By Cori Lassahn for Vineyard Yoga

If the pandemic has you feeling down and you are in need of a socially distant pick-me-up that won’t require you to drive too far or stray too far from home, then this list is for you. Our valley is overflowing with amazing opportunities to explore, inspiring places to adventure, and invigorating new experiences to try.  


1. Wake up early and watch the sunrise along the Santa Ynez River for a soothing start to your day. Those of us who walk the river today do not think much about it, but in the 1940s the Santa Ynez River was thought to have the largest run of steelhead fish south of San Francisco Bay. Prior to the completion of Cachuma Dam in 1953, the steelhead run on the Santa Ynez River was estimated to be as high as 25,000 adults. You can access the river at various points throughout the valley, but the most popular spot to walk is off Alisal Road. 


2. Buy a new book and read it in Hans Christian Anderson Park. Not sure what to read? Let our local bookstore The Book Loft select a book for you. Call them and let them know what you would like and pick it up on your way to the park. Or with prearrangement, they will deliver to homes in the Santa Ynez Valley on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. There is a delivery charge of $5 on purchases under $100. 

3. Drive up Figueroa Mountain and have a picnic. Enjoy the quiet that comes at 4,000 feet above sea level as you enjoy views of the Santa Ynez Valley. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see out towards the ocean in Lompoc.


Photo contributed

4. Take an outdoor yoga class with me. I’m teaching a variety of classes from yoga in a blooming rose garden, to full moon yoga in a vineyard, to a casual yoga and brunch offering at a winery. My classes are for all levels (even beginners) and always incorporate a guided meditation and deep relaxation. Being out in nature enhances the yoga practice for a heightened experience. A recent Swedish study found viewing nature, especially fractals (the organically occurring patterns in tree branches or fern leaves), increased wakeful relaxation and internal focus—two important components of a rewarding yoga practice.


5. Go for a cold water swim at Gaviota State Beach. Experts say when practiced on a regular basis, cold water immersion can provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems that enhance the overall quality of your life. With a few minutes of cold therapy (and a whole lot of grit), you may be able to activate your body’s natural healing powers and promote a greater sense of well-being.

6. Hike to the Wind Caves at Gaviota (a little over 2 miles round-trip). These unique geological formations run parallel to the Pacific Ocean. As the mountains are pelted with salt spray (carried by the wind) and as the salt crystals grow, they displace the grains of sand. Over the centuries, cavities are formed in the rock as the process continues, one grain at a time.


April May Events

SYV Botanic Garden at River View Park.

7. Stroll through the Santa Ynez Valley Botanic Garden in Buellton, where you can make a wish on the wishing tree, get lost in the willow maze, explore the butterfly garden, and discover the Chumash village. The garden was created by a nonprofit group as a source of “inspiration, a venue for arts and crafts, and a peaceful refuge for visitors of all ages.”


8. Book a private outdoor painting session with The Art Spot. If you want to get creative and do something unique, take a plein air painting class. They offer a private small group class in acrylic or watercolor. They’ll come to you or you can book a class in the vineyard. Just like physical exercise, creative stimulation like painting engages and focuses our minds on the task at hand — and distracts us from feelings of stress and anxiety.

9. Ride your bike to a lovely wine tasting experience at Gainey Vineyard. Make an appointment on their website before you go to ensure yourself a table. Then jump on your bike and head over. Gainey has its entire upper terrace set up with shaded tables spaced 12 feet apart. You can sip wine while gazing at the unparalleled vineyard views and if it’s a hot day you’re in luck — the vineyard recently installed misters to keep guests cool. On weekends, they offer a delectable charcuterie plate that makes a perfect pairing with their wines. No bike? Rent one from Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours.


farm stands

Farm stands are bursting with fresh fruits and vegetables in the summer. Photo by Cori Lassahn

10. Support our local farmers with your own farm stand tour. Stop by all the different farms in the valley and make yourself a farm-to-table meal with your bounty. I’ve linked their websites so you can check their hours:

  • Something Good Organics (Buellton): a wide variety of fruits from their orchard, farm fresh eggs, carrots, onions, cilantro, tomatoes, honey and more.
  • Hidden Canyon Ranch & Farm (Lompoc): eggs, flowers, kale, herbs and tangerines. They also offer farm tours for one group at a time that includes a 90-min tour and animal interactions. 
  • Clairmont Lavender Farm (Los Olivos): essential oil made on site, mists, bath products, culinary lavender, teas and honey.
  • Global Gardens (Los Olivos): pressed olive oil and natural fruit vinegars made locally
  • Finley Farms: a wide variety of just-picked fruits and veggies including melons, berries, little gem lettuces, Basil, tomatoes and arugula that sells out every day.
  • Summerset Farms (Santa Ynez): pick your own raspberries and blackberries. Walk through the sunflower maze and grab some onions and apples to take home.
  • Santa Barbara Blueberries (Buellton): pick your own blueberries from 32,000 pesticide-free blueberry plants of varying ages. They also offer blueberry jams and preserves, pesticide-free raspberries, blackberries, cantaloupes, watermelons, wild honey and other natural products grown on the ranch as they are available.