History of the Santa Ynez Valley

You don’t have to be in the Santa Ynez Valley long before realizing that this is a special place. The nature is picturesque, the weather practically perfect and the pastimes, like bike riding, wine tasting and general life celebrating, are simply everyday events. Yet underneath those present day realities thrums a rich history of foreign culture and westward expansion that has shaped the valley into what is today.

Here’s a glance into the history of the Santa Ynez Valley.

The towns that make up the Santa Ynez Valley were established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Ballard in 1881, Santa Ynez in 1882, Los Olivos in 1887, Solvang in 1911 and Buellton in 1920) and as each unique town formed, a new culture arrived in SYV.

Solvang Santa Ynez Valley

Danish-American settlers brought their old world to a very new, undeveloped California in the early 1800s, creating a rich mix of the two in the town of Solvang. Danish for “sunny field,” Solvang remains a European treasure in the heart of California wine country complete with windmills overhead and a replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower in the town center. Many of the town’s shops and restaurants, including Mortensen’s, Greenhouse Café and the Red Viking Restaurant, provide a taste of the old world while other Danish traditions including the Danish language, folk dancing, music and festivals keep the traditions alive. While in town, visit the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art as well as the Hans Christian Andersen Museum to put the finishing touches on your Danish cultural experience.

Starting in 1858, the Overland Coast Line Stagecoach helped grow the Santa Ynez Valley as it ran from San Francisco to Los Olivos and then on to Los Angeles, San Diego and finally Yuma, Arizona. As people traveled the line, economic activity poured into the towns making them true pictures of the West complete with saloons, blacksmiths and mercantile stores. Then, in 1887 the Pacific Coast Railroad helped bring more growth to the area by making it easier to transport large farming tools necessary for the area’s growing agricultural society.


An ideal climate for crops, the area first thrived with cattle and sheep as well as the growing of olives, peaches, walnuts, prunes, apples and cherries. At the time of Prohibition, roughly 500 acres of the valley were used for vineyards. It took nearly four decades after the repeal for the area’s wine culture to regenerate, but today nearly 20% of the valley’s land is under vines.

For a complete history lesson, stop by the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and Parks- Janeway Carriage House next time you are in the area. And when you do, be sure to take the historical journey in style with the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott’s Escape! Wine Transportation Package. Complete with a four-hour town car tour, three buy-one-get-one-free wine tasting passes at local wineries and deluxe accommodations at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, we think you’ll agree – it’s the ideal way to experience the best of both the past and present in the Santa Ynez Valley.



Museum Week Inspires in the Santa Ynez Valley

Santa Ynez Valley Museum WeekIn an era of non-stop text-messaging, virtual reality and on-line everything, finding avenues to live tangibly can be somewhat challenging. Fortunately, there are over 17.500 key places in the U.S. that can help bridge the gap between the virtual and tangible…museums. Consider becoming an explorer of humanity for the day or even a just few hours. Why not take advantage of these simple yet unique opportunities to learn about our past, present and potential future.  Be inspired & enriched, support community and take part in a real cultural conversation!


Santa Ynez Valley Museum Week

Santa Ynez Valley Museum WeekThe enchanting towns of the Santa Ynez Valley, Los Alamos, Buellton and Solvang are kicking off a week of museum celebration with a FREE museum day Saturday March 3. This Fifth Annual Museum Week runs from March 3 – 10 and offers an opportunity for your whole family to explore art, history and cultural inspiration in the valley’s local museums and feature many special events for the week. Sponsored by the Santa Ynez Valley Hotel Association, the following museums will be participating:

Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum and Carriage HouseSanta Ynez Valley Historical Museum & Carriage House traces Santa Ynez Valley history from the early Chumash Indians through its 20th-century ranching days. It boasts the largest collection of American made horse-drawn carriages in the Western US. Educational presentations, tours,  exhibits and special celebrate bountiful Santa Ynez Valley history. Activities include Chumash rock painting and other activities in the courtyard for the kids throughout the day, the ever popular 1906 Cretor Popcorn Wagon in front of the Museum popping up fresh, free popcorn for visitors, and 30 minute Carriage House tours at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm.

Wildling Art Museum Solvang Santa Ynez Valley

The Wildling Art Museum in Solvang is truly where art and nature meet! The Wildling’s mission connects people with the wonder of America’s wilderness through great art. The museum offers nature-related classes, special events and rotating exhibits throughout the year. On Museum Day, the museum will have free art craft activities for children.

Elverhoj Museum of History & Art Solvang Santa Ynez ValleyThe Elverhøj Museum of History & Art  showcases Solvang’s rich history and the Danish-American pioneer spirit of the town’s founders.  Museum Day events include living history demonstrations throughout the day and interactive activities for all ages.  There will be a panel discussion titled “Themes and Variations.” at 4pm with artists whose work is in the “Original/Multiple” exhibition currently on display in the museum gallery.

Old-Mission-Santa-InesOld Mission Santa Ines Museum, Solvang. Founded in 1804 and now on the National Register of Historic Places, the 19th in the chain of 21 Missions throughout California, Mission Santa Inés proudly possess a collection of paintings, statuary, vestments, manuscripts, and artifacts used in and around the Mission throughout its history.

Hans Christian Anderson Museum Solvang Santa Ynez ValleyHans Christian Andersen Museum, Solvang. Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875),  is considered the “father of the modern fairy tale.” “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Little Mermaid”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Princess and the Pea” are favorites among his more than 150 tales. The museum, filled to the rafters with copies of Andersen’s books, sketches, silhouettes and memorabilia, is housed in a second story garret above The Book Loft.

Los Alamos Valley Historical Display & Depot Santa Ynez ValleyLos Alamos Valley Historical Display & Depot features exhibits in the vintage T &T Building & Train Depot. Learn about the history behind this western town established by ranchers John Bell and James Shaw  in 1876 as the United States celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Buellton Historical Society History Room,  offers a glimpse into the past of this charming ‘Service Town USA’ and the Buell Ranch. Conveniently located in Andersen’s Pea Soup Restaurant above the gift shop, stop in for a bit of history and a cup of the famous soup!

Santa Ynez Valley Mariott

Make it a midweek rendezvous or a weekend immersion in the Santa Ynez Valley’s Museum Week celebration. Book your stay at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, making it your home-base for museum exploration perhaps coupled with a bit of world-class wine tasting.

Santa Ynez Valley Marriott Loyal Locals Dining ProgramTake advantage of great mid-week rates and join their Loyal Locals Dining Rewards Program offered exclusively by the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott. Eat. Drink. Earn rewards. Satisfy your palate and earn points towards dining, overnight stays, discount offers and free gifts each time you dine at the Starting Gate Restaurant, Winner’s Circle Lounge, and Lobby Lounge at the Santa Ynez Marriott.