From its farmers market to its fresh-caught seafood to its diverse grape-growing climate, Santa Barbara has a big flavor profile.
For Angelenos, Santa Barbara is the classic weekend getaway that many compare to a quick trip to the Mediterranean. Surrounded by wine country, it’s easy to imagine retiring for a lazy afternoon siesta amid the iconic terracotta rooftops and whitewashed stucco walls, a style that owes itself in part to the vision of a husband-wife architecture team who inspired a revival of the Spanish colonial style during the 1920s and 1930s.
More recently, this onetime sleepy enclave has stepped up its culinary game with cutting-edge cuisine. Just this past summer, some of L.A.’s hottest chefs were clamoring for California sea urchins sourced from Santa Barbara, which produces some of the most flavorful uni in the world. Case in point: you are going to want to do much more than stay in for a siesta on a weekend trip to this plentiful crescent of the California coast. Read on for can’t miss flavors, restaurants, and more.
Dig in With a Santa Barbara Tasting Tour
With the Santa Ynez Mountains in the backdrop and the Channel Island just off the coast, Santa Barbara has a long tradition of locally caught seafood and farmers markets in the area. Delving into the city’s history and the buzzing food scene, Santa Barbara Tasting Tours are part food tour, part walking tour. In other words, you’re building up an appetite and satisfying it at the same time. Run by local experts, your guide will take you behind the scenes at some of Santa Barbara’s best restaurants and share juicy tidbits about the stories behind them.
Even residents might be surprised by some of the hidden gems they’ve uncovered, from a covert chocolate shop in La Arcada to arguably the best pastrami sandwich in the city. Tours range from the classic Taste of Santa Barbara Tour to the more eclectic Funk Zone Food Tour, as well as visits to nearby destinations like wine country and the little town of Ojai. On the three-hour Funk Zone Food Tour, you’ll start exploring near State Street, located a few blocks from the beach, and end the tour in the Funk Zone, a revitalized industrial area with art galleries, wineries, restaurants, and a brewery and distillery.
Be Whisked Away to Wine Country
Thanks to a uniquely positioned valley that runs east-west rather than north-south, which is something of a topographical rarity, Santa Barbara wine country has several different microclimates, making it one of the most diverse grape-growing regions on the globe. Stretching roughly from Lompoc in the west to Los Olivos in the east, local vineyards grow more than 50 varietals, including pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot, among others. All in all, there are six American Viticultural Areas and more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms—which can be overwhelming. Instead of getting lost in the crush, tap into the knowledge of veteran wine experts on a Rooted Vine Tour.
Established by Iaon Pohlit, a former wine buyer and restaurateur, who also works as an editorial tasting assistant for top wine magazines, his company helps translate Santa Barbara’s expansive wine country into doable daytrips. With door-to-door service from most hotels in the area and other locations like vacation homes and restaurants (or even the airport and train station), you can choose between a standard guided tour shared with other travelers featuring stops at four wineries and a picnic lunch, or a more personalized private tour for a minimum of two people and an even more customized experience on an exclusive tour.
Enjoy a Warm Welcome
From the moment you arrive, experience the genuine hospitality that defines the Santa Barbara Hotel Group. With five hotels located in uptown, midtown, and the waterfront neighborhood, you’ll be right where you want to be. For savvy travelers, they offer an attractive array of money-saving packages for different interests and activities, including the “Sweet & Salty” package featuring a mix of wine, chocolate, and a salt cave meditation session, among other bonuses; the “Four Days, Three Nights in Paradise” package, which includes a sunset cruise along with other perks; and the family-friendly “Explore & Adore at the Santa Barbara Zoo” package.
In uptown, the bougainvillea-draped Best Western Plus Pepper Tree Inn is situated across the street from La Cumbre Plaza, one of the area’s open-air shopping paseos. While for a local-feeling stay in midtown, the Best Western Plus Encina Inn & Suites is tucked among turn-of-the-century homes on a quiet residential street and features the Live Oak Café serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner; the lemon zest brioche French toast is a must-try. Heading toward the waterfront neighborhood, Brisas del Mar, Inn at the Beach is a romantic, Mediterranean-style villa situated two blocks from the beach and the yacht harbor. Also nearby, Lavender Inn by the Sea and Inn by the Harbor are easy walks to both the beach and local eateries like the Lower State Street hot spot Santo Mezcal, which features a tasty menu rooted in Mexican flavors and traditions.
Now that your itinerary is filled with flavorful delights, plan your next getaway to Santa Barbara—and be sure to bring your appetite.