Things to do in Santa Barbara, CA

Just 100 miles north of Los Angeles on a south-facing coastline between the Santa Ynez mountains and the Pacific Ocean is Santa Barbara. Known as a hot-spot for celebrities to escape LA, I took my own approach to find unique gems in this American Riviera style city. After an earthquake in 1925, city leaders adopted and required Spanish Colonial Revival style buildings, creating views of terracotta roofs and off-white cement buildings.


Traveling from New York in November I was looking for warm weather, mountain adventures and wine. I took a flight from Newark Airport for $347 round trip with a stop at LAX. From LAX to Santa Barbara the flight was 20 minutes, the shortest flight I’ve ever endured where they were halfway through serving a complimentary glass of water when the pilot announced to prepare for landing.

Here are my picks from Santa Barbara:

Wheel Fun Rentals: The main hub or city center of Santa Barbara is State Street and Stearns Wharf. The wharf has food items, gift shops and wineries. We chose an alternative way of exploring. Wheel Fun Rental Lab offers bike rentals, roller blades, boogie boards along with colorful two-to-four person bike surreys. For $28 you get two hours of riding around downtown Santa Barbara and the beach trail with views of the wharf and the Pacific Ocean. We visited the colorful Chromatic Gate, had tacos at Mony’s and checked out the marina.

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Deep Sea Tasting Room: Located on Stearns Wharf, we popped in for a mid-afternoon wine tasting and one of the best coastline views. All of the wines are from the Conway Family Vineyard offering three styles of California wine tastings. The classic tasting for $14 per person gave you five taste of red and white varieties including one additional glass of which ever wine you enjoyed the most. A step up in the red an white tasting varieties goes for $24 or get the all red tasting for $22. Sip at the bar and hear stories of how each wine is made or sit outside on their wrap- around deck for sweeping views of the coast and the wharf.

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Lizard’s Mouth Rock: While Santa Barbara offers multiple hiking options we opted for a quick 1/4 mile sweat-free hike up to Lizard Mouth Rock where you can see Santa Barbara’s neighboring town, Goleta. The trail is more of a vantage point rather than an aggressive hike. On a clear day you’ll  see the pacific ocean, the Channel Islands and it’s popular for bouldering and picnics.


Santa Barbara Rock Gym: On this particular trip I traded in hitting the town for an evening at the rock gym. However, if you did the wine tasting earlier in the day you might still be buzzing. Evenings at the Rock Gym clear out from it’s family events and birthday parties and climbers congregate for night-time climbing. You have the option to boulder (no rope or harness) or climb (harness and rope). They do have a membership program, but for walk-ins rates start at $15 for students, $17 non-students and shoe rentals are $6. The vibe is completely judgement-free. Experienced climbers are more than willing to help and give you tips on how to reach the top and after each person completes a route high-fives and “woo hoos” are waiting for you at the bottom.

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Backyard Bowls: Serving acai bowls & smoothies, BackYard Bowls is a healthy and energizing way to start your day. The Acai is a berry high in antioxidants used to make a thick smoothie-style base topped with with fresh fruit, coconut flakes, nuts, honey and granola. 100% recommend.

Virtuosa: Santa Barbara is filled with heart-rate boosting activities like surfing, hiking, running, and biking. I tried out a new fitness style, a mixture of Barre and Pilates known as “fusion fitness”. At Virtuosa the owner, Tasha Holmstrom, instructed us to an hour-long workout routine involving core exercises mixed with ballet style moves, mat work and resistance bands. It was a great combination of trying new workouts that hit different muscles and distract you from the concept of “working out”. All was accompanied by upbeat dance music.

Fig Mountain Brewery: On my last day in Santa Barbara I went to Fig Mountain Brewery located in The Funk Zone, a hip area in downtown SB with wineries and restaurants tucked in every street corner. At $8 a flight of five tastings, they have beers named after locations in SB such as the Lizard’s Mouth IPA and State Street Stout. My favorites were the Vanilla Cream Ale and the Hurricane Deck IPA. Note to self, they serve pre-packaged sandwiches and also said we could bring in food from neighboring joints, if you’re hungry.

Until my next journey x


Recommended Packing Essentials (click on the image for purchasing info!):

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