A Weekend Guide to Santa Barbara
If you’re from anywhere in California, heading to Santa Barbara for a weekend trip will feel like you’re actually going somewhere. With its white washed pueblo-like buildings and overly-tall, swaying palm trees, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Southern-California inspired Greece. So what is there to do in this unique part of the golden state? Plenty that’s what.
Where to Stay
Staying at the Wayfarer SB is an event in itself. It’s quirky, youthful vibe is the perfect place to come home to after a night of partying or the ideal place to spend the whole day soaking in the sun. I couldn’t get over the inflatable couch you can float around in (be careful that thing tips!). Our room was also decorated in shiny, blue mermaid wallpaper, which made my inner little kid smile. This place is also great, because they allow you to rent bikes to cruise around in.
Mornings in Santa Barbara
If you’re a sunrise-chaser like me, then I highly recommend getting yourself out of bed early enough to watch the sunrise on the beach in Santa Barbara. We actually did this and didn’t have any luck, because the beach was completed socked in and so you’re not guaranteed to see one, but one of the morning cleaners pulled out his phone when we asked if the foggy weather was typical and showed us the sunrise the day before. Ugh we missed out.
However, even without the bright colors, getting up before everyone else was still magical. There was a still calm, serenity to the place and with no one around, but the morning cleaners and a few ambitious runners, we had the boardwalk to ourselves. Either way, if you’re into photography or just want to see another side of SB, I recommend the early morning start!
Where to Get Breakfast
If you decide to stay at The Wayfarer SB, then they provide a serve-yourself breakfast consisting of continental fares, such as oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, and bagels. There is also coffee and orange-infused water served 24/7. However, if you’re feeling like a bit more, then here are a couple of breakfast spots to hit up:
The Perfect Brunch Spot: The Shop Kitchen
This is the perfect example of the standard of cuisine SB offers. They serve both breakfast and lunch, but their specialty is brunch, which they serve everyday between 8am to 3pm. Although the dining area is a bit small, so you may be in for a wait, the food is well worth it.
The Local Favorite: Tupelo Junction Cafe
Tupelo is arguably the most popular breakfast spot in SB to both locals and visitors alike and once you go, you’ll see why. From great food to great service, you won’t leave disappointed. My favorite? The Crab Cake Hash with Poached Eggs.
Beach Lounging: Butterfly Beach
You can’t spend a weekend in Santa Barbara without hanging out at the beach for a little bit, unless you’re one of those people that hates sand in unspeakable places. The Butterfly Beach is the ideal beach for lounging, soaking up the rays and enjoying the clean sand and beautiful water that SB is known for.
Beach Walking: One Thousand Steps Beach
If you’re more of the beach exploring/walking type, then One Thousand Steps Beach will be right up your alley. Don’t worry, there’s only 150 steps not 1000, but it’s still pretty steep and your legs will burn on the way back up! If you go during high-tide, then you’ll be out of luck to get down to the beach so make sure you look up the tide schedule! During low tide, you’ll be able to see all that this secret beach is hiding, including starfish, crustaceans, tide pools and more!
On a Budget: Los Agaves
We didn’t want to spend too much money on our lunch so we headed to Los Agaves, which had some of the best tacos I’ve ever had! The best part was that it was $1.50 per taco and they had an extensive complimentary salsa bar.
Asian-Fusion: The Blue Owl
If you’re feeling something other than Mexican then The Blue Owl is also an affordable lunch option. I’m pretty keen on Asian-Fusion so I might be biased, but their Fried Rice is some of the best I’ve ever had!
Entertainment for Kids and Adults Alike: MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation
If you happen to be in SB when the weather isn't favorable, you’re just tired of being outdoors or you have little kids then MOXI might be the reprieve you’re looking for. If you’re staying at The Wayfarer SB, then this museum is only a few minutes walk away from it! The museum is three stories high and has tons of activities to partake in. The building itself is really cool and they have an awesome viewpoint where you get a great view of the surrounding area.
Hike Anyone? Knapp’s Castle
You need to get some exercise anyway so why not see a cool castle in ruins while you’re at it? Didn’t know that was a thing in Southern California? I didn’t really either. If you’d like to get some great photographs, then you’ll probably want to do this hike during sunset to get the perfect sun streaks and golden light.
A Little History: This castle was built by George Knapp in 1916 (so really a baby in the context of world castles). He was the founder of Union Carbibe, which was a subsidiary of Dow Chemical. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in 1940 by a forest fire, but fortunately for adventure-seekers, it’s open to the public to explore.
Getting There: It’s about a 20 minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara. Put in these coordinates into Google Maps to get to the trail head: (34.518155, -119.793234). The “hike” really is nothing more than a mile round trip.
You're probably going to be famished by the hiking, sun and play so here are two restaurants that you can't go wrong in!
Burgers: Eureka Burger
If you’re from So-Cal, then this might not be anything special as there are a few locations. However, for a good burger and a pint, Eureka Burger will always be my favorite. I used to always get the Cowboy Burger (BBQ Burger), but recently switched to the Bison Burger, which is also delicious. This is also a great spot, because they have a late night happy hour until 12pm with a ton of bar food items and $1 off all their beers.
Sushi and Poke Bowls: Big Eye Raw Bar
I’ve only ever had poke bowls from a food truck or fast food type venue, so thought, "why not splurge on some little fancy poke bowl action?" You can grab a seat at the bar to see the chefs do their thing. They also have a great beer selection.
Santa Barbara doesn’t have that much in way of clubs and the ones that are there are likely filled with their fair share of college kids. However, we had a lot of fun bar hopping around some of the cool bar venues. Here are my top three favs!
Cocktail Bar: The Good Lion
I’m not a big cocktail bar frequenter, but this one was really cool! The vibes are intimate and the cocktails are really good. The bartender definitely knows what he’s talking about and if you want a recommendation, don’t be afraid to ask! Definitely come here during happy hour for killer prices (4 to 7pm).
Tiki Bar: Test Pilot
This bar is so fun! It brings me right back to being in Hawaii with its far out tiki bar decor. However, as much effort that went into the design, even more thought is put into every drink. They’re called the “Test Pilot” for a reason, with every drink being an experiment. My personal favorite was the Pain Killer.
Brewery: Third Window Brewing
Onto my personal favorite type of drinking venue: the brewery. Third Window Brewing has a great outdoor patio that’s cut off from the rest of the world by a tall fence and string lights to create a great ambiance. I got a flight of their IPAs, most of which were excellent.