• Dawn Sabato

HOLIDAY SEASON A MOST SPECIAL TIME OF YEAR IN THE SANTA YNEZ VALLEY


With family-friendly festivities such as Julefest, and holiday cheer spread throughout the Santa Ynez Valley, the wine country of California’s Central Coast comes alive each year to celebrate the season


(SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, Calif.) — The best holiday traditions are not contrived … they are born and celebrated over generations. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Santa Ynez Valley, where the holidays always bring joy with celebrations that are unique to the region and perfected over time.


With more than 100 wineries and a prolific farm-to-table culinary scene, the wine country of California’s central coast is known for so much. But few traditions in the Santa Ynez Valley are as beloved as Julefest (pronounced yule-fest), Solvang’s month-long holiday celebration that has long put the popular Danish-American hamlet among the “Most Christmassy Towns in America.” This year, events such as the Aurora Dronealis — a choreographed show featuring hundreds of lighted and autonomous drones — Christmas Market Light Show, and the new Saint Lucia Day parade will add freshness to old favorites.


The Santa Ynez Valley is also known for the diversity and charm of all six of its communities, and it shows with each unique holiday event. Nostalgia thrives during the Los Olivos Olde Fashioned Christmas, and a white Christmas is certain even in the mild climate of the Santa Ynez Valley when 20 tons of snow are piled high for all to enjoy at Buellton Winter Fest. Foodie haven Los Alamos celebrates with a Holiday Stroll, and Santa Ynez invites the whole community each year to light the largest Christmas tree in the region.


“Even as the Santa Ynez Valley’s profile as an international wine and food destination has grown, its communities have managed to preserve their many small-town charms,” said Shelby Sim, president and CEO of Visit Santa Ynez Valley. “Those charms are a key component of what makes the holiday season in the Santa Ynez Valley so special. The festivities are authentic and integrated into the community. But the Santa Ynez Valley also welcomes visitors with open arms to come celebrate alongside locals. It truly makes for a joyous atmosphere befitting the season.”


The Santa Ynez Valley calendar is full of holiday festivals and events throughout the season. Some of those highlights include:


Solvang Julefest Events begin on Nov. 30 and are held on select dates through Jan. 3 No town celebrates the holidays quite like Solvang. All through December this authentic Danish-American hamlet celebrates the season with Julefest, and there is nothing quite like it. The annual tradition will even bring a little extra light this year with the Christmas Market Light Show every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in December and the Aurora Dronealis on Dec. 21, a first-ever event that will feature hundreds of lighted and autonomous drones working together in perfect harmony. The season begins with the season-long Nisse Adventure, which invites families to come to Solvang and hunt for the Jule Nisse, mischievous elf-like Danish figures hidden throughout town. Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit Santa Village in Solvang Park on Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14, and 21, dates that will also include free candlelight tours (Dec. 1, 8, 15, and 22). The whole community will celebrate the annual tree lighting on Dec. 6, which will be followed by the Solvang Julefest Parade and after-parade children’s performance on Dec. 7. The new Saint Lucia Day celebration parade will be held on Dec. 13. The Skal Stroll Wine & Beer Walk (Dec. 14-15) is a festive event that could only happen in Solvang, and the season is never over until the annual tree burn on Jan. 3.


Santa Ynez Small Town Christmas and Christmas Tree Lighting Sunday, Dec. 1, from 4-6 p.m. Santa Ynez offers a most festive way to kick off the holiday season with a free, community-wide event. Santa Claus always pays a visit, and both he and the revelers are met with an evening that includes live entertainment, holiday treats and crafts. The celebration ends on a high note with the annual lighting of the Santa Ynez Christmas tree, which is typically the largest in the area.


Los Olivos Olde Fashioned Christmas Saturday, Dec. 7, from noon-7 p.m. The holiday cheer extends into downtown Los Olivos, where the quaintness of the local tasting rooms, boutiques, and galleries are met with a traditional holiday celebration that is beloved by all generations. Ahe Gingerbread Wonderland at St. Mark’s In-The-Valley Episcopal Church‚ featuring gingerbread houses decorated by schoolchildren and local artists, is sure to put anyone in the holiday spirit. The holiday market is filled with seasonal artisan crafts as Christmas music fills the air. Children will love a visit from Santa and a train ride at Lavinia Park. And everyone gathers at the end of the day for the official lighting of the Los Olivos Christmas Tree.


Buellton Winter Fest Sunday, Dec. 8, from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Who says it doesn’t snow in the Santa Ynez Valley? For one day every December in Buellton, wine country transforms into a winter wonderland with some 20 tons of snow trucked in and piled high. The day begins with Breakfast with Santa and then moves to Buellton’s snowy Winter Fest Village, where revelers will also find local food and holiday libations. The day finishes with Buellton’s official tree lighting ceremony.


Los Alamos Holiday Stroll & Tree Lighting Friday, Dec. 14, 4-8 p.m. Los Alamos will deck downtown with holiday cheer during the Los Alamos Holiday Stroll. The festivities begin with a visit from Santa followed by the annual tree lighting at Ferrini Park. It won’t be hard to find the way to Bell Street, which will be lit with luminarias as Christmas carols fill the air. Each unique Los Alamos business offers something to be discovered in a festive holiday atmosphere, including music, holiday cookies, letters-to-Santa stationary table, and a showing of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas at The Alamo.


For more information, or to research events and attractions, book lodging and activities, and create a custom travel itinerary, visit visitsyv.com.


About the Santa Ynez Valley: Barely two hours from Los Angeles and a scenic four-hour drive from San Francisco, the Santa Ynez Valley is home to six distinct towns each with their own culture, vibe and menu of experiences. Blanketed with fruitful farms and vineyards, the California Central Coast wine region’s temperate weather allows for year-round activities of all sorts, spread throughout the historical communities of Ballard, Buellton, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Solvang. Destination dining and world-class wines await, accompanied by lodging at every level, all painted into atmospheric backdrops which colorfully mesh Old World and Old West. Visit more than 100 wineries, feast on chef-driven cuisine, and enjoy festive events and design details from Victorian-era to mid-century to modern Danish. For more information, including a listing of wedding venues, restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms and events, go to VisitSYV.com.

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