Santa Barbara, also known as the American Riviera, is one of California’s finest and luxurious treasures. Home to world-famous celebrities, a predominant college scene and a thriving Latin culture, Santa Barbara is diverse as it is beautiful. Located an hour and a half from Los Angeles, here are the best places to stay and visit during your weekend getaway to Santa Barbara.
Where to Stay
San Ysidro Ranch – This posh hideaway is perfect for your storybook staycation. Recently rated by Forbes as America’s #1 Hotel, these cottages have been known to host some very elite guests a mere 20 minutes away from Santa Barbara. Enjoy a sunset dinner amongst the lavender fields before you retreat to your private cottage. If you’re not afraid to splurge, make sure to book John and Jackie’s honeymoon retreat. This large room was one of the president’s favorite vacation spots!
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore – Located along the quiet beaches of Santa Barbara lies one of the best views of the American Riviera at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore. You probably are familiar with the Four Seasons and this beautiful spot lives up to the resort’s stellar reputation. The best part? The stunning pool with the ocean backdrop, making it the dreamiest spot to catch some rays.
Canary Hotel – In the heart of Downtown Santa Barbara lies the Spanish-inspired yet urban Canary Hotel. Famous for it’s gorgeous rooftop, guests enjoy the fantastic views, colorful tile designs, great service and bright, spacious guest rooms with State Street as their playground.
Harbor House Inn – Seeking a bed and breakfast spot? This hidden oasis feels more like Shangri-La than an inn, but the cozy rooms and charming staff would beg to differ. Situated between Stearns Wharf and Pershing Park, this inn offers more affordable prices without sacrificing the location.
Simpson House Inn – For an upscale and one-of-a-kind experience, you can’t miss the Simpson House Inn. This B&B might come with a hefty price tag, but this romantic retreat is one of the most prestigious, awarded inns and the perfect spot to enjoy your weekend getaway to Santa Barbara.
Where to Eat
Mony’s Mexican Food – Located a few blocks from State Street, Mony’s is a Mexican staple in SB. They’re famous for their extraordinary salsa bar (including peanut and pistachio flavors) and their large portions, but it’s the high quality food that will keep you coming back.
Finch & Fork – Looking for an epic brunch spot? Not only is this great spot open for brunch, lunch and dinner, but their service is off the charts! If the $1 mimosas or their hot pink deviled eggs haven’t hooked you, maybe their honey lavender creme brulee will!
Santa Barbara Shellfish Company – Chowder and urchin and crab, oh my! Take in the view at Stearns Wharf and enjoy some of the best seafood you’ve ever had. Make sure to start with a platter of fresh oysters followed by their fairly priced Maine lobster.
Toma’s Restaurant and Bar – If fine dining is your thing, than this romantic, waterfront restaurant is the perfect spot! This legendary, old-world aesthetic has been there for 80 years, allowing the restaurant to master its culinary craft. Chef Nat Ely makes sure to support local fishermen, farmers and foragers to give you the ultimate Santa Barbara experience.
Freebirds World Burrito – A favorite amongst the college town of Isla Vista, Freebirds is the end-all, be-all when it comes to tasty burritos at 3 am. The line may be long, but your party-self will thank you.
Sandbar – Looking for some decent nightlife? This oldie but goodie is right in the heart of State Street (and my personal favorite spot in SB). Sandbar is the perfect spot to drink and dance late into the night! You won’t find any fancy frills here, just good times, a bomb patio and good vibes. The crowd is diverse, the music is live and the drinks are always flowing!
What to Do
Old Spanish Days Fiesta – Also known as just “Fiesta” is one of Santa Barbara’s biggest celebrations! Californians come from far and wide to partake in the amazing Spanish festivities that include tasty Mexican food, Flamenco dance, tasty drinks, street parades and various performances. This 5-day party starts at Mission Santa Barbara and continues all throughout Downtown. Just make sure to watch out for the confetti-filled eggs; they’ll get stuck in your hair forever.
Visit the Santa Barbara Zoo – Santa Barbara is home to some pretty wild creatures and I’m not just talking about the celebrities! The Santa Barbara Zoo is home to 500 animals including Asian Elephants, African Lions and Western Lowland Gorillas. Not only can you visit all of these animals but interact with them too!
Ride Bikes Along Cabrillo – The Santa Barbara coastline is one of the most beautiful views in the world and what better way to explore it all than on a bicycle? Rent a bike from one of the many rental shops in Downtown SB and head to the Cabrillo Bike Path for spectacular views with the locals.
Enjoy a Show at the Granada Theater – Opened in 1924 and restored in 2008, the Granada Theater is home to local performing companies such as Opera Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Symphony, CAMA, State Street Ballet and Santa Barbara Choral Society. The dazzling performances are only highlighted by the beautiful architecture with a blend of Spanish colonial and 1920’s art deco.
Drink Your Way Through a Wine Tour – Santa Barbara is in the heart of Central California’s legendary wine country. Between Santa Barbara, Los Olivos, San Luis Obispo and Solvang, you’ve got plenty of vineyards to see and wine to taste!
What to See
Explore Mission Santa Barbara – Also known as “Old Mission,” Mission Santa Barbara is the 10th of the 21 California Missions and is a chief landmark within Santa Barbara. For $20, you can explore the Spanish Franciscan architecture, the 230 year-old mausoleum, and the 12-acre gardens.
Capture Sunset at Arroyo Burro County Beach Park – A local favorite, this beach park has been featured as ‘The Best of Santa Barbara’ and is not to be missed. With its beautiful rock formations and stunning waters, you’ll feel transported to another world. Note that this beach is more scenic and beautiful than anything else and that any surfing should be enjoyed at one of Santa Barbara’s other amazing beached.
Stroll Through Lotusland – Contrary to Santa Barbara’s Botanical Gardens, this rare and exotic garden is an estate with an expensive admission. But don’t let the cost scare you away! This nontraditional garden is unlike any other with a cacti garden, aloe garden, Shakespeare garden and more.
Of course the best part of Santa Barbara are the friendly, beachside locals. So feel free to wander and discover the beautiful city on your own! You’re sure to stumble upon some local gems and best kept secrets if you talk to the right people.
About the Author
Sebrin Elms is a newlywed, travel fanatic, book lover, champagne connoisseur and kitty mama. When she’s not globe-trotting or wearing flower crowns, she’s probably writing on her blog, The Clumsy Traveler.