It was a cool, clear morning at Firestone Winery in Los Olivos. As we waited for our winery tour to begin, our 5-year-old crushed acorns under her feet and studied the wall of bright red climbing ivy.
There was another family scheduled for the tour, and we learned that their home-schooled kids were pretty knowledgeable about the winemaking process, despite the 10-year-old having admitted only to “smelling my dad’s wine.”
We moved from the vineyard to the grape press to the barrel room, and the kids continued to ask questions. They were fascinated by the process, and curious to hear the science of aging and flavors.
Yep, they were kids, but they weren’t too young to learn the lessons of nature and of course, business.
In recent years, more and more wineries have catered their wine tasting experience for families and kids, putting down big grass lawns, playgrounds and kid-friendly games like croquet and bocce ball. Keep on scrolling for top wineries to take the kids.
The wineries around Solvang, Santa Ynez and Los Olivos are in that gorgeous part of Central California that sometimes visitors skip right on past. The wine tasting vibe is way less pretentious than Napa and way less full of bachelorette parties than Temecula.
There’s a wonderful medieval-themed park, a miniature horse farm, an ostrich farm, and the whole Danish village of Solvang for that international experience without leaving the States. The three cities (Solvang, Santa Ynez and Los Olivos) are very close, but I’ve organized the tips by city for easy itinerary planning.
Solvang with Kids
You’ll likely base your stay in Solvang. There are tons of cute Danish hotels that offer that sparse yet cozy Scandinavian feel. In Solvang you’ll find OstrichLand USA, where your kids can feed some very hungry ostriches and even see the baby ostriches. Spoiler alert: they don’t actually stick their hands in the sand!
There’s also a miniature horse farm called Quicksilver Ranch. Quicksilver Ranch is open limited hours and there are no staff on site.
The best winery to visit with kids in Solvang is Buttonwood Winery. They have a large orchard of peach and persimmon trees, meandering walkways and picnic areas for kids to move around in. Just past the fruit trees you’ll find a cow, goats and chickens. The tasting room is small but the property is large with plenty of room to explore and see animals.
Within the town of Solvang is Carivintas Winery. While I don’t usually recommend visiting a tasting room with children, they do have a small kids’ table with toys, Duplo and books to keep kids occupied. They also do stay open later than most of the larger wineries, and allow pets.
My daughter always needs to run out a little steam, so we head to the medieval-Danish themed playground in Sunny Fields Park. It has a lot of exciting park features like a tire swing and climbing ropes. Sunny Fields Park also has a giant grass field to tire those kids out before dinner.
Santa Ynez Wine Tasting with Kids
There are two awesome vineyards in Santa Ynez for wine tasting with a family. The first is Sunstone Winery, which has several large, separate areas to play and/or picnic and a lawn with cornhole and croquet. Bridlewood Winery also has a giant grounds. Taste in the tasting room if you must, but definitely get a glass to enjoy out in the rose garden or big lawn overlooking the lake and equestrian area.
I always carry snacks for the dual purpose of keeping the parents AND kids happy. Forget the expensive wine-themed picnic carry-all basket and just carry your crackers and cheese in this Vintique Wood Basket.
Los Olivos Wine Tasting with Kids
Los Olivos is the quaint little town we saw in the movie Sideways. Panino is a great, affordable sandwich place in the heart of town with plenty of options for picky eaters.
The coolest tasting room we visited was Artiste Winery, where they have an easel and paints set up for children or adults to paint a masterpiece. For our little artist, this was a big selling point and allowed us to enjoy our wine for a longer time.
Zinke Winery has a nice picnic area with cornhole, bocce ball and Tikki toss. With big comfy couches outside in the shade, it’s a great spot to hang out. And our daughter’s favorite snack, Annie’s Bunny Grahams, especially in Cheddar, go well with the Syrahs of the area.
Firestone Winery, where we had our tour, doesn’t have the best grounds for children but is one of the only places in that area we could find a tour. It’s great to add an educational element to vacation, and adults can learn too!
I hope this information will encourage you to book a trip to Solvang with your family. With so many kid-friendly wineries coming onto the scene, you and your children will definitely enjoy the experience.
My first article about wine tasting with kids was for Temecula wineries, close to Los Angeles. You can read more tips about how to wine taste with kids in that article, as well as which wineries to go to in Temecula with a family.