California Dreaming: Paso Robles to Santa Barbara

When we started researching our trip, I was intrigued by the town of Solvang, which was settled by Danish immigrants who travelled west trying to escape the midwestern winters.  I didn't quite know what to expect but as we pulled into town it felt like a part of Denmark had been plunked down in central California.  

We walked around town, stopping in at some of the shops and a great used books store, The Book Loft, with a museum dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen on the second floor.  There is a nice history of his life and work and some beautiful cutouts that he created.  

A good tip we use often is to stop into used book stores and let the kids pick out some new (to them) books to read in the car.  We usually can get several book for less than $20 and at least a couple of hours of quiet during the car ride.  That was the case here but we also picked up some new books of Andersen's fairy tales that Ava really enjoyed.

There are Danish bakeries throughout the town so we just picked one and stopped in.  We all had a little   treat while we checked out the history of the Danish monarchy on the wall outside.

As we headed out of Solvang, we spied Ostrichland, an ostrich farm/zoo and the kids begged us to stop. While Alan waited in the car, I took the kids through it and bought a tray of food and we spent about 15 minutes with the ostriches and emus.  This place is the definition of a tourist trap but sometimes you have to just give in and go with it.

This area has lots of wineries and we drove by The Hitching Post restaurant, prominently featured in the film Sideways.  We would have stopped for lunch but unfortunately we passed by too early for that.  

Once in Santa Barbara, we toured the Presidio.  It was built by the Spanish in the late 18th-century and contains the second oldest building in California, El Cuartel, a two-room soldiers quarters.  After the tour, we spotted Handlebar Coffee across the street.  The iced coffee was delicious and we grabbed some of their in-house roasted beans to take home.  

The kids needed to burn off some energy and Alan found the most amazing playground in a local park.  It is called Kid's World, located in Alameda Park and it was one of the best playgrounds we have ever seen.  It has a two-story wooden castle to climb through and explore, cable slider, tire bridge, a large whale to climb on and lots of seating on the periphery for adults to sit and enjoy an iced coffee.

For dinner that night we went to Brophy Bros. located at the head of Santa Barbara Harbour.  Serving all manner of seafood, the restaurant was packed and lively, i.e., perfect for a family.  The fish and chips and fried calamari were big hits at our table.

After dinner we went for ice cream at Rori's.  Made with all organic ingredients, every flavor sounded better than the next, from salted caramel to root beer float to my favorite, peanut butter chocolate candy swirl.