As soon as you can: Hit the road, heading toward Santa Barbara. I recommend taking PCH to the 101 North because of the awesome scenery. And as MapQuest will inform you, take CA-154 and wind around gorgeous Lake Cachuma. For a future trip, you might even plan to camp there; it’s a destination park in its own right.
8 p.m. Arrive at the Hadsten House Inn and Spa (1450 Mission Drive, Solvang). While you might think only the swanky can afford this newly renovated hotel in the middle of town, I Jacuzzi-ed next to two OC college kids who found a sweet deal on Travelocity and were putting their economic stimulus checks to great use.
8:30 p.m. Grab some serious grub at their dimly lit, classic lodge-style restaurant. Here’s where your wine education begins. Because you’re in the heart of Cali’s Wine Country, ask for a recommendation. Be adventurous and try local varieties.
Onto the menu: For starters, the Grilled Crab Stuffed Prosciutto wrapped Shrimp and Herb Basket of fries are amazing, followed by the Braised Short Ribs with mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables. Cap off the meal with one of their scrumptious desserts (chocolate, anyone?). Next stop: Satiated dreamland.
7 a.m.-10 a.m.: A complimentary breakfast is included in your daily room rate. Eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, fruit … start the day right! Be sure to scarf a good foundation to soak up all the wine you’ll be tasting the rest of the day.
11 a.m.: Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours (ccjeeps.com; they’re also expanding to Paso Robles.) picks you up at your hotel and whisks you away for a guided tour of the Wine Country. You ride with six people total and visit four wineries/vineyards, plus lunch is included.
In my jeep there were two 20something couples who had booked a jeep tour with Cloud Climbers twice before. They love driving up for the weekend and returning home with cases of fine wine (at cheaper prices than most retail stores).
Your guide (ours, Jeremy, was a real hoot) will personalize your tour according to your wine tasting experience level and previously visited spots. We had the privilege of visiting four: Kalyra Winery, Wine Country (a store), Brander Vineyard and Sunstone Vineyards and Winery.
At each stop, you taste up to 12 wines and ports and are treated to an accessible wine education. If you’re a lightweight like me, you have the option to spit out the rest of your cup after the first sip. If not, the amount of wine you’ll imbibe over the course of the day just from tasting alone is roughly equal to a full bottle’s worth.
After the third stop, Brander Vineyard, Jeremy set up a table for lunch (we had put in our orders at the first stop).
4 p.m. Stumble back to the hotel, dip in the heated indoor pool and even hotter outdoor Jacuzzi.
6 p.m. Roam around town and you’ll find a lovely selection of eateries. There’s also a live DJ spinning from 9:30 p.m. on at the Royal Scandinavian Inn (400 Alisal Rd., Solvang). If you’re feeling lucky, travel to Chumash Casino.
11 a.m. After filling your body with impurities, why not end the weekend with a detoxifying, relaxing massage at the Haven Day Spa at the Hadsten House. Hotel guests receive special discounts. You can go for the basic one-hour massage or something extra luxurious, like the Chocolate Lover’s Dream.
1 p.m. Head into town and refuel for the ride home. Stop by the Belgian Café (1671 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang) for the Red, White and Blue: a Belgian waffle with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream.
3 p.m. As you head out of town, stop by the Mission Santa Inés (1760 Mission Drive, Solvang) and brush up on your California history.
On your way back from Solvang stop by Santa Barbara’s West Beach Music & Arts Festival Sept. 12-14 (www.westbeachfestival.com).
Solvang’s Danish Days Festival takes place Sept. 19-21 and Solvang Jazz Fest takes place Sept. 26-28. For more information, visit www.solvangusa.com.