Horsing Around in Los Olivos


Wine tasting and horseback riding are two epic American pastimes. Add some farm fresh local produce, grass fed beef or line caught fish and a candlelight cellar, and you’ve got yourself a romantic evening or relaxing celebration with friends.

By Suzette Lipscomb


Los Olivos is a picturesque little imp of a town situated in the Santa Ynez Valley, just north of Santa Barbara, where Fess Parker Inn has been recently renovated. The cozy cream and black trimmed property has large suites with fireplaces, a pool with a petite day spa, and a newly imagined restaurant, The Bear and the Star (where breakfast is included for hotel guests), serving refined ranch cuisine. Situated in the epicenter of town, walking distance to shopping, cafes and lots of wine tasting, but also an easy drive to well-known known vineyards and activities, Fess Parker Inn is a great spot to take in all that Los Olivos has to offer.

GMC Denali

If you can peel yourself away from eating and drinking for a moment, a pleasant excursion is horseback riding through wine country with Vino Vaqueros’ stable of fine horses at Estelle Vineyards. We had excellent weather on our 1 ½-hour ride amongst the trails with the dogs running after us, the grapes maturing on the vines and the well cared for horses meandering through the wild acreage. You can order food in advance and wine taste after riding with the friendly staff.

I rented a Denali and it was an excellent choice. I was surprised by the comfort of my GMC truck. As I left LA heading north, I began to notice that every horse trailer I saw was being pulled by a GMC Denali. There’s something about the Denali that is a tad like a horse. It’s strong, tough, majestic and easy to ride. Denali communicates with you about impending doom, tells you when to stop or move over, guides you with onboard wifi and Bose sound system, and warms up your seat. It was perfect for exploring the area.


One of the beautiful things about Los Olivos is the flexibility you have—escaping for a little getaway with a book by the manicured green succulent wall alongside the pool at the Inn, or the freedom to plan a family reunion with BBQs or a cave dinner with stellar wineries and local food loving caterers. While in town I bought overdue birthday gifts, feasted on a private dinner for a dozen friends in the Firestone Vineyard caves, and attended a special outdoor private party at Fess Parker Vineyards (where they also host weddings). Many of these picturesque settings are available for special events and are a lovely backdrop to take in the view as the golden sun sets upon the valley. You could do worse than to have an engagement or rehearsal dinner at one of these spectacular settings.