the vacation we dreamed of.

We left on Sunday morning.  The drive from Orange County, where we live, to Solvang, our first destination is about 3 hours.  It was the longest leg of our trip.  To offset the chance of anyone getting bored, we made sure we loaded an iPod with free podcasts of storytelling.  My daughter happily spent about half the journey listening to fairytale classics with ear buds, while my husband and I listened to tunes on the car radio.

Our first stop was for lunch at the Cold Spring Tavern tucked into the hills of Santa Barbara.  The tri-tip steak sandwiches were recommended by a friend with good taste, so we decided to stop.  The restaurant building is an old stagecoach tavern, so the history was fun.  It was jam-packed with bikers who had a been at the bar for awhile, so we opted out of sitting under the oaks and eating the sandwiches.  We went inside and ordered off the menu, but found the meal disappointing.  We should have listened to our friend and gone for the outside BBQ-it smelled awesome.  The atmosphere was still worth the trip and discussion with our daughter about stagecoaches gave us a chance to show her some living history.

After lunch, a short drive to Los Olivos led us to our favorite spot.  Saarloos & Sons tasting room and Enjoy Cupcakes.  If you remember, my husband and I enjoyed a cupcake & wine tasting there last year.  This time, we had our daughter in tow, but were able to do a wine tasting on the patio while she did a cupcake tasting.  I can't recommend the cupcakes and wine here enough.  Please don't ever head to Los Olivos without stopping by!

A walk around town and everyone was ready to check-in to our hotel in Solvang.  We stayed at Hadsten House.  It looks like your typical Solvang motel, until you enter your room.  Decorated boutique style, in black, white and tan, it's wonderfully comfortable.  The restaurant on site is good and (if you are guest of the hotel) children eat free.  We had a great 3 course dinner.  A hot breakfast buffet is also included with the price of your room, so the moderate room price becomes a real bargain for what you get. 

I'll be back tomorrow to tell you about our Solvang adventures!