California Getaways: Santa Barbara’s quaint Spanish charm offers oasis hours from L.A.
Millions of tourists visit California on an annual basis. So why shouldn't locals indulge in the scenery and entertainment that California has to offer, be it via ‘staycation,’ weekend getaway, or day trips. Over the coming weeks, I will highlight some of the local gems that California has to offer, with trips quick enough for Angelenos to indulge in for a day, a weekend, or an extended stay.
Santa Barbara is one of them. Located a quick two hours north of LA, Santa Barbara offers gorgeous ocean views and quaint Spanish charm in the heart of the Southern California wine country. Wine, seafood, coastline and Mexican food: what more could a traveler ask for?
Downtown Santa Barbara is a tiny, walkable town, featuring shops, restaurants, bars and wine tasting rooms, along State Street and surrounding side streets. State Street ends at Cabrillo Boulevard, which runs along the beach, pier, docks, and coastline offering fantastic views and soft ocean breezes.
Accommodations: There are copious hotels in and around downtown Santa Barbara. If you want a luxurious splurge just steps from the street from the beach and ocean, try the Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara. The rooms are modern and spacious, featuring bright colors, lots of natural light, and C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries toiletries in the walled-off bathrooms. For a more quiet retreat, we requested a room away from the main pool, towards Cabrillo Boulevard, where the garden offers outdoor tables and chairs by the water fountain. There is also an open courtyard for dogs to play, and the option of in-room massage treatments. The hotel’s $10 per night resort fee includes wireless internet access, continental breakfast, access to the pools, and 2-hour bicycle rentals, which lodgers can rent multiple times per day and stay. Visit www.oceanasantabarbara.com for reservations. Rates start at $250 midweek and $400 weekend for a Santa Barbara King Room during the peak summer season (with lower rates during the winter months).
Food and Local Fare: Seafood and Mexican food are the staples in Santa Barbara, for obvious reason. But for those who want a break from the typical, the Palace Grill in downtown Santa Barbara offers Cajun/New Orleans food and cocktails, including their versions of jambalaya, crawfish, gumbo, and Hurricane and Rum Punch cocktails. This restaurant, just off the main drag on East Cota Street, always has a wait, and features live music outside the restaurant on Saturday nights for those waiting in line.
Right along State Street is Enterprise Fish Co, which boasts a rustic, fisherman feel inside the restaurant. The seafood is fresh and the clam chowder is wonderful. I tried the Mesquite Grilled Seafood Caesar, which is a monstrous salad featuring blackened prawns and heaps of Dungeness crab meat, atop a couple of heads of Romaine lettuce. Tip: Get the dressing on the side, as there is no way a normal human can consume this much food in one sitting.
And, of course, who could forget Sambo’s on the Beach for breakfast. This popular breakfast spot always has a wait, so on a Sunday morning one could put their name on the list and then peruse part of the Art Walk along Cabrillo for a bit while waiting for a table. Opt for the patio, if possible, which offers beach (and Art Walk) views.
Entertainment: As mentioned, every Sunday, local vendors and artists converge to sell their wares along Cabrillo Boulevard in the local Art Walk. Items for sale range from wind chimes to hats to clothing to original photography to household items.
Already being in wine country, many opt to make the drive further into wine country for tours and tastings. Approximately 30 miles (45 minutes) further into the Santa Ynez wine country is Solvang, the setting of the popular movie Sideways, which is set in the Southern California wine country. However, if one doesn’t want to make the trek, Santa Barbara has numerous tasting rooms throughout the city for the wine aficionado.
If the water is your playground, opt for a sunset dinner cruise along the coastline. Some include dinner and offer a scenic view of Santa Barbara from the sea. And if you are a theater lover, the Arlington Theatre is a fantastic place to catch a performance. Appointed like a Spanish courtyard, the theater has boasted various internationally acclaimed performances, such as Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and the New York Metropolitan Opera. Visit http://thearlingtontheatre.com/ for ticket information.
No matter what route you take, Santa Barbara offers locals a foodie, romantic, or beach getaway, just a short drive up the coast.