Happy Monday, friends. I'm in a particularly good mood as I'm writing this because I'm back in Europe! I bought a one-way ticket over here and am so excited to re-visit some of my favorite places in the world- as well as explore some new ones! The past few days I've been in London, and it's been so good for my soul to jump right back into life here. I've got a pretty full calendar these next few weeks (and I still don't know when I'm coming home) so chances are, I'll be a little MIA here on the blog for a while until things settle down at bit. So until then, be sure to follow along my adventures in real-time on Snapchat and Instagram (@blonde_atlas).
But before I get too pre-occupied with this set of European adventures, I still have a few more posts to share from my recent US road-trip. So today, let's rewind to my time in Santa Barbara.
Located on the central California coast, Santa Barbara is known for perfect weather, excellent local wine + restaurants and for being rich in Spanish colonial heritage (which is evident from the Mediterranean-style white stucco buildings and red-tiled roofs). You could easily spend all your time just enjoying the beautiful beaches-- except there is way more Santa Barbara has to offer that you simply can't miss. While we were only there for a couple short days (in hindsight I wish we had given ourselves a few more) I saw so many wonderful things that I'd recommend to everyone-regardless of how long your visit is.
Let's start with accommodations. We stayed at Hotel Santa Barbara, which is a fantastic place to stay if you want something that's central and airs upscale, while still being competitively priced. It's conveniently located on State Street- which is right in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara and walking distance to more than I can even begin to list. It's main stairwell in the lobby boasts beautiful mosaic tiles, which are a common trait of the Mediterranean architecture this town is known for (I couldn't stop taking pictures at ever one that I came across).
Rooms are bright, airy + spacious. Parking is available on-site. The staff is most hospitable and welcoming (they provided us with most of the recommendations on my itinerary - which was so helpful!) Essentially, Hotel Santa Barbara has everything you need and more to ensure a comfortable stay and I would truly recommend it to anyone visiting.
EAT + DRINK
While Santa Barbara is bursting at the scenes with excellent food and wine, a gal can only consume so much in a few short days! Here are a few places I'd recommend from my time there:
Along State Street just before you get to the pier, we popped into State Street Coffee, which is a quaint local spot, to get our caffeine fix in the morning.
On the end of the pier, you’ll find Shellfish Co. which offers great views and service (try the the cioppino).
Mony’s Mexican Food is a hole in the wall taqueria (just across from Santa Barbara Winery in the Funk Zone) that has one of the most epic salsa bars I've ever seen- including pistachio + peanut!
Loquita is a hot new tapas restaurant with super hip décor. Their sangria and churros are awesome.
We went to Bella Vista at Four Seasons Santa Barbara for dinner (which I'll get to in a minute) but ended up spending several hours on site to take in all this gorgeous property has to offer. Even if the price tag to stay here is a bit out of your budget (rooms start around $600 USD), you definitely still want to come by for dinner or a drink to enjoy the views.
Bella Vista, where we had dinner, is Santa Barbara's most premier al fresco oceanfront dining experience and offers panoramic ocean views across from Montecito's Butterfly Beach. Perfect for sunset dining, the outdoor patio has outdoor fire pits, heat lamps and blankets to keep you warm even after the sun goes down. The menu is contemporary Italian and showcases fresh California ingredients. Bella Vista is also the only restaurant in Santa Barbara (and one of the only 12 in California) licensed to cure its own meats- which means you don't want to leave without trying the charcuterie!
Regardless of what brings you to Four Seasons- be it luxury accommodations, a meal or simply some cocktails- it's most definitely worth a trip during your time in Santa Barbara.
Arguably the most popular attraction, the Santa Barbara mission is truly beautiful and worth seeing during your trip. But rather than simply driving or taking a cab, hop on the trolley (which boards by the pier). It’s a great way to see lots of Santa Barbara’s top attractions + architectural charm, and you can hop on and off as you please.
To get a proper feel for the downtown Santa Barbara area, do a little shopping and scope out some fun restaurants along State Street. I would recommend walking no further than Arlington Theater (corner of State and Sola Street). Be sure to pop into some of the hidden plazas along the way, like El Paseo (California’s first shopping center) and La Arcada Plaza (a spanish paseo and courtyard with exotic trees + tiled fountains). Also, make sure to stop in Lovebird, the little store located right next to Hotel Santa Barbara, which is locally owned + operated and offers handmade jewelry + clothes.
The Funk Zone is the newest + coolest neighborhood in town (so I was told) with boutique wine tasting rooms and little shops tucked into interested funky buildings. Grab a glass of wine at the patio of Municipal Winemakers and take in the ambiance.
VISIT LOCAL WINERIES
I know I’ve already touched on wine a few times, but be sure to go a step beyond trying the local wine and actually visit one of thewineries in person. We opted for Santa Barbara Winery, which offers several tasting options and a fun ambiance.
Whether you’re looking for idyllic weather and beaches, art and culture, outdoor recreation or an unbeatable food and wine scene Santa Barbara has you covered. It’s only a couple hours away from LA, and about an hour and a half from Ojai (on the way to LA) which makes it a great addition to tack onto your southern California travel itinerary. I always love my time in California, but Santa Barbara truly stole a little piece of my heart and I have no doubt that I'll be back again soon.
Anything else you want to know to plan your own trip? Tell me in the comments below!
I'm off to do some exploring but thanks as always for stopping by + stay tuned for more adventures to come!