For our very last spring break here in Arizona, we chose to head West to California for a few days in the sun. We traveled to the charming and lovely lil’ town of Santa Barbara. Located about 90 miles Northwest from Los Angeles, the town sits on the Central Coast of the Golden State and is characterized by its historic charm and hacienda-style architecture. It’s quaint and quiet, perfect for an opportunity for both Austen and I to recharge for the final semester (FINAL. SEMESTER.) of grad school.
- Harbor View Inn, 28 W. Cambrillo St.
- Brophy Bros, 119 Harbor Way
- Superior Court of Santa Barbara County Courthouse, 1100 Anacapa St.
- Sandbar, 514 State St.
- Jeannine’s, 15 E. Figueroa St.
- The Old Mission Santa Barbara, 2201 Laguna St.
- Douglas Family Preserve, Medcliff Rd. & Selrose Ln.
- The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach, 2981 Cliff Dr.
- La Super-Rica Taqueria, 622 N. Milpas St.
- McConnell’s Ice Cream, 728 State St.
- Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro, 3315 State St.
I have always loved going to the ocean to recharge and relax. I grew up on the opposite side of the country, however, and visited beaches on the Florida Panhandle or in the Caribbean rather than on the Pacific Coast. It was so neat being able to see the difference in the beaches in the West, though. They are surrounded by rolling green hills and crests that overlook the sea. If you’re a fan of scenic beauty, Santa Barbara is definitely a location you need to add to your bucket list.
Stay at the Harbor View Inn
We lodged at the Harbor View Inn for the duration of our stay, and it was lovely. The hotel overlooks the coastline of West Beach and is just across the street from Stearns Wharf. It’s also only a short walk from tons of restaurants and shops along State Street and in the Funk Zone. The hotel is central to several beaches and other points of interest in the city. The beds were comfortable, the staff was so nice and the stay was awesome.
I should also mention that nearly every Uber or Lyft driver we rode with mentioned we were in an awesome location!
We arrived to Santa Barbara from Phoenix in the early afternoon on a Saturday. The airport in Santa Barbara is small and looks more like a church than it does an airport, to be honest.
On the first day, the weather was unfortunately chilly, rainy and cloudy. We thought it was the perfect opportunity to do some exploring to the different buildings and attractions in the city. I had seen so many recommendations to see the Courthouse, the Mission and the Presidio, as well as shops and restaurants along State Street. After setting down our stuff, we were off.
Have Lunch at Brophy Bro’s
Our hotel provided us with a list of different restaurants in the area, and located under “Lunch” and “Walking Distance” was Brophy Bros. It was about a 13 minute walk from the hotel, or 0.7 miles. Because of the chilly weather, we were in a great mood for clam chowder! Brophy Bros certainly did not disappoint. We found out later they’re actually one of the highest rated spots in Santa Barbara (especially for clam chowder), so I guess we picked a great place. We also had a drink (they have a full bar) and some fried calamari (which was sooooo good).
The restaurant is located upstairs and looks over the harbor, but we couldn’t really see since it was so foggy and rainy outside. However, the place was packed. We waited about 25 minutes for a seat, which wasn’t bad. Plus, there are shops and a museum right by the restaurant. You can also take a look at all of the docked boats adjacent to the street, or take some photos of birds like we did.
Walk State Street
After lunch, we decided to head down to State Street for shopping and some exploring. The first stop, though, had to be a shoe store (I’m laughing writing this). I’m a simple gal, and I have two pairs of shoes I alternate between every day: and they happen to be the exact same pair of shoes, just in different colors (anyone else like this? No?). My Steve Madden slingback leather sandals with the chunky wooden heel have never done me wrong. Except in Santa Barbara, where it was raining and very cold.
Soooooo, off to Marshall’s we went! I ended up getting these adorable Steven Madden flats that have a white woven design for a really good price. Anyways, never mind. Not important.
We took a Lyft there, and right around the Marshall’s are a ton of different boutiques as well as clothing chains like Forever 21 and H&M. We decided to just walk up the street and browse different stores as we made our way towards the Courthouse, which was something I had written on my “Santa Barbara List” (thank you, Pinterest!). Austen was a little surprised that I wanted to see that, but it’s a very “Jade” thing to want to do.
Explore the County Courthouse
Situated in Downtown Santa Barbara, the courthouse exists on the just off the corner of Anacapa Street. It’s honestly so breathtaking. And I’m dramatic, but I’m not being dramatic about this. It was beautiful.
