Visiting Santa Barbara, California

Latest visit: July 2018

Tips for visiting Santa Barbara:

  • Getting to Santa Barbara: you can drive up the Pacific Highway from Los Angeles, fly into Santa Barbara airport with United or take the Pacific Surfliner (train) up the coast.
  • Once you’re in the city, you can walk, bike, drive or hop on the downtown and waterfront shuttles (see schedule here).
  • I’ve stayed in a few hotels and Airbnbs in Santa Barbara. I enjoyed the experience because we got the inside scoop on the local spots and things to do and renting a room in a house was also much more affordable than most hotel rooms in the area.
    • Here are my top 2 favorite hotels (keep in mind I still have a lot to explore):
      • Ritz-Carlton Bacara– a 10/15 minute west of downtown Santa Barbara. Very peaceful and wonderful place for a romantic retreat.
      • Spanish Garden Inn – just a few blocks from State street and close enough to walk everywhere, this hotel is a little gem. Very quiet, romantic and well situated.
    • Places I want to try: Kimpton Goodland (a little bit outside Santa Barbara)
  • Take a stroll down State Street: check out the cute shops, restaurants, La Arcada (side street with shops) and I’d recommend stopping at Antique Alley (fun antique shop).
  • If you’re there over the weekend, check out the Farmer’s Market on Saturday (from 8:30-1pm) at 211 E Cota St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.
  • I also enjoyed walking up and down the pier (Stern’s Wharf) and watching the fishermen and pelicans.
  • Walk the Santa Barbara Harbor- dream of owning those beautiful boats, walk along the wall that shelters the Harbor and be on the lookout for seals.
  • Restaurants you will want to try while you are here:
  • You will want to check out the Funk Zone. It’s along the East Yanopali street and is what you would call an urban winery.  Here are some of my favorite spots to try out:
  • Still on my to do list: attend a concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl
  • Other things to do around Santa Barbara: explore the city of Solvang and go wine tasting, hike around Los Padres national park, discover Los Alamos (old, country-like small town) and Los Olivos, check out the Summerland winery on your way up to Santa Barbara and if you’re up for the 2h 30-minute drive, I hear the Hearst castle is quite a beautiful sight. If you’re looking for a local castle, check out the Knapps castle (& hike). You could also stop at The Cold Springs Tavern.

Impressions of Santa Barbara:

Santa Barbara remains one of my favorite destinations for a staycation. There’s something very peaceful about the town, it has a vacation vibe to it. The pace of living is slower than Los Angeles, and that’s refreshing by itself.
You can walk to most areas of town, which I would strongly recommend doing if you’re planning on going to the Funk Zone. I’ve spent a lot of time in this area, sipping on wine, listening to live music and savoring delicious food (The Lark and Lucky Penny are awesome!). Everything is within a few minutes’ walk, so once you’re here, you should expect to spend the rest of the day/night and uber home.
On my last 2 trips to Santa Barbara, I stayed at the Ritz Carlton Bacara with points from my Marriot Rewards loyalty program. This hotel is absolutely stunning and perfect for a relaxing staycation. It can also be a very romantic destination. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, both rooms I stayed in had a fireplace and a patio for lounging. The property also offers 3 pool options (including an adult one) as well as a beach access (very raw beachfront). The only problem with this property is that it’s a good 15-minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara. Next time I go I think I would like to stay a few nights and enjoy the remoteness of this beautiful property. I also noticed it’s much more quiet on weekdays and during low-season, which makes sense.
I need to start planning my next trip now!
Related posts: Visiting Solvang