The Ballard Inn
What We Love
- A family-owned bed-and-breakfast in scenic Santa Barbara wine country, with a daily wine hourThe warm, individually themed and customized rooms, each with a charming antique flair
- Ending the day at the on-site tasting room over an array of local vintages
- Sitting fireside at the inn’s intimate restaurant and savoring the acclaimed French-Asian cuisine
What To Know
- Some rooms have real wood burning fireplaces and the inn provides free wood
- Nightly turn down service includes fresh baked, homemade cookies
- Rooms do not have phones or TVs but there is free WiFi
Tucked away in the tiny town of Ballard, right in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country, The Ballard Inn is exactly what you envision when you think of a cozy bed-and-breakfast. Lining the property is a white picket fence draped with lush greenery, and just before you reach the entrance, a wraparound porch with wicker rocking chairs beckons you to forget your troubles over a glass of local red wine.
Inside, you’ll discover romantic antique furnishings, comfortable couches facing a roaring fireplace and an attentive staff waiting to make the most of your stay. Retreat to one of the charming rooms, and you’ll find a historic aspect of the hotel commemorated in rich hues and themed fabrics. At the inn’s award-winning restaurant, it’s as easygoing as ever; this 12-table, French-Asian dining room is a regional favorite for its intimate atmosphere. There’s almost nothing that could make it any cozier – except for a pairing from the extensive list of wines.
The Ballard Inn’s cozy Deluxe rooms are individually themed and decorated, with names like The Davy Brown, The Western, the Windmill and The Wildflower. Warm tones and antique furnishings appoint each space, and each has a plush king or queen bed and a wood-burning fireplace.
With acclaimed chef Budi Kazali at the helm and a warm, inviting atmosphere, it’s no wonder The Restaurant at the Ballard Inn is a 2016 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award-winner. Romantic and intimate with candlelight, soft music and a crackling fire to set the mood, this 12-table French-Asian restaurant features an array of local wines and ingredients and a creative dinner menu. Breakfast includes house-made pastries, hot entrees and fresh fruit.
Set in the quaint town of Ballard, a community with fewer than 1,000 people, The Ballard Inn & Restaurant is 35 minutes north of Santa Barbara, and a short car ride to Santa Ynez Valley and the towns of Solvang, Santa Ynez and Los Olivos. The perfect stay for a wine-country vacation, the inn is close to many small, family-owned wineries, which you can visit by tour or at your own leisure.You can also golf at the nearby Rancho San Marcos Golf Course, with its stunning views of the Santa Ynez Valley, take a quick drive for a hiking excursion to Nojoqui Falls, or rent bikes at the inn and cycle your way through wine country.
How to Get There
Overall we were very pleased. The Inn provided a very generous social hour with a meat and cheese selection as well as local wines. They also provide a discount card to tastings, but we only stayed one night so we missed out on this perk. There is a turn down service w fresh cookies and a lovely breakfast with eggs to order. We stayed the night before Memorial Day weekend so the Inn was quiet. Staff was very friendly. The outside was beautiful with many rose bushes blooming. The inside is tastefully decorated with a number of fireplaces, wide plank floors, neutral colors. I was able to look at a number of empty rooms and they are fairly similar with either a front street or a back yard parking view. I was really pleased with the room I had chosen after reading reviews, the Davey Brown room, which has a fireplace. However, it turned out that this room is over the kitchen and the kitchen exhaust fan. It was very noisy until after 10 pm when the staff is done. Lots of plate stacking and banging and the fan. The noise starts up again in the am for breakfast. I was surprised no one mentioned this on Trip Advisor. Also the bed is really cool and comfortable, unless you like to sit up in bed, which you can’t do without hitting your head. So I would recommend the Inn, but pick a different room.
