Credit: Shannon Brooks

Our favorite Danish village in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang continues to up its cool cred thanks to an influx of Michelin-endorsed eateries, fresh watering holes, and boutique hotels. I was one of the first lucky guests to stay at the newest kid on the block, The Winston. A modern hideaway tucked off First Street, the property caught my attention due to its timely and innovative lodging concept — it’s completely contactless, meaning there is no traditional lobby, no keys, and no round-the-clock staff onsite. I was intrigued by this promise of “invisible service.” 

Prior to arrival, I received an email with detailed instructions for check-in, including the floorplan, my room number, and a unique entry code. After parking, I referenced the map and accessed the first entryway, punching my code into a digital touch screen. I found myself in an airy lounge-like space with tangerine colored walls that serves as the “lobby” and access point for 11 of the 14 guestrooms.

Once I got my bearings, I walked upstairs and through another seating area to find my room, #9. I entered the code again, and voilà! I walked into my massive room illuminated with filtered sunlight. The building used to be a retail/office space, so the rooms don’t have a traditional hotel footprint, which explained the vastness of my King Suite, sporting high ceilings with farmhouse-style wooden beams and dark gray accent walls. 

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Every room at The Winston is completely different down to the color palette and decor. On a tour the next morning, I learned each room’s look was built around a unique piece of art. I was especially drawn to some of the more whimsically appointed quarters, including one with pink wallpaper adorned with trees and a green velvet headboard.

When it comes to food and beverage on property, complimentary continental breakfast was delivered to my room knock-and-drop style. In the evening hours, you can enjoy local craft beer and wines from the nearby honor bar. 

Speaking of bars, the bathrooms have a unique beauty bar feature. The curated collection of personal care products from brands including Goop, Herbivore, Kopari, Ursa Major, and Hello may tempt you to try something new. 

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what happens if you run into any issues while staying at a hotel with invisible service. The only person I saw throughout my stay was the housekeeper refreshing rooms — talk about social distance! If you do have any needs, a team of staff based at The Winston’s sister property a few blocks away, The Vinland Hotel & Lounge, are always on call via text.

A stay at The Winston is a great excuse to eat your way through the culinary gems of Solvang. Cecco Ristorante, just steps away, dishes out delicious thin crust pizzas and Italian fare, as does nearby Toscana Pizzeria. If you time your visit for a Wednesday through Sunday night, definitely book a dinner reservation at First & Oak, considered one of the valley’s best. Longtime staple Paula’s Pancake House has a cult following for its breakfast fare. The courtyard of Mad & Vin in The Landsby is a nice locale for a leisurely weekend brunch. And you can’t go wrong with pastries and sweets from Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery and artisanal coffee drinks at Good Seed Coffee Boutique. 

The Winston also makes a great base for wine tasting adventures by day. While I was there, I visited Crown Point Vineyards to sample their luxurious appointment-only, cabernet-sauvignon-centric experience in Happy Canyon, the region’s warmest winegrowing area. Brave & Maiden Estate is another beautiful vineyard for a leisurely private tasting with sweeping Santa Ynez Valley views. And on your way out of town, Folded Hills makes a great last stop for a picnic lunch at their Estate Tasting Room and Farmstead location — reservations are required at most wineries these days, so a little advanced planning is recommended.

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