As the country begins to reopen, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.
Pro beach volleyball player Todd Rogers lives less than half an hour from the Pacific Coast. But surprisingly, the beach isn’t his favorite thing about living in sunny Solvang, California. “It is focused on families and children,” says the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, who moved to town in August 2002, when his kids were 3 and 1. “People are friendly, and everyone knows everyone else—I could never get that in a big city.”
Rogers received a proclamation from the mayor and signed autographs at a homecoming celebration after the 2008 Olympics. More than 500 people attended the event.
Located in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country, Rogers says Solvang operates at a slow pace. "That is why my wife and I moved here," he says. "Neither of us are into the hustle and bustle of the city. We like to enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir on our porch while enjoying the natural view."
Here’s what else the five-time AVP world champ has to say about life in the Santa Ynez Valley.
The Santa Ynez Valley is made up of five small little towns: Solvang, Santa Ynez, Buellton, Los Olivos, and Ballard. Solvang, where I live, is a quaint Danish town with windmills, wineries, and great places to eat. The Santa Ynez river runs through it, and it is bordered by the coastal mountains.
One thing most people don't know about Solvang?
It isn't as big of a secret as it used to be, but the wine industry is blowing up here. We are becoming well known for our Pinot Noir and the Santa Rita Hills Appellation. Once the movie Sideways came out, people started buying up all the Pinots from the area.
Favorite place to get outside?
The Santa Ynez River. It runs through the entire area, and I am down there almost everyday running, walking my dogs, jumping in with my kids, or generally exploring what the river has to offer.
Best time of year to visit?
All year long in my opinion, but I am biased. Weather-wise, either spring or fall are the best times. Usually it is a bit nippy (50 degrees or so) in the mornings, but warms up to around 80 in the afternoons.
Trattoria Grappolo. This quaint little Italian restaurant has been the go-to restaurant for my wife and me since it was opened about ten years ago by immigrant Italian brothers. Great wine list, great food, and great ambiance for both locals and tourists.
The city of Solvang itself is great. Spend a day going into wine tasting bars, eating delicious Danish food, and shopping. Another favorite spot of mine is Sunstone Winery. You'll feel like you're in France or Italy. Ask about the "Villa" while you are there. Simply amazing!
Best place to stay?
My house because we have a beach volleyball court! But if you aren't invited there, I've always liked the Hadsten House.
Need to Know:
Solvang is 130 miles from the Los Angeles airport, and 300 miles from the San Francisco airport.