Like a Local
Quirky, under-the-radar highlights only a local could recommend.
Area 5.1 Winery
As you may have guessed by the name, there’s an undeniable alien theme to this Anacapa Street tasting room: the tasting list comes in a manila folder stamped “top secret,” intergalactic art pays homage to the early days of America’s space program, and the wines feature names like Clouse Encounter, Conspiracy Red, and Declassified. It’s all a play on the fact that the owners are resident aliens from Australia who specialize in unusual blends of grapes that are bolding going where no winery has gone before.
The Funk Zone
Nestled between the ocean and Highway 101 in an old industrial area of downtown Santa Barbara, this up-and-coming 10-block neighborhood is booming with cool new restaurants, vintage stores, art galleries, breweries, and scores of urban wineries. A few highlights we suggest to check out: dinner at the brick- and stone-accented Seven Bar & Kitchen, tasting wine at the fun and hip Municipal Winemakers, and perusing through mid-century modern furniture at the Blue Door.
This small, hidden gem of a tapas bar on Cliff Drive features a cool vibe: low lighting, bohemian decor, and a projection screen that shows vintage cartoons. But their small plates are the star. Try the lamb sliders house-ground with raisin, mint, and pesto, and the bacon-wrapped dates served in wildflower honey.
The Book Den
Carefully curated the way only an independent bookstore can do, this local business features a small selection, but it’s truly top notch with a mix of new releases and rare (sometimes, even signed!) editions of older books. Staff members are book nerds at their best and are happy to help you scour the shelves to find that perfect read.
Cold Spring Tavern
Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an antique-filled 1860s stagecoach stop, this cozy space lit by gas lamps is worth the trip outside the city limits. Tucked away in the hills in what feels like a tavern out of fairy tale, the spot serves comfort food fare and features a selection of famous tri-tip sandwiches roasted over an outdoor oak pit rig.
How to spend 36 hours in Santa Barbara, with the Spanish Garden Inn as your base camp.
5:30 p.m. | STROLL STEARNS WHARF
It wouldn’t be a visit to Santa Barbara without seeing this iconic landmark – the oldest working wooden wharf in California (first built in 1872) with fantastic views, restaurants, a maritime museum, and plenty of souvenir shopping. Stop in at the old-fashioned candy shop or the ice cream parlor for a slice of nostalgic Americana.
7 p.m. | LATE HAPPY HOUR
Located right across the street from the wharf, Santa Barbara FisHouse is one of the best places for happy hour (it goes until 8 p.m. on Fridays) with a menu chock full of seafood goodies, like oysters Rockefeller, ahi tuna tacos, and white fish ceviche – all for under $10. $5.50 cocktail specials include margaritas, the Key Lime Martini, and the Coastal Cosmopolitan.
9 a.m. | COFFEE FIX
A neighborhood coffee shop, Goleta Coffee Company features a homey atmosphere with ample couches in a brightly painted space eclectically decorated in road signs. Come for the wide range of organic coffee and specialty drinks (lattes, mochas, cappuccinos, and more), and be sure to try one of their chocolate croissants.
10 a.m. | SHOPPING ON STATE STREET
As the main artery in town, State Street is loaded with shops and showrooms to restaurants and bars. Check out the shopping district here known as La Arcada, a quaint and charming substitute for larger outdoor malls that features exotic plants, trees, tiled fountains, and locally owned boutiques. Once you hit Lower State Street, be sure to stop at Warbler Records & Goods, one of the few places you’ll find actual real vinyl records – and quite a lot of it, from new and used and to suit almost every musical preference. (Chilean psychedelic rock? Yeah, they’ve got that.)
2 p.m. | WINE WALK
After a lunch of wood-oven pizza at Lucky Penny on Anacapa Street in the Funk Zone, spend the afternoon wine tasting through this ever-expanding 10-block neighborhood. Or check out the district’s Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, the city’s first distillery since Prohibition, crafting bourbon, gin, whiskey, vodka, and a little something called Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie, a liqueur that tastes just like apple pie.