The building was constructed in 1929, and it’s got that beautiful, traditional Spanish Revival style that inspires the architecture in the city. It’s a gorgeous, bright white with intricate designs in the doors, windows and ceilings, complete with turquoise trim and a lush green lawn. Palm and olive trees vegetate the grounds, and it’s just. so. pretty.
We walked through the looming arches to the other side, where there’s a large garden that is vibrant and radiant. We saw two separate brides there with their wedding parties, and I’m not surprised. This would be such a beautiful location for wedding photos.
When I had originally researched the Courthouse, I didn’t realize that you could go up the stairs to the top for the views. The overlook was unreal. 10/10 would recommend.
To be honest, we did a lot of “let’s go this way” and “let’s see what’s down here,” which I’m always down to do and I’m glad Aus is, too. We walked around without a plan some of the times, which is what we did after seeing the Courthouse. Austen then decided to take us to where he used to play as a child, to a park that was relatively nearby.
Honestly, walking around Santa Barbara is a treat in and of itself, especially if you’re into architecture. There’s always some beautiful building to gawk at or snap a photo of, which I was very guilty of.
Get a Souvenir
Our souvenirs are always the Starbucks “Been There Series” mugs. We didn’t start doing this until about 6 months ago, even though we’ve been dating for nearly a year and a half. We plan on snagging a mug at every location we visit together. I love that the mugs have different defining characteristics of the location drawn onto them, which help you remember and commemorate your trip. Plus, the mugs are just so stinkin’ cute and they’re big to hold looooots of coffee (wink, wink).
Unfortunately, Santa Barbara didn’t have a Santa Barbara mug from the series (which we sort of expected, it’s mainly big cities), so we ended up getting a California one with the same vibe. Plus, this one is a travel mug which I really needed!
Drinks at Sandbar
After dinner at a sushi restaurant, we went for drinks at Sandbar in Downtown Santa Barbara. Since this was our only weekend-night here, we wanted to be sure to get some nightlife in! Even if it was past my bedtime (haha). We saw the Sandbar on State Street and figured it looked like a neat place to go, so in we went. The drinks were good and the music was great.
Sandbar sells food, too, although we didn’t order any, and their happy hour is on Mondays-Fridays from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.
On Day 2, the weather was a lot nicer and the sun came out to make for a gorgeous Sunday.
Have Breakfast at Jeannine’s
If you eat anywhere I talk about in this post, eat at Jeannine’s for breakfast. It was a place Aus had seen on another travel guide, and it did not disappoint! We walked just over a mile from our hotel and to our surprise, the line wasn’t too long for a Sunday morning around 10 a.m. The restaurant was busy, however, with a line that extended beyond the front doors of the joint and full of guests both inside and outside.
Austen had seen a post about the Banana Kahlua French Toast they make there, and you know I had to get that. Aus went with the eggs benedict (surprised? I’m not) and we both ordered medium hot lattes that were so yummy. Always remember: calories don’t count on vacation.
Austen and I were seated at a table right outside of the front of the restaurant. It was a little awkward with the long line the place garnered, but not bad. The sun was warm and the food was good. No complaints here. At all.
Visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara
We had also seen this “to do” on nearly every travel guide we’d seen. The Old Mission Santa Barbara is located a few miles from the Downtown area, so we jumped in a Lyft after breakfast and headed straight there. The building sits atop a hill, and if you take a glance over your shoulder through the rear window of the car, you’ll see the coastline behind you. It’s beautiful.
The Old Mission is a historical landmark in the city that was built in the late 1700’s by Spanish Franciscans. I’ve included a link to the mission’s website if you want to see what the mission looked like back then, which is so interesting! The surrounding fields and dirt have now evolved into hacienda suburbs, complete with the elementary school Austen attended when he was a young tot.
Even if you’re not particularly into history, the mission is so beautiful. It’s still active, actually, and since we went on a Sunday afternoon, we weren’t able to tour the church since it was in session. We paid $9 for the self tour on the grounds, which was well worth it. We were able to walk the old cemeteries and guide ourselves through the beautifully landscaped gardens and museum.
The mission is the namesake of Santa Barbara, and is now a parish church of Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Santa Barbara is named after the legend of Saint Barbara, a young girl who was beheaded by her own father for following the Christian faith. Because of its historical significance and its beauty, it should definitely be one of the top things you do while visiting.
Explore the Douglas Family Preserve
After we walked through the (dead) rose garden in front of the Mission (so sad, Aus really wanted to show me that!), we decided to find a hiking trail in the area with some beautiful views. Austen did a quick Google search and found the Douglas Family Preserve, which was a few miles from the Mission. We hopped in a Lyft and drove there, which was neat since we were going through the suburban districts of Santa Barbara.
