Travel

19 Ways to Have Your Best Santa Barbara Trip Ever

Published On 08/09/2016 Published On 08/09/2016

You can always find a good excuse to get away to Santa Barbara, whether it’s for beautiful beaches, fresh seafood, ample wine-tasting options, or just to chillll. It’s only about a two-hour drive from LA, and there’s something for everyone -- plus, over the summer, it’s usually 10-20 degrees cooler than LA, which means a respite from those 100-plus-degree days. Here’s everything you’ve got to do to have the best weekend there possible:

1. Ride the Amtrak train there

Sure, it might take a little longer to get there, but it’s well worth the trip, and let’s be honest, you will be doing some drinking (lots of it, in fact). Besides, who wants to sit on the 101 anyway? You get to cruise along the coast in big comfy seats, order food without having to leave your seat, and have an excuse to take the Amtrak -- and then once you get there, you don’t have to drive, and they have ride-share services. Like, seriously, no car necessary.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.

2. Sip on wine (or beer) in the Funk Zone

This hip warehouse district is about a block away from the ocean, so before you head out to catch some rays, enjoy a few glasses of wine at the rows of boutique tasting rooms. If you would rather have a cold beer, pop into Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., in the heart of the Funk Zone, and try any of the rotating specialty beers on tap, or taste a flight of four beers for $8.

The Lark SB

3. Have a five-star dinner at The Lark

Your family-style dinner at this lauded New American restaurant will probably come out looking more like a piece of art than an edible arrangement. But then you’ll get over it, and realize that your plate is filled with ingredients so fresh they were probably picked from the farm that morning. The cocktail program (which uses seasonal fruits and veggies) is on-point, too.

4. Watch a live performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl

The open-air venue is pretty much like the Hollywood Bowl’s cousin, but way more intimate. The lineup this year includes Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Thievery Corporation, and, um, Journey, so get on it. Make sure to visit the Scranton Overlook above the seats, where you can get a glass of wine or beer, and enjoy the views from Carpinteria to the bluffs of Hope Ranch.

McConnell's Ice Cream

5. Get a scoop of McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream on State St

The family-owned shop originated in Santa Barbara, and has been serving creamy scoops since 1949. While you stroll through the heart of Downtown Santa Barbara, stop by the State St location to cool off.

Bacara Resort & Spa

6. Relax with a Sea Breeze Massage at the Bacara Resort & Spa

If you’re looking for a little R&R, escape to the Bacara Resort for its open-air rooftop terrace massage. You’ll get a full-body deep-tissue rubdown while overlooking the ocean and enjoying the cool sea breeze. Sound luxurious? It is (and so are the prices).

7. Have a picnic at Summerland's Lookout Park

If you’re with a big group, pack a lunch and picnic at this quaint park with stellar views of the coastline. There's a $65 fee to reserve a table, but it's got BBQ grills, horseshoes, and access to the beach and hiking trails.

Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail

8. Taste wine along the Urban Wine Trail

Once you’ve hit up the retail shops on State St, take a short walk over to the Urban Wine Trail -- basically, over 20 tasting rooms in and around the Funk Zone area. If you like Bordeaux, check out Grassini Family Vineyards, which is a small-production tasting room that pours only Bordeaux varietals. Other notable tasting rooms include Riverbench and Cottonwood Canyon Winery. You can also order a pedicab to take you along the trail, or hail one down on the streets.

9. Have lunch at Brophy Bros.

The view of the harbor itself at this seaside restaurant is worth the price of the meal. Request a seat outside or grab one at the bar facing the view (it’s worth the extra wait). Once you’ve started to feel like you’re on vacation and ready to eat, order seafood. Don’t think about ordering anything else. The Cajun seabass, salmon, or beer-battered fish & chips are all good options. So is washing it all down with a cold beer.

Flickr/brewbooks

10. Get lost in the gardens of Ganna Walska Lotusland

Named after the Polish singer, the 37-acre garden of rare and exotic plants has been frequently listed as the one of the 10 best gardens in the world. Make sure you visit the Lotus Pond -- which was originally the estate’s swimming pool, and is now overrun with foliage.

Stearns Wharf Pier

11. Chow down on clam chowder at Stearns Wharf

You can’t go to Santa Barbara without having at least one clam chowder sourdough bread bowl or a chill-out session on the pier, so why not kill two birds with one stone? The bread bowl at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company is probably the closest you’ll get to the real New England deal without a plane ticket, and while you’re there, you can watch the sailboats set sail and wish you were on one... except then, you wouldn’t be eating clam chowder. So you’re winning anyways.

12. Rent bikes from Wheel Fun and ride along the coastline

A bike ride along the coastline with palm tree-lined streets and a view of the Santa Ynez Mountains? Um, yes please. Wheel Fun has a huge selection, and is right on the beachfront. Bingo.

Michael Harte

13. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Renaud's Patisserie

This little Parisian bistro serves pastries that are comparable to the ones you’ll find in Paris. While it serves food-food, the pastries are the real reason you’re coming here. Stop by for a mid-day treat (or two), and try the perfectly flaky almond or chocolate croissants or any of the 10 different flavors of macarons.

Belmond El Encanto | courtesy of Belmond

14.  Dine alfresco and watch the sunset at Belmond El Encanto

Here’s what you do. Reserve a seat on the terrace, order yourself a glass of wine, sit back, and enjoy the killer sunset and panoramic views of Santa Barbara. Seriously guys, it’s pretty amazing.

15. Make a trip for tri-tip

Cold Springs Tavern is a little saloon off the beaten path that looks like Little Red Riding Hood’s cabin from the outside with taxidermy plastered all over the inside. It's famous for its tri-tip BBQ sandwiches (on Saturday and Sunday only), but also serves wild game if you’re into that. Blues and classic rock bands play on Sundays, which often draw nearby biker groups. Authentic!

16. Discover art at the Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show

Every Sunday, over 200 local artisans display their original artwork during this European-inspired art fair that has been running for 50 years strong along Cabrillo Blvd. All the artists are Santa Barbara locals and create the art themselves, so you’ll get to meet and talk to the artist themselves and, if you’re lucky, watch them in action.

Santa Barbara Adventure Company

17. Kayak through the Channel Islands sea caves

If you’re feeling adventurous, hit up Santa Barbara Adventure Company and paddle through some of the largest sea caves in the world, then snorkel over protected kelp beds. They’ve also got excursions that go rock climbing, surfing, and more.

18. Break a sweat and hike Tangerine Falls

The hike starts off with a relatively easy uphill climb. When you see the fork in the road, steer to the right for Tangerine Falls. The path becomes moderate and rocky, but is packed with scenic views (and poison oak -- be careful!).

Pure Order Brew Co

19. Play bocce while you drink at Pure Order Brewing Co.

This brewery is like having a beer in your friend’s well-stocked backyard: the patio’s got all your favorite drinking games like giant Jenga, Connect Four, and two olympic-style bocce courts. It also pours by the Reinheitsgebot law, and offers $5 beer flights.

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The best way to do Santa Barbara is on a whim! Leila does it so often, she now has a Santa Barbara playlist, just ask nicely on Instagram or Twitter @leilaslist

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