7 p.m. | DINNER AT THE LARK
Based in a former fish market from the 1920s, this farm-to-table restaurant in the Funk Zone is as much a feast for eyes as it is your mouth. Flower-filled steel bathtubs mark the front entrance; inside, the wood-lined quarters feature vintage train booths and communal tables stacked on old radiators under industrial pendant lighting. As for the food, your dish will look like a piece of carefully arranged art with ingredients so fresh, they were picked just minutes before.
8:50 p.m. | MOVIE AMERICANA
Located in Goleta, about 10 minutes west of the Funk Zone, you’ll find a dose of nostalgia in the West Wind Drive-In Theatre. Originally built in the ’60s but newly reopened in 2010 after a 20-year closure, it’s the ideal place to end your night with a feature film with some classic candy from the snack bar.
10 a.m. | BREAKFAST OF CHAMPS
Backyard Bowls – now with two locations in Santa Barbara – specializes in acai bowls. Just pick your base – your choice of a mixture of acai and other antioxidant-rich fruits – then your toppings, including everything from granola and honey to fresh fruit. It’s the type of breakfast that wakes you up rather than putting you into a food coma.
11 a.m. | SANTA BARBARA MUSEUM OF AT
Open since 1941, this small museum certainly packs a punch with 27,000 works of art – an amount that you’d expect to find in a city eight times the size of Santa Barbara. In addition to hosting a permanent collection of Asian, American, and European art that spans 5,000 years of human creativity, the institution features more Monet paintings than any other West Coast museum.
The best food artisans, farms, and local markets.
This downtown outpost doubles as a gourmet market, as well as a café. More than 120 different types of cheeses, two dozen cured meats, then wines, jams, and truffle pates are available for purchase on the shop side, while the bistro-like café serves Santa Barbara’s best grilled cheese sandwiches, including variations like arugula and mushroom, truffle, and BLT grilled cheeses.
Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail
When it comes to wine tasting in Santa Barbara, there’s only one route to go: the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, which features more than 20 different local wineries. Crossing two neighborhoods, the trail lets you experience the best wineries to come out of the county’s five AVAs, all without having to leave the downtown area. A few of our favorites include The Valley Project, Silver Wines, and Fox Wine Co., but check out this map to chart your preferred path.
Lazy Acres Market Bakery
Santa Barbara’s best health food store – selling organic natural supplements and body care, as well as grocery items, produce, meat, sushi-grade fish, and dairy – is also home to one of the best local bakeries. Muffins, pastries, and doughnuts are made daily at 4 a.m. with organic flour, pure unsalted butter, and a variety of fresh organic fruits. We suggest one of the popular flourless cookies, available in four flavors: vanilla, crispy chocolate, chocolate walnut, and peanut butter.
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.
If you’ve had your fill of wine, head to this Funk Zone taproom – one of six Figueroa Mountain tasting rooms along the Central Coast of California – to refresh your palate with a $6 flight that includes IPAs, brown ales, lagers, and stouts. An added bonus: Grab a seat outdoors, and pass the afternoon away with the life-size game of Jenga.
When simply “seeing” a destination just won’t do.
Learn to Sail | Santa Barbara Sailing Center
With no more than four students per class and hands-on participation, the two-hour Group Intro Sail Lessons is a great way to dip your toe into the watersport of sailing. Learn how to rind a winch, trim a sail, and pilot the vessel. By the time you return to port, you’ll have a firm understanding of the basics – and maybe even enough confidence to continue your sailing career in earnest.
Kayaking Anacapa Island | Channel Islands Outfitters
The Arches of Anacapa Island Kayaking Adventure is a daylong tour that includes a ferry ride from Ventura to Anacapa Island, one of the Channel Islands that is closest to the mainland of California, then a guided kayak tour around East Anacapa. Here, you’ll explore caves and arches, and possibly encounter several large sea lions hauling out from beach.
Off-Roading in Santa Ynez | Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours
On the Mountain Tour, custom Jeeps take off on a unique adventure through the backcountry of beautiful Santa Barbara, from the coastal floor into the breathtaking Santa Ynez Mountain Range. You’ll travel along the ridge, over portions of an old stagecoach route for some off-road thrills and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Channel Islands, Santa Ynez Valley, and Lake Cachuma.
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A Gemstone Collection Hotel
Spanish Garden Inn, 915 Garden Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 P: (805) 564-4700 Toll Free Reservations: (805) 564-4700