The climate, the sunsets, the wineries within the funk zone, the winding drive through Hope Ranch, the long stretch of ocean, the big ol’ mountains. These are a few of my favorite things about Santa Barbara. Its Spanish influence can be noticed while wondering the lovely flowered side streets accompanied by adorable cottages, exploring the rose garden at Mission Santa Barbara or walking the classic palm tree lined State Street.
My gorgeous home away from home provided me with special memories and beautiful friends, to say the least. My home for a solid three years became the perfect beach town I had dreamed about while growing up in Northern California. You can drive the roads of Montecito, enjoy lunch downtown with your toes in the sand, explore The Sacred Space, walk along ocean waves at Hendrys Beach and more! And if you get hungry, you are never far from a good meal and a delicious cocktail either, often with an ocean view. Here are my top tips, off the beaten path hidden gems and downtown guide to help you get the most out of a trip to the America Riviera.
Santa Barbara Courthouse
With luscious gardens and the opportunity to explore the inside of the courthouse, a trip to the courthouse will provide a 360 degree view of the city. This can be a quick stop because it’s centrally located downtown and totally worth it since its free. This is a really great place for photo opportunities and a perfect way to spend a few hours exploring the inside of the courthouse.
Mission Santa Barbara & Natural History Museum
These two landmarks make for a great afternoon. The Mission offers an audio tour, but exploring the gardens and inside makes the audio tour not super necessary in my book. The adjacent Rose Garden right in front of the museum makes this a great spot to picnic around the stunning homes in the surrounding the area. The Natural History museum is just around the corner from the mission and is not to be missed if you’re in the area already!
Where To Eat
Santa Barbara FisHouse (I worked here!)
FisHouse is located right on Cabrillo Blvd across from the pier with amazing seafood and a really great environment. If you have a dog, he outside patio is dog friendy and provides a wonderful view of the ocean and pier.
If you enjoy a good bloody mary, this is your spot. A little more spendy due to its location, but certainly worth it!
Same owners as FisHouse, this is a really amazing brunch food and stunning location at Hendry’s Beach (dog friendly beach in Hope Ranch). There’s often dolphins swimming in the waves here, which makes it a little more magical.
The Funk Zone
If you’re looking to explore the wine in downtown Santa Barbara, the Funk Zone is where you need to be! This area is quite new to downtown Santa Barbara and the tasting rooms are all within walking distance of each other! While you’re in the Funk Zone, don’t miss Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company! This super cute brewery and restaurant provides live music and a great atmosphere.
The Sacred Space & Montecito
One of my favorite completely hidden gems in Santa Barbara (county) is the Scared Space. Off the beaten path, this tranquil mediation spot is filled with lush gardens, an amazing shop and pavilions to sip tea and spend some quality time. The admission is free, making it a cool spot to check out before or after a trip to Montecito.
A Perfect Daytrip To Los Olivos
If you’re looking for an off the beaten path kind of day, a trip on Highway 154 to Cold Spring Tavern is one to not be missed. An old stagecoach stop in 1886, the tavern has kept up it’s rustic charm and serves up the best tri-tip sandwiches and other delicious comfort food. Down a small road off the highway, you’ll feel as if you are in a completely different time and place- which is definitely part of the experience!
After, continue on for about 30 miles to the wine region of Los Olivos. This is the absolute cutest hidden gem up in the Santa Barbara mountains with lots of vineyards as well as a lots of tasting rooms in the downtown area. One of my favorite tasting rooms is Carhartt for it’s charming back patio and delicious wines. A day trip here usually takes around 6 hours, so getting an early start is definitely something I recommend!
There are many beaches in Santa Barbara, but my favorite are actually Butterfly Beach in Montecito and Santa Claus Lane Beach in Carpinteria. These are more pristine and beautiful (and less crowded, as they are less known)!
The Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market takes place downtown on Saturdays (right on Anacapa Street off State) and it is a great place to roam around and try some local produce. See more information here!
The pier is really nice to walk out too, but the restaurants are super expensive. If you don’t mind about that, then by all means you should dine there! There’s nothing quite like it.
Renting bikes and riding on the beachfront on Cabrillo Blvd is super fun and bike rentals are everywhere!
The Arlington Theater is a super cute and “vintage-y” movie theater.
Hiking in Santa Barbara is widely encouraged! The most popular hike is Inspiration Point, but there are many more to choose from here depending on your preferences.
All in all, I couldn’t think of a more perfect place for a weekend getaway. I left a part of myself in Santa Barbara,and you can bet I will make future memories here, as it is my most treasured place outside of Northern California. After all, I created unforgettable memories with lifelong friends, found myself and fell in love all within a perfect, picturesque central coast town.
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