Highway 101 Trip to Buellton is Fun
Updated: May 27
Those who know me weren't surprised that I would decide to make a 247-mile one-way road trip from Palm Springs. Admittedly, Buellton, California, was not on my radar to spend two days exploring. However, when 360ViewPR asked me if I would be willing to go there and write about my findings, I readily agreed.
Fresh Ocean Air
Once I got through the Los Angeles area traffic, the Pacific Ocean spread out before me. Clear skies and citron-colored mustard seed blossoms graced the craggy cliffs lining Highway 101.
I was ready for a stop, so I pulled off at Sea Cliffs and wound my way through a little sketchy backroad but continued through the tunnel supporting Highway 101. There before me, to the right, was a dead-end, wide spot where I could get out, stretch, and breathe in the fresh, pure ocean air on a gorgeous day.
Checking into the Pea Soup Andersen Inn
This internationally famous Pea Soup Andersen Inn is my home for two days. My room was spacious with a king-size bed that beckoned me to stop once I arrived. However, I was hungry for my driving snacks had run out, and I was ready for a satisfying meal.
The heated pool was right out of my patio door, and the enclosed kiosk-like structure where breakfast is served was 100 ft away. Perfect! I did take the time to check out this immaculately clean room with a refrigerator and microwave, which proved to be very handy when warming up the complimentary breakfast of superb Danish pastries.
Dining in Buellton
If you are a traveler on Highway 101, you will want to check out my list, for I can attest I did not even have an average meal in Buellton. All the restaurants had a twist that made them a particular cuisine delight.
A.J Spurs, located about one-half mile from the Pea Soup Andersen Inn, provides you with an experience that will help you understand what it might have been like when this area was swarming with hungry cowboys and cowgirls.
Fiddle-type western music greets you as you are escorted to your table with taxidermy animals keeping guard over this immense restaurant. Objects from the early settlers' days are everywhere. They might even have some items that came over on a wagon train.
Food is served as it might have been around early campfires. The hearty soup was served in a cast-iron pot and arrived with a salad with a fabulous bleu cheese dressing. The barbecue spareribs prepared in the old western manner held up to the adage finger-licking good.
Industrial Eats lives up to its reputation as a restaurant where you can get farm-to-table cuisine with a twist. The line to the door is your first clue this is a popular restaurant. Don't let the line deter you. It is worth the short wait.
Starting as a catering service known for its fresh creative food, the owners have taken their talents to this restaurant with industrial décor and community tables. The regular menu is tacked on the wall and listed on the brown butcher wrap. Specials are displayed on separate sheets displayed so you can peruse them as you inch toward the person taking your order.
Kathy Vreeland from Discover Buellton and I enjoyed our seafood, meatballs with a twist, and a Caesar salad with a crisp glass of local white wine made for a perfect dinner meeting.
Of course, I couldn't come to Buellton without trying the famous pea soup. Years ago, I had it but didn't remember why it was supposed to be so special.
I took a sip. Savory spices combined with the split peas caused my tastebuds to dance with pleasure. Bread served with the soup made it the perfect lunchtime meal. The Travel's Special came with a milkshake that I took with me to the car.
Attractions in Buellton
The Avenue of the Flags greets you as you turn off Highway 101. The city commissioned this urban project when Highway 101 was changed from the center of town to its present location. Six lanes were no longer needed, so they took two lanes and made them into a boulevard with an art installation showcasing a floral arch, a flag on a tall pole, and life-size people in bronze saluting the flag. Then all down, the boulevard flags fly, welcoming guests.
If you have never been up close and personal to an ostrich, now is your chance. Ostrich Land is a 33-acre breeding farm and home to over 100 ostriches and emus. Here you can feed these magnificent birds. It is incredible how fast they can gobble up a tin of food.
Ostriches are not keen on you touching them. I quickly learned they were attracted to my rings and glittery fingernail polish. So, word to the wise, don't wear rings when you go there and watch them from a distance after you feed them. On the other hand, the kinder, gentler emus welcome your petting.
A knowledgeable staff is there, ready to answer questions. One of the many things you will learn is that an ostrich lays an egg every 1-3 days, and that egg is 18 times the size of a regular egg.
I can assure you have never seen anything like the Mendenhall Museum. Fifteen garage-sized rooms filled with memorabilia showing the evolution of the gasoline pumps, their glass globes that once proudly glowed at the top of them, vehicles, and signs that served as advertising and directions for road trip warriors.
Mark and Vickie Mendenhall serve as curators of this private museum, open by appointment only. The Mendenhalls are proud that the museum serves as the Dry Lake Racers Hall of Fame location. If you want to rent a venue that will astonish your guests, this is the place.
Santa Ynez Botanical Gardens
Local people recognize the need to educate children about native plants. The two-acre garden Santa Ynez Botanical Gardens was created and is maintained by volunteers. This welcoming garden takes measures to preserve fauna, so it thrives in this watershed area.
Schools use it for tours. I loved the Wishing Tree, which now has my wish dangling from one of its branches.
An Additional Stop
Dorwood Distillery, located on Industrial Way, is the perfect place to be introduced to fermenting and distilling process used to make liquors. Jay, one of the owners, is there six days a week and delights in showing visitors the process.
End the tour with tasting sips of the liquors while relaxing in their welcoming tasting room.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
No trip to Buellton is complete without seeing the Sideways Inn, the site for the movie Sideways. The Inn served as the home for a week of two men on a bachelor trip before one of their impending weddings, while exploring wine tastings and playing golf in the Santa Ynez Valley.
The Inn has recently been remodeled. The lounge was the perfect place to end my day with a nightcap while sinking into one of their comfy lounge chairs.
My three-day trek was more than worth the drive. I learned, and I laughed. I met gracious people, and Buellton, California now no longer a small town on Highway 101. It is a place with a great soul, and I look forward to what the next few years bring to this welcoming community.
Kathy Condon is a freelance journalist and travel writer. She is the Founder of the Palm Springs Insider Guide. Her book It Doesn't Hurt to Ask: It's All About Communication was named Best Book Finalist By USA Book News