Santa Barbara is only a couple hours away from Orange County but feels much farther, in the sense that despite being another “beach town” like Newport or Laguna, it has a completely different vibe. It’s quieter and in closer proximity to mountains and vast wineries just up the hills. It can feel just as touristy as the OC at times, but you don’t seem to mind the crowds when you’re walking down the pier and past all the unique shops and one of a kind restaurants on State Street.
In March, when my friend Sam was visiting from Boston, we (along with my sister, Emily) took a quick overnight trip up to Santa Barbara. Sam had already visited California before and had seen enough of Orange County (haha). We stayed in a charming AirBnb, that I would stay at again in a heartbeat, in the Montecito area south of downtown Santa Barbara. The room was in a separate building in the backyard but was very private and quiet.
Heading to downtown Santa Barbara, we started with a walk on the pier and a quick lunch at the classic Santa Barbara Shellfish Co., one of the many seafood spots on the pier with more of a fast food feel. If I had to pick a theme from this trip, it would be lots of food. Sam was only in town for a couple days but it felt like longer with the amount of food and beer consumed.
It always amazes me that this pier still stands considering the massive amount of weight from not only the people and restaurants but all of the cars (!) parked on the end of it. I should clarify that this pier isn’t made out of concrete, it’s wood. Now I assume there is some sort of structural support underneath but still pretty wild.
We had a few things picked out that we wanted to accomplish during the day but when our AirBnb host mentioned the Funk Zone, we forgot about everything else. The Funk Zone is a new(ish) arts district in downtown Santa Barbara, a couple blocks in from the pier. Described as a region with “boutique tasting rooms, cafes, galleries, and shops that cater to Santa Barbara’s contemporary side,” I have to say it felt very fresh and modern and we loved it. Full of art galleries, vintage and antique shopping, breweries and wine bars, all built in to converted warehouses and buildings decorated with graffiti murals. There is even the Urban Wine Trail, a “trail” of more than 20 wine tasting rooms all serving the wines of Santa Barbara. We ended up spending most of our afternoon here. 🙂
We started at Brass Bear Brewing company, with a flight of locally-made beers, surrounded by a fun atmosphere and funky tiled artwork on the walls. I loved everything about this place, including the beer, which is never my first choice.
After consuming a whole flight of beers, we had to walk some of it off and stopped in at the Blue Door, a vintage shop with some more modern pieces thrown in. With three full floors of inventory, I was surprised that it never felt overwhelming like some vintage stores that are chock full of “stuff.” While most things were out of my price range, it was fun to look at all of the classic furniture, artwork, clothing and books as well as the more modern pieces.
After walking up and down State Street and picking up a couple souvenirs, we headed back to the AirBnb to get ready for dinner. Since downtown Montecito, consisting of one small street full of shops and restaurants, was only a half mile walk from our place we chose to head there for dinner. We headed to a Mexican spot, but could have easily eaten at any of the charming restaurants.
The next morning was rainy (I don’t know what it was about all of the rain on my most recent trips!) and we needed to head back to Orange County. So after lazing around for a while (as Emily said it was her favorite part of the trip to be able to drink coffee and read quietly in bed), we headed back to downtown Montecito for breakfast at Jeannine’s American Bakery, a seemingly popular spot in town with a well-worth-it long wait.
I did say the theme of this trip was food so here’s a collage of (most of) the delicious food and beverage we consumed in two days. 🙂
Because of time limits and the rain, we ended up not doing some of the activities that we had planned so I’ll have to make a return trip sometime soon. Luckily, a friend of mine is going to be living in central California all summer so I won’t have any excuses. 🙂
Here’s a list of everywhere we ate:
And some other things to do in Santa Barbara (that we didn’t get to):