This is the most charming hotel. Service unparalleled, could not of asked more the perfect setting. Stayed in the Windmmill room. The bed was the most comfortable and the sheets were perfect. Bathroom could use more counter space but a side table added charm. The Gathering table dinner was outstanding and the salted Carmel desert was off the chart delicious. Loved this Inn
Expectation is the mother of disappointment. Having stayed at the Ballard Inn on four prior occasions, and having truly loved it, we returned with the expectation that we’d thoroughly enjoy another stay. We didn’t. We were very disappointed. Almost everything about the place was different. Why? It had been significantly remodeled (“upgraded,” we were told). Gone was the vintage character, charm and color of the prior “country inn” version. In its place is just another “farmhouse style” place that is like countless other “upgraded” places available everywhere these days. Uniqueness was surrendered in favor of faux-chic sameness. If you like everything in austere black, sterile white, and dark brown, you’ll like it. It’s minimalism run amok.
The former living/sitting room has been converted into what looked like a Restoration Hardware showroom. It was the antithesis of the warm and inviting room it used to be. On prior visits, a fire was going in the fireplace during the afternoon happy hour gathering, which always including other guests sitting on comfortable couches and chairs, chatting and enjoying wine and a remarkable array of wonderful Hors d’oeuvres. Now, it sat cold (no fire) and empty (no other guests) and the country comforts were gone, with a small tray of untouched cheese, olives and grapes (wine also included). The nearby former TV/family game room has been converted into a uninviting slapdash space that is indescribable (in a bad way) and serves no apparent function other than being a place to store a very odd collection of unappealing furniture.
Apart from the new decor, the heater in our room didn’t work. We awoke to a very brisk 59° and could get nothing but more cold air out of the heating system. There are no phones in the rooms, so quickly calling the front desk for maintenance wasn’t an option. When we dressed and went down for breakfast, maintenance went to the room and “reset” the system. It worked when we returned.
On the positive side, the staff are wonderful, without exception — always have been and still are. The front desk voluntarily made a nice deduction in the room charge for the heating problem. The breakfast food offering was excellent, as it always has been (the decor in the dining area, called The Gathering Place, is as colorless as the other spaces and includes four very different seating styles in a very small place). The beds are comfortable and the linens are high quality.
Sadly, we will not likely return. We’ll find another warmer, more inviting place that still embraces being truly unique.
Unfortunately you will not find any information on the locations of each room so I will attempt to help out. When you walk into the front door you immediately see a staircase leading to the second floor. I will provide the names of each room you encounter assuming you turn left at the second floor landing (and walk in a clockwise fashion): Alamo, Vineyard (both face the street), Western (the first room facing the back of the building), Valley, Jarado's (the room closest to the staircase and I imagine the nosiest ?), Farmhouse, Mildred, Davey Brown, Mountain (which is at the far end and the largest room, sits over the portico you see from the street, has views of both the street and parking lot; also has a small balcony with chairs), Gaviota (facing the street with a small balcony), Equestrian, and Cynthia (which is the room closest to the staircase were you to have turned right at the second floor landing).
Those are also three rooms downstairs in an annex (which is located to the right of main building when viewed from the street). The rooms (ordered front to back) are: Fiesta, Windmill, and Wildflower. These appear to have access for wheelchairs. I did not have an opportunity to peer into these rooms
We stayed in the Mountain room which was indeed spacious. But I'm not sure you need to pay up for the experience. We happened to be there when only two rooms were occupied and since the doors were open to each, we can confirm that there isn't a bad room in the inn. (The only one we did not see was Jarado's but I think it should be avoided given its location.) Some reviews have mentioned a preference for the street view. I can't imagine why. There isn't a view of any value plus the street can be a bit noisy. If you value silence, stick with those room facing the parking lot. Were I to visit again I would target either Davey Brown or Mildred. Each is far enough way from the staircase and face the parking lot. Another point comes to mind: Cynthia and Equestrian sit on top of the dining room which could also make them a tad noisy until the dining room shuts down, but may disturb you when breakfast is served. Another consideration: since the inn sits on a corner, both Vineyard and Western also face a side street. Cannot comment on the traffic for that street, but Vineyard would have two streets to contend with. Hope that helps.
Romantic B&B with a wonderful breakfast. Fine local wines and tasty cheese and crackers in the afternoon. Staff is very attentive. Area is full of fun activities from shopping in Solvang to tasting at the superb local wineries. Take a trip to the wild coast about 40 minutes away.