The Douglas Family Preserve is located at the top of a hill overlooking the ocean in the Mesa neighborhood. I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as a hike rather than a nice nature walk. The trailhead begins and you can instantly see over the crest to the sea. We were stopping to take pictures within the first 50 feet.
The park also has gorgeous vegetation as well. Beneath the coastal live oaks, Monterey pines and Monterey cypress trees, it was beautiful (I feel like I’ve said beautiful 98 times in this post alone).
The preserve appears to be a local’s spot. Many of the visitors had their dogs with them walking the trails, and it was so cute! The park also allows visitors to take the leashes off of their dogs, so I could see how this would be an extremely popular local location. The views are just so beautiful! If I lived here, I’d come out to write all the time.
We sat on a fallen tree for some time, overlooking the beach below and taking in the view. It was most definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip, and I highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in Santa Barbara.
We planned for Day 3 to be our beach day, since the weather was supposed to be very sunny and nice.
Eat Breakfast at the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach
This, by far, was one of my favorite views I’ve ever had at a restaurant. Austen’s dad recommended it, and I’m so glad he did! The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach is situated literally right along Hendry’s Beach, and the morning was sunny and warm. We snagged a lucky seat right next to the glass, so we could look out at the waves while we ate. We both ordered California omelettes and blood orange mimosas, and it was lovely! I’d highly recommend this place as well, if not for the food, for the views alone.
Lay Out on Butterfly Beach
After breakfast, we decided to head to Butterfly Beach, a quaint and quiet beach in ritzy Montecito. The day became a bit more cloudy and cold, so we didn’t do any swimming. However, lying out on the beach in the sand was so nice! I haven’t been to the beach since last summer, and it was so lovely to be able to sit out and relax. We took a ton of pictures, walked the beach to find shells and soaked up what little sun there was.
Eat Tacos at La Super-Rica Taqueria
Can you tell we’re foodie people? Austen found this place on another guide, and we decided to head from Butterfly Beach straight there to get some tacos at La Super-Rica Taqueria. This place was so cute and small, with a local, family-owned vibe. The tacos were also so yummy, as well (it’s hard to compete with Phoenix taco joints, but these held their own). It was also pretty cheap to eat there, too (our entire meal was under $20 for both of us), but note they only take cash. We had to walk a block over to get money from an ATM but it’s close so, not too big a deal.
I think there is normally a long wait to eat here, but not on this particular day. We only waited behind two other guests, but from what I’ve read, the line can get long. We must’ve hit a sweet spot on a Monday at around 3 p.m., so maybe that’s the time you should go!
Walk Stearns Wharf
It’s odd that it took us quite a while to walk Stearns Wharf, considering it was just across the street from us. The pier has gorgeous views of the hills and the sea, complete with ocean-side seafood restaurants, small souvenir boutiques and the sea center. We ate at Surfboard on the pier later that night, and it was alright (we ordered clam chowder, again!). It’d be lovely to eat there during the day, since it’s on the second story and you can look out at the ocean.
Get Ice Cream at McConnell’s
Even though it was cold on this trip, I had seen so many people recommending McConnell’s Ice Cream on Pinterest, Instagram and travel blogs, so I figured it had to be good. We made a stop there and it was well worth braving the cold! They have a ton of unique flavors from Vanilla Grapefruit to Salted Cookie. We ordered two scoops and sat inside to enjoy it, and it was so yummy! I could definitely see how it would be a treat on sunny summer days in Santa Barbara.
We had a few hours before our flight to get breakfast, pack up and check out. Our flight ended up being delayed for a few hours, so we spent some time at Santa Barbara’s airport.
Eat Breakfast at Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro
One last breakfast foodie location (we love breakfast food). We traveled North to Renaud’s after a browsing Google search from yours truly. I had seen a review from a satisfied customer saying Renaud’s croissants were the best in the CONTINENT. That’s a bold claim I’m willing to take them up on, so we did. And, you know, they might be right. The croissant was flaky and buttery and everything you’d ever want in a croissant. 10/10 would recommend.
We had such a wonderful time in Santa Barbara, and it made for a nostalgic last hurrah to the West before Austen and I move (probably) to the East. We didn’t get around to wine tasting or heading up to wine country (we are still college students, after all), but we figured that’s something we’ll just have to come back to do. Oh, darn.
Have you been to Santa Barbara? Did we miss somewhere? We’d love any excuse to go again.