SANTA YNEZ, Calif. — Celebrities, nature lovers, retirees, and others seeking alternatives to the urban rat race have long sought solace from the hustle and smog afflicting many of Southern California's major cities.
Yet many of the classic getaways have themselves become crowded and traffic-clogged over the past couple of decades, making the laid-back California lifestyle ever harder to find.
The Santa Ynez Valley, just two hours north of Los Angeles, has withstood the forces of development and population growth. This 400-square-mile, rural hideaway still retains much of the peaceful charm and wide-open space that it did when ranchers and farmers began settling in the area over a century ago.
At the same time, tourism to the area has brought world-class restaurants, wineries, and recreation opportunities such as horse riding and golf, enhancing entertainment options without compromising the quality of life.
Home to just 20,000 people, the Santa Ynez Valley boasts five small, historic towns, a plethora of horse ranches, orchards, and vineyards, and breathtaking natural scenery. It's the kind of place where neighbors still know each other, where you can drive to the grocery store without sitting in traffic, and where people take time to contemplate life.
Local realtor Carey L. Kendall, who's lived in Santa Ynez for almost three decades, describes the valley as the California equivalent of Montana's ‘Big Sky Country.’
Even as the area has drawn the attention of tourists and celebrities, the valley remains an oasis of calming natural landscapes and down-to-earth locals.
"There are very few places like this that still exist," Kendall said. "This is an area where time has stood still. The only thing that's different is we've got much better wine, much better restaurants."
Santa Ynez' unassuming charm hasn't gone unnoticed by those seeking a fun yet less frenetic lifestyle.
Many celebrities have called the area home, including singer Fergie of the Black Eyes Peas, musician Pink and her husband, motorcycle racer Carey Hart; actors Noah Wyle, and Friends star Matt LeBlanc.
In recent years, Kendall said he's seen more people from Los Angeles and Orange Counties in particular looking for properties in Santa Ynez. Their backgrounds span a wide mix, from businesspeople, doctors and entertainment industry executives, to horse lovers and free-spirited millennials breaking free of the rat race.
The valley is a dream-come-true for some, Carey says, although he cautions it isn't right for everyone.
"For people who need whatever a hectic city life provides, possibly this Santa Ynez lifestyle may not be for them," he concluded. "But for those who don't want to live the frenetic pace, or they have done it and had enough, Santa Ynez is definitely their ticket to balance and sanity."
For more information about Carey Kendall at Village Properties Realtors, you can visit his website.