The Santa Ynez Valley is located in Santa Barbara County, California, between the Santa Ynez Mountains to the south and the San Rafael Mountains to the north. The Santa Ynez River flows through the valley from east to west. The Santa Ynez Valley is separated from the Los Alamos Valley, to the northwest, by the Purisima Hills, and from the Santa Maria Valley by the Solomon Hills. The Santa Rita Hills separate the Santa Ynez Valley from the Santa Rita and Lompoc Valleys to the west.
The valley has a population of about 20,000 residents living in the communities of Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, Buellton, and Ballard.
The economy of the Santa Ynez Valley is driven by agriculture (particularly viticulture), the equine industry, and tourism.
The wine industry is a major part of the Santa Ynez Valley’s economy. The Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association lists over 70 wineries and tasting rooms on their website. Besides grapes, the valley also has numerous apple farms, many of them with roadside apple stands or “pick your own” programs. It is the location of the Santa Ynez Valley American Viticultural Area.
Horses are seen throughout the valley and a historic Western atmosphere is kept alive. Notable ranches include Monty Roberts’ Flag Is Up Farms, River Edge Farm (thoroughbreds), and the nationally-known Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center. This valley is noted for having over 52 different breeds of horses, 28 veterinarians, and other attributes that makes this place undoubtedly the top horse location in California, if not America. It is a multi-million dollar industry.
Tourists often visit the valley for its attractions including numerous art galleries, wine tasting rooms, and antique stores as well as resorts such as the Alisal Guest Ranch, Lake Cachuma, PCPA’s Theatrefest, and the Chumash Casino. Because of good weather year round, many participate in outdoor activities such as hiking in the nearby Los Padres National Forest or bicycling throughout the valley.