At Ostrich Land, visitors quickly learn that ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand—they'd much rather bury them in a bowl of food that you hold out in front of you. They're also not fond of waiting their turn, and at any given moment, you might have four beaks dipping into your supply. The experience is a far cry from throwing bread at ducks or pigeons. These birds are the world's largest: they can reach up to 9 feet in height and weigh 350 pounds. At top speed, they hit 45 miles per hour on their massive, two-toed feet.
Having been raised around people and trained to eat from outstretched bowls, the park's 50 ostriches and emus welcome spectators from their savannah-like enclosure. They're also celebrities in their own right, with bit roles in the film Sideways as well appearances in a Santa Maria Times video feature and a tongue-in-cheek homage in an episode of The Simpsons. Dispensing the animals' supper is only one way in which guests can get close—a stop inside the gift shop reveals shelves of ready-to-cook ostrich and emu eggs, ostrich feather dusters, and savory ostrich meat shipped in from a separate farm not affiliated with Ostrich Land. Also in stock are vials of emu oil, a substance with anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties that can soothe the skin.
Though Santa Barbara County is now home to nearly 100 wineries, there was a time when it wasn't obvious just how well suited the area was for making wine. It took the enterprising spirit of Leonard and Brooks Firestone—the son and grandson, respectively, of tire-industry titan Harvey S. Firestone—to establish the region's first vineyard in 1972. In the ensuing years, Santa Barbara's coastal climate and gravelly subsoils proved agreeable to producing Firestone's Bordeaux-influenced wines, though not to growing actual wine bottles on the vine like in Glass-in-the-Ground, Utah.
In 2007, vintner Bill Foley acquired the vineyard and made it the headquarters of his company's hospitality, event, and wine-club departments. Under Foley's direction, Firestone, like the brain during a thought-provoking traffic report, has been the center of a lot of activity. Visitors come to take tours of the vineyard and learn about indoor and outdoor wine production, to enjoy events such as gourmet Italian meals, and even to hold picnics overlooking the estate.
Louise's Kitchen Table came about by accident. Louise saw cooking comforting meals and house-baked desserts as simply a way to bring her friends together, but her aspirations stopped there. Over time, her friends began to rave about her cooking to their other friends, and soon Louise had strangers requesting catering services for business events and dinners. When she was unexpectedly laid off from her corporate job, she gained the courage to delve into the world of professional cooking. Today, Chef Louise lends her culinary expertise to personal-chef services, event catering, and food delivery for new mothers. When beckoned to cater an event, Louise handles the shopping, prep, cooking, and cleanup. Personal-chef services can cater to families with choosy eaters or special dietary needs, and meal delivery for new moms helps them settle into motherhood without having to prepare balanced meals for the whole family and any lingering storks.
If you're looking for a deep connection with nature, you could strap on hiking boots and head for the hills. Alternatively, you could head to Wildling Museum to catch glimpses of the wilderness as seen through the eyes of artists. Since opening in 2000, the museum has hosted more than 40 exhibitions such as the Santa Ynez River Watershed or Irish artist Patrick O?Hara?s Art of California Native Plants. Now located in modern, spacious quarters in Solvang, the museum also hosts workshops, lectures, and family events.
Ann Byron has made a career of customized equestrian training and coaching across the Western United States. She passes on this expertise to budding horseback riders at her very own barn, Byron Equestrian. Residing at Diamond Hills Equestrian Center, Ann’s venture grants students access to grassy pastures, jumps, and friendly horses that never forget their rider’s birthday. The barn is also a three-day eventing center, training horse-and-rider tandems to compete in the events of dressage, show jumping, and cross-country.
For one afternoon, more than 100 Santa Barbara vintners, restaurants, and purveyors of food showcase their wares across the green expanse of Buellton's River View Park. The festival also features attractions ranging from a farmers' market and botanical garden to an art show, as well as live music on outdoor stages. A range of events, such as cooking and barrel-coopering demonstrations, add to the festivities.