I’ve been to Santa Barbara many times to visit my brother, and each time I’m obsessed with it (if you’re reading this Yash, don’t move back so I always have an excuse to visit).
Santa Barbara’s got the Socal sun with the Norcal vibe, and you can go pretty much any time of year and get good weather (although lately it’s been weirdly rainy). You can also enjoy great wine, food, bars, hikes, drives, and even college nightlife, if that’s your scene (it’s definitely mine, no shame). And in a weekend you can pack a lot.
We spend each visit a little differently; this time, here’s what we did to make the most out of our trip.
First off, always drive! Going to Santa Barbara is way more scenic than going to LA (101 > 5 forevah). We usually take a half day from work and drive down with this playlist blasting.
Stay: Since you have a car, you can stay in the general Santa Barbara area if things are filled up in the city, which happens often so book ahead. I like staying in Carpinteria (cute downtown), or Montecito if you’re going for the luxe vibe. Otherwise, an Airbnb in downtown SB is deal.
The Shop: A fast casual joint with outdoor seating. If it’s sunny, sit outside; you’ll be sure to spot many doggos. Their menu is full of toasts with fun names like the Eastside (jalapeños) and the YOLO. I liked the Bananas, topped with the crunchiest almond butter they make themselves!
Olio E Limone Pizzeria: Do NOT go to the actual restaurant, which isn’t that great. The adjacent pizzeria is where it’s at; make bookings ahead.
Santa Barbara Public Market: A large indoor warehouse with tons of food stalls and TVs for the sports lovers. The Mexican station is some of the best I’ve had in SB, and I’ve heard good things about the Thai place too. Grab a beer and relax, it’s the best way to have a casual dinner after a long day.
Stella Mare’s: The cutest French spot for brunch that’s half greenhouse half restaurant! Sit in the greenhouse and order super traditional French food like deviled eggs and French onion soup.
Wildcat: I don’t care what anyone else says, I love this bar. Full of college kids, the drinks are dirt cheap, the songs are hype, the dancing is solid, and the memories are hazy. Obsessed.
Los Olivos: There are tons of tasting rooms here with interesting backstories. I liked Sarsoos & Sons, which is still family run and names many of their bottles after family members. You can also only buy the wine from them, since it’s not distributed anywhere else.
Presqu’ile Winery: A gorgeous winery tucked away up north in Santa Maria. It’s got huge floor-to-ceiling windows with killer views of wine country. The wines are great; the charcuterie plate is even better.
Cachuma Lake: A good scenic point to walk around on a nice day.
Cold Springs Arch Bridge: The hipster Bixby bridge and equally as cool. Made even more hipster by ColD Springs Tavern nearby, where you can grab snacks or dinner before heading back into town.
Frog Wall: Leave it to my mom to find a secret wall full of frog statues in uptown SB. Located in a super residential area, people leave and take frog figurines at will…..just because.
Butterfly Beach: It’s not an SB trip without some beach time! The water is way too cold to go in, but a little walk along the sand never hurt nobody.