Santa Barbara has many of my favorite parts of California. Far less traffic than L.A., warmer than San Fransisco, and a Napa-Sonoma vibe (thanks to the 100+ area wineries). And Mexican food. Like, really good Mexican food. But more on that later.
If you like drinking outside, eating outside, doing outdoorsy things... outside, then this guide is for you. If you like doing these things and you're a New Englander, I welcome you to join me in reconsidering if hanging out in an area of the country that only allows you to drink a crisp Viognier on a terrace five months of the year is the best way to live your life.
Canary Santa Barbara (Downtown): One of my best friends recently moved here for graduate school and I was lucky enough to stay with her. I also got a chance to check out the Canary and can vouch for the both the aesthetic (airy and modern, with a Spanish influence) and location (ideal, in the middle of downtown). The boutique hotel houses Finch and Fork, a rooftop pool terrace, and provides every room with a complimentary yoga mat. Namast'ay at the Canary.
Mesa Verde (The Mesa): Trendy vegan food with a Southwest vibe. They serve lunch and dinner but I went for the most important meal: brunch. Relax on the patio and sip on an herbal alchemy or cold pressed juice. Start with the potato latkes with tempeh bacon and avocado and split a brunch bowl for your main. You've got to fuel up for all that
wine drinking hiking you'll be doing.
La Super Rica (Milpas): Heralded as one of Julia Child's favorite restaurants and sang about by Katy Perry - Santa Barbara, chic, at La Super Rica, grabbing tacos, checking out hotties (yes, actual lyrics) - this place is a must. Head here after a coastal hike (you'll want to go hungry) and get the #16 (Super Rica Especial), tamales, rajas, tacos, guac... but definitely get the special. Cash only.
Backyard Bowls (La Cumbre and Downtown): If you're looking for a quick and fresh breakfast, this is your place. There may be a line and there's not a ton of room to sit or stand but these acai bowls are totally worth it. I recommend the island bowl in the kid's size - the small is massive.
Santa Barbara Public Market (Downtown): No downtown stroll is complete without a stop to this local food mecca. Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bowl (voted best noodle bar in SB), Rori's Artisinal Creamery (fun flavors like black pepper pistachio), and Corazon Cocina (if you haven't had enough tacos yet) are a few not-to-be-missed purveyors.
The Lark (Funk Zone): This place checks all the boxes for me. Ambiance, food, drink, service. But first, the popcorn. They give each table popcorn to start and it is perfect in every way. Salty, sweet, and spicy, I would happily eat bowl after bowl while sipping cocktails. Other highlights include the gorgeous garden terrace, roasted beets and strawberries, and Dungeness crab risotto. Don't forget to make a res!
Loquita (Funk Zone): Sister restaurant to The Lark, this place is arguably even more beautiful. Eat on the outside patio on wrought iron chairs surrounded by colorful bougainvilleas, order a round of tapas, and sip on one of the four signature Gin and Tonics. The Maravilloso G&T with rosemary and pink peppercorn is divine.
Rebar Coffee (Funk Zone): Cold brew vanilla lattes served in colorful mason jars. And a patio. Enough said.
Lama Dog (Funk Zone): Both a tap room and a bottle shop, you can grab a single beer or pack straight from the walk-in fridge and enjoy it onsite. They also have alcoholic kombucha on tap and board games available. If you want a change, Topa Topa is right next door.
Sunstone Winery (Santa Ynez): Although there are a lot of very chic, very accessible wineries in Santa Barbara (Kunin Wines, The Valley Project, and Les Marchands, to name a few), consider driving 30 minutes north to check out this boutique winery. The grounds include a beautiful courtyard surrounded by French lavender and rosemary and 5,000 square feet of stone barrel-aging caves. The family-run vineyard is also committed to organic grape growing and sustainable business practices.
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company (Funk Zone): If and when you've had enough wine, head over to this taproom and enjoy a craft beer (like the Blood Orange Wheat) on the outdoor patio. The shared picnic tables allow for entertaining conversation with friendly strangers. This is a place where everyone seems to be on vacation.
Funk Zone: This neighborhood is an old industrial area, nestled between State and Garden, and only a couple blocks from the water. Cool restaurants, art galleries, vintage stores, wineries, and breweries. We spent most of our time here and I have no regrets.
Coastal hikes: Definitely, definitely make it a priority to go on a hike or two. We chose Inspiration Point (7 miles total) and, while slightly steep in places, is a moderate trail that is still pretty manageable. This site is a great resource when deciding which trail is best. Pro tip: Bring a pair of older athletic shoes - or, you know, actual hiking shoes - as the trails are very dusty.
Hendry's Beach: Officially called Arroyo Burro Beach, this beach is located off Cliff Drive and is dog-friendly (!!!). The Boathouse is also rightthere if you're looking for drinks/dinner/brunch/etc. with a view.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse: The prettiest courthouse, ever. It's a beautiful example of well-preserved Andalusian architecture complete with a sunken garden, mosaic tiling, wrought-iron gates, and mission-style furniture. It's also open and free to visitors, although you might end up crashing a wedding or two.
If I had one more day...
Old Mission Santa Barbara: If Tumblr pink is a theme color in your insta feed, you'll want to snap some photos here.
Butterfly Beach (Montecito): Do a picnic sunset on this secluded beach.
Milk and Honey (Downtown): Because do you ever really tire of tapas?
The Good Lion (Funk Zone): Artsy cocktails!
Which of your favorite Santa Barbara spots did I miss? Tell me in the comments below!