Last month my husband and I packed our bags and headed for sea breezes and a long weekend away visiting my sister and her family in Santa Barbara. I was immediately taken with this idyllic, yet sophisticated, little town (the perfect weather didn’t hurt either).
With its white stucco walls, red tile roofs, dusty succulent gardens, spindly palm trees and slight European flair, it’s no wonder it’s been called the Spanish Riviera of America.
For being a sleepy beach town, there’s so much to do! And while we didn’t quite get to everything on our list, here are a few favorites (plus, some faves from the CS Team), including spots we have queued up for our return trip! Scroll on for your guide on where to stay, what to eat and what to do for your perfect weekend away in Santa Barbara! Already checking the calendar for when we can make a return visit…
Let me know if there’s anywhere I missed!
featured image by santa barbara travel
image via santa ysidro ranch
WHERE TO STAY
Santa Ysidro Ranch – This luxury rustic hotel offers amazing amenities, beautiful landscaping and loads of hiking trails nearby that make this spot is a little slice of heaven. Book a luxurious stay or just stop by for an amazing dinner with food sourced mostly from the ranch’s own garden.
Four Seasons The Biltmore – With private bungalows and terraces that overlook their lush gardens and one of the best beaches in Santa Barbara (Butterfly Beach), The Biltmore offers the perfect blend of casual sophistication Santa Barbara is known for. Plus, a stay here can grant you access to the exclusive and historic Coral Casino Beach Club (mentioned below).
The Simpson House – This beautiful bed-and-breakfast inn features an acre of manicured English gardens just a short walk from Santa Barbara’s arts and culture district. There are 15 guest rooms in the main house as well as elegant suites and cottages, each with a wood-burning fireplace.
El Capitan – These tents and cabins aren’t your average camping experience. Just north of Santa Barbara and location right by the beach, El Capitan is the ultimate glamping stay and a great way to experience the El Capitan Canyon. If you’re not up for cooking your own meals, head to the fresh and tasty Canyon Market and Deli. Perfect for a trip with the kids!
image via loquita
WHERE TO EAT
Jeannines – Stop by for a classic cozy breakfast at this spot that’s always packed with locals. With three locations, it’s easy to find one close to you!
D’Angelos – This snug little bakery offers housemade breads, pastries and other light eats with sidewalk seating.
Scarlett Begonia – Using locally-sourced and organic ingredients + the most beautiful courtyard, this spot will help you start your day off right. They reportedly have the best cinnamon roll in town!
Ah Juice – Feeling something a little lighter? This all organic juice and smoothie bar is the perfect way to start your day!
Lily’s Taquería – This little-known taco shop is tucked in downtown’s far end and offers cheap, delicious and unfussy tacos.
Savoy – Laid-back and full of healthy fresh made options, this cafe was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives for good reason! We stopped in after a stroll through State Street and downtown for one of my favorite simple and healthy lunches.
Lilac Patisserie – One of my personal favorites, this all gluten-free bakery and cafe is a gluten intolerant’s dream. We’re talking avocado toast and sandwiches made with their amazing artisanal bread and to-die-for tarts, pastries, cupcakes and cheesecakes.
Santa Barbara Public Market – An upscale urban market with tons of different options, this is the perfect spot for a stroll through and a casual lunch.
Brophy Brothers – For a lively and casual lunch or dinner, head to Brophy Brothers for fish and chips overlooking the water.
Loquita – Serving farm–fresh Spanish tapas & amazing craft cocktails this busy spot wins major aesthetic points and features a cozy patio.
The Boathouse – Upscale seafood & brunch spot on Hendry’s beach with panoramic ocean views and a heated outdoor patio.
Lucky’s – If you’re looking for an old-world steakhouse experience, head to Lucky’s for martinis, oysters, steaks and a bar that’s open late.
The Lark – Tucked inside the Santa Barbara Fish Market, The Lark serves up generous portions of locally-sourced comfort food staples that are perfect for sharing.
Olivers – If you’re looking for an upscale vegetarian dinner, look no further than Olivers. Be sure to ask for a spot on their amazing patio.
image by hannah zahner
Ledbetter Beach – A favorite for beginner surfing lessons thanks to the easy waves and laid back attitude, my husband had his first surf lesson here! There’s a great area with picnic tables and grills if you’re feeling a little cookout.
Hendry’s Beach – Super dog friendly and an easy walk over to The Boathouse (mentioned above), this spot is one of the local’s favorites.
Butterfly Beach – Another local favorite, it’s a popular spot on sunny days so parking can be hard to find. There are not a ton of amenities around it so be sure to pack a yummy picnic!
image by hannah zahner
THINGS TO DO
Ganna Walksa’s Lotusland – This the most beautiful/bananas botanical garden ever. Be sure to check out their private tours that run during the spring and summer.
The Funk Zone – A couple-block radius right off the pier, The Funk Zone has tons of awesome wine tasting rooms, and is a great place to scope out which wineries you’d like to hit if you plan to spend a day up in Santa Ynez. Hang around for its outdoor eating and local wine and craft beer.
Hiking at Inspiration Point – This intermediate hike is fairly short (3.5 miles round trip) and leads into Santa Barbara’s foothills and ends with an incredible view of the city. On a clear day you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of downtown, the coastline and maybe even the Channel Islands. Pro tip – plan your hike so you end up at the top at sunset. Trailhead: Tunnel Rd. and Mission Rd., Santa Barbara, CA 93190
The Mission – Founded in 1786, The Mission is one of Santa Barbara’s most historic and picturesque landmarks. You can tour the still active church and explore the grounds – where you’ll see 17th-century art, re-creations of the Mission’s living quarters and kitchen, graceful architecture and the colorful gardens.
Santa Barbara Courthouse – With its Spanish-Colonial style, elaborate hand-painted murals and amazing view from the top of the clock tour, this is a must see! Fun fact: Gwyneth Paltrow married Chris Martin here! Be sure to check the events schedule to see if there’s an outdoor movie going at the Courthouse’s Sunken Gardens. Movie showings are free and usually begin around 8:30pm. Bring snacks, jackets and a cozy blanket!
Solvang – After a quick (35 miles north of SB) and beautiful drive through the mountains, you’ll find yourself in the quant Danish capital of America. Take in the town’s numerous shops, bakeries, windmills, 15+ wine tasting rooms and stop by Copenhagen Sausage Garden for lunch!
image via jenni kayne
WHERE TO SHOP
Jenni Kayne – Stop by both Jenni Kayne shops in Montecito (one houses the women’s collection, and the other is a part home goods shop and part kids boutique) and soak up the perfectly curated goodness.
Diani – Diani is a longtime mainstay for SB and Montecito locals. Shop designer wear, beautiful place settings and linens, plus an extensive shoe shop.
Cos Bar – Peruse through the aisles and aisles of all the beauty goods you could ask for, including some great non-toxic picks!