August 3, 2017


Santa Barbara has long served as a go-to getaway since the days of Sir Laurence Olivier and John F. Kennedy.  Stretched over miles of beaches against the dramatic Santa Ynez mountains, upscale boutiques, art galleries and restaurants feature Spanish colonial-style heritage buildings.
The close resemblance to Cannes and Portofino is why Santa Barbara is often known as "The American Riviera."  It's no wonder that Santa Barbara and its adjacent city Montecito has attracted some of the most rich and famous residents including Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Cruise, and Jennifer Lopez.   
My first visit to Santa Barbara was love at first sight.  On a college tour during my junior year of high school, I was looking to choose my dream college based on its educational programs and the surrounding environment.  The smell of the ocean breeze, the Mediterranean climate, and the friendly locals instantly won me.  My four years in college were spent exploring the best that Santa Barbara had to offer.

We recently took a retreat to Santa Barbara for a mini getaway.  Much has changed over the years, but the nostalgia is still evident.  I'm sharing my top go-to spots to relax and recharge.


A historic landmark with modern amenities including a pool, valet service, and complimentary breakfast & coffee.  Located 2 blocks from Butterfly Beach, the Montecito Inn is conveniently located steps away from shops and restaurants. 


Built in 1872, the wharf served passenger and freight shipping needs for Southern California.  In modern day, it has been converted for locals and tourists to enjoy several restaurants, a shellfish restaurant/market, a bait and tackle shop, an old-fashioned candy store, wine tasting, a toy store, a shell shop, ice cream parlor, palm reader, general store, and an interactive marine museum.


Mission Santa Barbara was the 10th of 21 adobe missions built along El Camino Real in California during the 18th century in an ambitious endeavor by the King of Spain to help convert the indigenous Indian tribes to Catholicism.  Even if you don't decide to visit the inside of the Mission, the beautiful architecture and garden is well worth the visit.  

In the summer, the Mission also hosts Santa Barbara's famous I Madonnari Italian street painting festival which benefits non-profit organization Children's Creative Project.  The Project servers 50,000 children in more than 100 schools with visual and performing arts programs throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.  This year marks their 31st anniversary where 150 large scale, vibrant images are painted across the driveway in front of the Mission.  Admission is free.


Typical architectural details in Downtown Santa Barbara,
including the Apple Store.

The wonderful staff at Chicken Little (downtown) helped us choose a wide selection of age-appropriate toys & swim gear. Jace had a blast at this toy wonderland! 

Santa Barbara's main shopping & dining destination is located on State Street, stretching more than 10 blocks from the Public Market area to the ocean.  Enjoy a Nordic brunch al fresco, shop at the El Paseo outdoor mall, and make your way down towards Stearn's Wharf.

Coast Village Road, Montecito

Maison K, Montecito
Challah Bread French Toast @ Jeannine's

Located at one of Santa Barbara's neighboring communities Montecito, Coast Village Road is lined with boutique shops, a bustling restaurant scene, and upscale hotels.

East Beach
Carousel at Chase Palm Park across from East Beach.  (Image Credit: Historic Carousels)

East Beach is located where downtown State Street ends and next to the Stearns Wharf.  Most of the activity is at the east end where the beach is the widest.  There are many sand volleyball courts, a grass park with picnic tables, and the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center.  Want a break from the sun?  Enjoy the carousel rides across the street at Chase Palm Park.  On the weekends, artists, jewelers and other vendors display their wares for sale.  


Rori's Artisanal Creamery @ Santa Barbara Public Market
Serving irresistible flavors such as Brown Sugar Banana, Cinnamon Toast Cereal Crunch & Malted Milk English Toffee

Could you seriously resist these flirty desserts at Enjoy Cupcakes (inside Santa Barbara Public Market)?

Enjoy locally-grown & milled olive oils and balsamic vinegar tastings here.

Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar is a popular destination for noodle bowls, specialty plates & handmade dumplings inspired by the cuisines of Thailand and Taiwan.

Located right off downtown's main strip State Street, the Public Market is Santa Barbara's version of the Ferry Building in San Francisco or the Grand Central in LA.  A contemporary urban marketplace, this venue hosts a collective of local and regional food, wine, and beer merchants.  A few selections include olive oil tastings at Il Fustino, small batches of organic ice cream in unique flavors at Rori's Artisanal Creamery, and Empty Bowl, a wildly popular gourmet noodle bar.

Gourmet coffee, artisanal take-out pizzas and exceptional home products.

Andersen's Danish Bakery & Restaurant

This family owned and operated institution has been serving traditional Nordic cuisine and mouthwatering Danish pastries for over 40 years.  Their outdoor sidewalk seating area on downtown Santa Barbara's busy State Street is great for people watching. 

Hands down, this is one of my all-time favorite Mexican restaurants.  Try their popular Agaves Enchiladas or Chicken Mole.  You will not be disappointed.  They have 4 locations, the Milpas one being the original spot.  Get there early though.  The line to order is out the door, even as early as 5pm on most evenings. 

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