Have you seen the movie “It’s Complicated”? If you have, you probably get why I love Santa Barbara. There’s the Spanish architecture, the beach, the food and wine! Meryl Streep’s house in the movie is so spectacular and charming and every inch the sort of real-estate that you’ll find in this amazing part of California – it’s as charming as the movie’s characters and very much plays a role in the film from the start (I can dream of living there one day, can’t I?).
Santa Barbara is often called the ‘American Riviera’ and it’s a title richly deserved. A visit is always a good idea any time of year!
I am fortunate to live in Los Angeles which is an easy 90-minute drive, making it close enough for a day trip, which I thoroughly enjoy. But even if I didn’t live nearby I’d find a way to get there as often as possible.
I’ll highlight some of my favorite spots that I think you’ll enjoy if you find yourself visiting Santa Barbara, which I hope you do – and soon.
Douglas Nature Preserve and Hendry’s Beach
I discovered Hendry’s Beach on a trip to Santa Barbara a few years ago. I rented a guest house through airbnb and chose the Mesa neighborhood because it is adjacent to the Douglas Nature Preserve. The Douglas Nature Preserve is a 70-acre park overlooking the Pacific and is dog friendly like Hendry’s Beach – and since I love to bring George, this was a win-win! They both feature spectacular views.
There is a wonderful 3-mile loop that I walk with George starting from the Preserve and down through Hendry’s Beach. Hendry’s has very much become my #1 go-to happy place. It’s pretty hard not to have a perma-smile when you’re there and your dog is frolicking joyfully on the beach and in the water, making new friends of the two and four-legged variety. Of course, if you don’t have a dog you’ll still enjoy this heavenly spot! If you can plan a mid-week, early morning visit you’ll generally find it far less crowded than on the weekends.
Once you’ve walked most of Hendry’s Beach, there are stairs from the beach leading back up to the Mesa neighborhood. There are a lot of stairs – but don’t worry – it’s doable and worth it, plus it’s a great workout, so the wine and dessert in the evening feels justified after all your hard work.
The Funk Zone
The Funk Zone has become the hottest neighborhood in town in just a few years. It is adjacent to downtown and the beach and features wine tasting rooms, craft breweries, restaurants and art galleries. The Funk Zone has a free Art Walk twice a month on Fridays which is also a lot of fun and draws the local community and visitors. Like most of Santa Barbara, it is also pet friendly.
- Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company – day trips to Hendry’s Beach often include lunch on their outside patio, where George is welcome. You have the option of sitting at communal tables, which provides the opportunity to meet friendly locals with their dogs. Fig Mountain is more of a craft beer tasting room, but they are adjacent to the Lucky Penny restaurant, which delivers great-tasting and inexpensive food.
- The Lark has become one of the most popular restaurants in Santa Barbara. The menu features delicious farm to table dishes, many in sharable sizes.
- I love perusing The Blue Door for their mid-century modern and vintage pieces, and I enjoy how they curate and arrange their wares. It features 25 dealers mostly from the Central Coast.
Other Santa Barbara Stops Worth a Visit
Taqueria La Colmena is a very inexpensive, casual mexican restaurant located at 217 Milpas Street (no website). It has been compared (more favorably in many instances) to La Super Rica Taqueria, which is a few blocks away and is famous for being Julia Child’s favorite restaurant when she lived in Santa Barbara late in life.
Vintage/Resale clothing shops on State Street
I love shopping in consignment stores. You never know what little treasure you may discover, and at a fraction of the retail cost! Here are two shops on State Street that I usually make a point to stop in on my visits to Santa Barbara:
Thanks for reading. If you have favorite spots in Santa Barbara to share, please let me know in the comments below! I would love to expand my list of favorites.
Until next time!