Dubbed “The American Riviera,” Santa Barbara has loads of charm. With the historic buildings oozing with Spanish influence to the laid-back beach vibes, you’ll instantly be drawn in. The town tends to take a backseat to other places in California like Napa or Los Angeles, but it really is a place not to be missed. After spending just a few days there, I didn’t want to leave. For starters, the scenery is spectacular. Mountains on one side and beach (and beach cliffs) on the other. There is so much to see and do that you could come back time and again and not repeat anything.
The beach is an obvious activity because – well – it’s California! And the beaches in Santa Barbara are beautiful. If you’re not looking to get any sand in between your toes, but still want to admire its beauty, head over to Stearns Wharf which is the oldest working pier in the state and one of the city’s best-known icons. The city is incredibly bike friendly, so grab a bike and head along the coastline to really take it all in.
When you’re done catching some rays, it’s time to experience all things food and drink. Downtown Santa Barbara is chock full of incredible restaurants and wine tasting rooms (more than 20 of them!). You’ll get incredible eats whether you sit down at a place like The Lark, which serves up unbelievable fare family style, or if you saunter up to an order-at-the-counter type place like Lucky Penny for a pizza and a beer to eat on the picnic tables outside. After spending a day in the city, you’ll be truly amazed at how many restaurants this town has packed in! Once you’re nearing your limit of eating and drinking, be sure to save room for McConnell’s Ice Cream. It just might be the best ice cream I’ve ever had!
After spending a day in town, plan to spend time getting out into the countryside. Head up the Santa Ynez mountains which are home to the area’s wineries. Sunstone, Demetria, Roblar, and Gainey Vineyard are just a few of the places to go. If you want to enjoy your day and not worry about driving, consider hiring a car and driver for the day. There are many companies out there that will plan out your day, make reservations at the wineries that require them, and pack a picnic lunch, allowing you to just focus on the fun stuff.
There are countless options when it comes to accommodations. You can stay downtown at the legendary Hotel Californian and be within walking distance of everything or go just outside of town and stay at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara (which is what I did).
The Four Seasons is truly spectacular. Situated right on the coast close to Montecito, the low, two-story Mediterranean buildings are covered in ivy and flowers and the walls inside the common areas are intricately painted, making you feel like you are on at 1940s movie set.
Spend a few days or an entire week, the choice is yours, but you will not run out of things to do. With mild temperatures, any time of year is the right time to visit. Just be sure to pack your laidback California attitude!