A Weekender’s Guide to Santa Barbara

I’m just going to get straight to the point: Santa Barbara is basically the coolest place in the state of California. Need convincing? Check out my post 10 Reasons to Love Santa Barbara!

I am so fortunate to call this place home for my time in college, and over the course of my freshman year I have gotten to experience so much of this amazing city! So, I felt compelled to share with you some of the best that Santa Barbara has to offer.

I’ve put together a weekend-long travel itinerary with a little bit of everything: nature, good food, beach, shopping, landmarks. With that being said, I hope you can someday enjoy this place just as I have!

STAY: If you want a unique, fun, and reasonably priced hotel, check out Hotel Milo. It’s located right in front of the beach, exudes tons of Southern California charm, and has bikes for you to cruise around downtown with!

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Day 1:

Start off the weekend by grabbing breakfast at Jeannine’s, where you’ll find both great food and a great atmosphere. Allot for some time to just sit outside and people-watch as you sip your coffee, as Jeannine’s has a European charm that makes it hard to dine and dash. (Side note: I highly recommend the French toast.)

At this point, you’re only half a block of State Street, the main hub of activity and shopping in downtown SB. Take this opportunity to spend the early part of the afternoon strolling and browsing up and down the picturesque avenue. On Saturdays, State Street also hosts a great farmers’ market from 8:30am to 1pm!

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After a few hours of State Street fun, grab lunch at Pickles & Swiss in Paseo Nuevo, a trendy and delicious sandwich shop. We can’t forget about your sweet tooth, though! Conveniently, Pickles & Swiss is located across the street from McConnell’s, an awesome ice cream shop which has become a favorite of both locals and tourists alike. This will be some of the best ice cream you’ll ever eat — trust me. After all, with flavors like Boysenberry Rosé Milk Jam, how could it not be? But beware, the line will be on the longer side.

Use the last hours of your afternoon to check out either the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden or Lotusland, both of which are absolutely beautiful to visit. An added bonus: on the drive there, enjoy viewing the gorgeous homes you’ll pass!

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For dinner, venture back out to the city for a great meal! One of my favorites is Los Agaves (get the chile verde burrito!). Or, if you want some great sushi, try Arigato on State.

Day 2:

Grab a quick and healthy breakfast at Backyard Bowls off State, the local go-to for delicious smoothie and oatmeal bowls. Then, spend the morning exploring the city’s historic landmarks: namely, the Santa Barbara Courthouse and Mission Santa Barbara. Both are open to the public and mostly free, the exception being that a complete tour of the mission requires an admission fee. Climb to the top of the courthouse to get an amazing view of the city in all directions. If you only have time to do a few things on your trip, I hope that you’ll make this one of them.

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Around lunchtime, head down to the pier (called Stearn’s Wharf) to explore and grab a bite at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, a small shack at the end of the pier that serves fresh seafood and uses overturned barrels for tables.

After you’ve had enough calamari and lobster, hit the beach for the afternoon. Just walk back down the pier and pick a spot! Or, if you’re not one for lounging on the sand, head down to the Paddle Sports Center to rent a paddle board, surfboard, boogie board or kayak and hit the ocean! (Note: if you plan on being in the ocean, be sure to rent a wetsuit, too. The water is COLD.)

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For dinner, grab an awesome burger at Eureka! in Paseo Nuevo. This place has a huge selection of brews and their burgers are anything but boring. (Even the sweet potato fries are cool — they come sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey. Who even needs ketchup?)

To end the day, head up to Knapp’s castle, a crumbling estate in the hills that makes for a perfect spot to watch the sunset and take breathtaking photos. It takes a short hike to get up to the site, but the incredible views are worth it.

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Day 3:

My dad’s favorite breakfast in Santa Barbara is Joe’s Cafe, a feel-good, down-to-earth, red-checkered-tablecloth kind of place. Joe’s has been around for 90 years; clearly, they’ve been doing something right. Complete your weekend getaway here with the eggs benedict (my dad’s favorite) or the trip-tip breakfast burrito (mine) before you head out of town.

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How does that sound? Even just writing this post, I’m dying to get back to this fantastic city. If you find yourself in SB anytime soon, I’d love to see your trip! Tag me on Instagram @youngandjoyfulblog !

-Brooke

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