After a grueling work week, Art and I love to pack up the car and hit the road. Our culinary senses mostly take us to places where we can find good food and drink. This past weekend we ventured about 3 1/2 hours north of Los Angeles to a place called Santa Maria Valley as they were celebrating Restaurant Week. The region opened my senses and captured my palate.
Where is Santa Maria Valley?
The Santa Maria Valley is in northern Santa Barbara County. As you approach Santa Maria Valley, you drive through beautiful, green rolling hills and vineyards.
Santa Maria Valley is a breath of fresh air for busy professionals, like us. If finding solace and a place to recharge your batteries is on your priority list this year, think about driving up the coast to Santa Maria Valley.
You’ll find plenty of hiking trails, cycling opportunities, serene beaches and barbecue that has put Santa Maria on the map, all right in our own backyard. We learned the region has its own unique #SantaMariaStyle and will definitely be back.
Where to Stay
On this trip, we stayed at the historic Santa Maria Inn. Situated on a busy boulevard lined with large retail stores and Mexican taquerias, it was centrally located and easy to find off of the 101 freeway.
The Inn had all the amenities you seek in a weekend getaway: large swimming pool, comfortable, large rooms, cable television, excellent restaurant, and a friendly bar. In addition, we found the staff friendly and quick to respond.
Upon arrival Friday night, we enjoyed a few libations at the bar and then headed to dinner at the Century Room, where we enjoyed the specials they had for Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week specials included items like Top Sirloin, Cuban Grilled Chicken and Shrimp Scampi.
Oso Flaco Lake
On Saturday morning after breakfast at the Inn, we drove to Oso Flaco Lake. The lake is in a working-class town called Guadalupe, filled with farmlands, small houses, and a Catholic church with a large Virgen de Guadalupe on the front facade. You drive through town until you reach a narrow road leading up to a park ranger who greeted us and was all smiles and filled with information.
Once you park, a dirt pathway lined with trees and shade gently guides you to the lake. I noticed people walking back to their cars had broad smiles and warm hellos. Immediately, I knew we were out of Los Angeles where no one says hi to each other anymore on the local hikes. I soon came to learn why they were so happy.
What You’ll Discover
After walking through the wide dirt pathway, you stumble upon a bridge. You take that bridge over the lake waters to the other side all the way to the ocean. The bridge is sturdy, easy to walk on and good for all ages. On our walk, we saw sunbathing turtles, ducks, and listened to the birds sweetly sing in the trees.
In the far distance, you could hear the thunder of the buggies people rent for $5 to drive up and down the sand dunes. As a result, all your senses are in play during the 1/2 mile walk to the ocean. For example, as you inch closer you can feel the ocean’s breeze and smell the sea stronger with every step. When you finally reach the sandy shores, you’re filled with elation and gratitude. Plan to spend a good 2-3 hours at Oso Flaco Lake. You’ll definitely build up an appetite so pack some fruit or granola bars and take a bottle of drinking water.
Time for Lunch
We were ready for a late lunch and headed to Maya Mexican Restaurant. The restaurant opened in 1966 and serves traditional Mexican dishes like chile verde, chile colorado, beef and chicken tacos, enchiladas, with refried beans and rice. The gobs of yellow and white cheese on top of the dishes don’t make for Instagramable photos, but the flavors are all there. I was interested in their red salsa they serve with tortilla chips. It’s a thin, watery salsa made of crushed red pepper, cumin, tomatoes and garlic. The salsa definitely has a kick.
VINO VINO VINO
After resting back at the hotel room, we had a driver take us to a nearby city called Orcutt to visit a wine tasting room called Nagy (Nay-ghee). Orcutt is a quaint town with everything in walking distance. James, our Nagy tasting room guide showed us first-hand how the shape of the glass can enhance your tasting experience. Afterward, we hit a few local wine bars that had live music. The locals were friendly as were the pours.
For more information about #SantaMariaValley, visit Santa Maria Visitors Guide.