Santa Barbara County contains vast landscapes of treacherous mountains, rugged coastlines, rolling hillsides, and gentle plains. Speckled throughout this beautiful countryside amidst ancient oak trees and grazing cattle sit some of the greatest vineyards in the United States, and few areas of Santa Barbara boast more important and influential vineyard sites than the Santa Maria Valley. Located in the northern portion of the county, the Santa Maria Valley largely follows the path of the Sisquoc River as it cuts a divide between the San Rafael Mountains to the northeast and a series of heavily wooded hills to the southwest. Thanks to its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean this region is cooled daily by advancing marine fog, and with the help of alluvial and oceanic soils the Santa Maria Valley produces some of the greatest cool-climate wines around.
We recently took a trip to the Santa Maria Valley to dive deeper into this legendary wine growing zone and had the pleasure of staying at a fantastic local hotel, the Holiday Inn & Suites of Santa Maria. This clean, spacious, and dog-friendly hotel sits in a prime location right off of Highway 101 and is about as close as you can get to the area's best vineyards and wineries. When visiting wine country location is of the utmost importance, and the Holiday Inn certainly checked that box for us.
On top of being conveniently located the Holiday Inn impressed us in a number of ways. First and foremost, the property itself is aesthetically pleasing and is beautifully decorated with palm trees and flowers surrounding the entirety of the building. There is a large pool, hot tub, and lounge area located in the main courtyard, as well as a bar and restaurant catty-corner to the lobby. The restaurant was quite good - we at breakfast here every day during our stay - and the bar had a nice selection of local Central Coast wine to sip on.
The rooms at the Holiday Inn are well-decorated and large; ours even contained a cozy but functional kitchen and dining area. This was invaluable for us, as there is nothing we crave more after a long day of exploration than to kick back and relax in our room with our pups. The room setup allowed us to spread out and even do some basic cooking without feeling cramped or uncomfortable. Our room was located on the ground floor which is absolutely ideal for visiting with dogs, and it was easy to take them outside for walks through a large sliding glass door leading out to the pool area. There is plenty of grass and open space on the property, and it was no problem at all to get the dogs out for some fresh air.
We had an absolute blast during our weekend in the Santa Maria Valley and the Holiday Inn & Suites of Santa Maria was a perfect home base for us. We explored vineyards, visited wineries, tasted some excellent wine, and ate at some of Santa Maria's best restaurants. We were able to do it all with our dogs by our side, and we look forward to coming back again to spend more time in this beautiful stretch of Santa Barbara. Don't forget to consider the Santa Maria Valley for your next wine country adventure as we're sure you'll have as great a time as we did.