Calif. destination that paid people to visit has a new promo

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California’s Santa Maria Valley made news headlines last year with its “stimulus package” that lured travelers with $100 Visa gift cards.

This year, the region set amid ranchland on the Central Coast is at it again with another attention-grabbing public relations campaign  called the “beat inflation vacation” — an attempt to lure in people who thought they couldn’t afford to travel amid skyrocketing inflation. 

Sorry, there’s no free cash this time. This deal doesn’t even come with a discount code or special promo code. 

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau is simply flaunting its affordable prices — that it claims are lower than those in better-known travel spots such as the Napa Valley. 

“We’ve always positioned ourselves as the affordable Central Coast getaway, and I think that’s very apparent when you compare prices across the board with some of our neighboring destinations,” said Jennifer Harrison, tourism director for the chamber of commerce. “We started talking about the inflation issue and rising gas prices and we thought it was time to really put it out there and let people know that they can still access the Central Coast and not spend a lot of money.”

The chamber took a look at the average price of hotel dining and wine tasting in Santa Maria and compared it to the cost in Paso Robles, Napa and Pismo Beach. You can see what its research found in the graphic below and find more details about the methodology at

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau pulled hotel price comparisons from Tripadvisor in early May for the weekend of June 24 to 26, 2022.

Santa Maria Valley

SFGATE did its own search for hotel rooms in the Santa Maria Valley available in August and found several options, including a Best Western Plus with a pool and the Historic Santa Maria Inn, with prices around $140 to $150 a night during the week and $220 to $230 on weekends.

The Hitching Post in Casmalia is housed in a 100-year-old building. 

The Hitching Post in Casmalia is housed in a 100-year-old building. 

Santa Maria Valley

About 260 miles south of San Francisco, the Santa Maria Valley sits in a rural landscape dotted with ranches, farms and small towns such as Santa Maria, Orcutt and Casmalia. These towns have a cowboy flavor and are lined with antique stores and restaurants.

Harrison said wineries, hiking trails, wildlife preserves and steak houses are all a draw. Sunset magazine has called Santa Maria’s barbecue the best in the Western United States. The area has its own way of preparing tri-tip by seasoning it with black pepper, salt and garlic before slow-cooking over an open fire of branches from local native oak trees.

To sample this style of cooking, Harrison recommended the Hitching Post, a 70-year-old establishment housed in a 100-year-old building. “We of course have great Mexican restaurants like Maya, which is closer to downtown Santa Maria, and then definitely Trattoria Uliveto [in Orcutt] has become a big hit among people who really liked that elevated Italian cuisine. And the Pizzeria Bello Forno [in Orcutt] is a really nice pizza eatery. And then of course, the Far Western Tavern [in Orcutt] really put Santa Maria Valley tip on the map and they’re currently looking at an arcade as well.”

There are more than 7,500 acres of vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley, the Central Coast’s first official American Viticultural Area. “We really do have a really great wine region that’s very comparable to our competitors,” Harrison said. “And I think it’s untapped and starting to make an impact in the white space. And then, of course, we have our old town Santa Maria, which is just an up-and-coming beautiful little community of small restaurants and dining experiences and antiquing. It’s just  a great way to get away from the big city, or get away from more of the congested areas and explore a little bit of what California has to offer in a condensed space.”


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