I’m no stranger to Santa Barbara wine country; I love the periodic winemaker visit or wine-driven meal with my wife. But this being the first weekend of our kids’ summer vacation, wine was not on the agenda today. Instead, we made the drive across the fog line on Highway 154 and – 40 minutes north of downtown Santa Barbara – drove onto Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch. This property always draws stares from passers-by hopscotching through tasting rooms; the bonsai horses are an awesome sight. We stopped by and tried and got lucky when we tried our luck at petting what must have been a couple of foals no more than a few days old. The visit – free everyday from 10am to 3pm – is worth it for the kids’ oohs and aahs, and the dozen or so picture-worthy moments.
Solvang is a 5-minute drive away, and the Danish town (which celebrated its centennial just last year) offered us a chance to scoop up some ice cream and stroll through the busy streets laden with quirky shops and bakeries. No stopping at any of the dozen-plus wine tasting rooms today.
We took Highway 246 toward Buellton and, five minutes later (and just before hitting Hitching Post II) found ourselves at the aptly named Ostrich Land. A hundred birds in all – 80 ostriches and 20 emus – and, for $12, the chance for two adults and two kids to walk around with two serving trays of food. Ostriches are not dainty eaters; some will peck aggressively at the food, so we had our wits about us. But the kids got a real kick, and an education (ostriches are from Africa and emus hail from Down Under). We held an ostrich egg – a hefty four pounds and the equivalent of two dozen chicken eggs when you crack them open – but left buying one for another time.
We made our way back home by taking the 101 South, though not before stopping by to hand-pick strawberries at Classic Organic; we accessed this farm by following the signs for Nojoqui Park, about four miles south of Buellton. These berries were sparkling red, juicy and delicious. Handpicking your own berries beats even the loftiest farmers’ market. We picked three pints at $3 apiece and nabbed giant homegrown garlic for another buck.
A fantastic afternoon – a five hour commitment in all – before arriving at home in quaint Carpinteria, where the sun sparkled bright on the beautiful blue Pacific.