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May 12, 2010 9:55 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Santa Barbara, CA in June for our 2 year anniversary (whoo hoo!). We's love some suggestions on where we should stay and what should we do... Help?

Possibly Relevant Information:

* We are both from Northern California. BF has been to Santa Barbara before, but in college. I cannot believe as a California native that I have never been there.

* We're in our late twenties and have a some money to spend, but would rather not blow it all on $250 per night hotel rates if possible. Something a little more moderate would be ideal.

* I prefer charming and or unique local types of accomodations as opposed to the Days Inn. Romantic is a plus given the occasion.

* We'll only be in town for a weekend. We love to eat great meals, drink wine, enjoy the beach, get out in nature, see local sights, try new and interesting things, etc.

Any advice & hidden nuggets of greatness are most appreciated. Help make our anniversary one to top next year!
posted by veronicacorningstone to Travel & Transportation around Santa Barbara, CA (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We did three things that made my wife say that it was the best trip she'd ever had.
1. Lotus Land
2. Santa Cruz Island - from Ventura
3. Segway tour

We camped so I can't say anything about lodging.
posted by notned at 10:27 AM on May 12, 2010

Not really suggesting this for your situation as it's not particularly romantic but for anybody else going there, the Motel 6 in Santa Barbara is surprisingly not bad. Right across the street from the beach and very cheap to boot. It's their very first location so they probably keep it up a bit better than their usual ones.
posted by reptile at 11:00 AM on May 12, 2010

There are a few current Santa Barbarians kicking around MetaFilter who should have more up-to-date ideas on hotels, but I'll toss out what I can think of:

There should be a decent amount of quaint/cozy/fun B&Bs around, but I'll leave it to others to suggest such things.

Addendums to notned's suggestions:
1. Lotus Land is fantastic, but it can be tricky to get in. There are some free/open days (to residents of Santa Barbara County, though I'm not sure how they restrict that), and the one in June is 1:30 PM on Saturday, June 5. Otherwise, give them a call for more information.

2. Santa Cruz is only an hour away from Ventura, but that might eat more of your weekend than you want. Here's some more info (qualification: I found this link at random, I don't vouch for the content). Personally, I'd suggest spending a weekend there, if you want to go for another weekend sometime. I've camped and kayaked out there, and LOVED it.

3. Segway tours - first link I found, there might be other tours.

Other links and info:
- Santa Barbara City visitor info, from the City itself. They hype the dining at the harbor, which is mostly on the wharf, or in the area. The wharf is fun, but costly for meals. If nothing else, it could be fun for a stroll. You can go on harbor tours, but I don't think it's terribly picturesque.

- Surreys are fun, but they can be cumbersome and touristy. I think there are a couple rental places, and I linked to one at random. The bike path along the beach is nice, and you can take it by the zoo to the Andrea Clark Bird Refuge. Warning: not romantic, if you're not into birds and possibly stinky water. It's where the bike path takes, you, if you want a longer route.

- There are a number of keen museums: the Maritime Museum, focusing more on boats and boating, the Sea Center on the wharf, which is a branch of the larger Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, but that's uptown, nestled in the woods. Beautiful place, and pretty fun. The Santa Barbara Zoo isn't huge, but it's fun, and there's a nice train loop, if you'd like to see a bunch in a short bit of time.

If you like hiking, check Santa Barbara Hikes. There are some great, shorter hikes that lead to some nice vantage points, but be careful for poison oak, and bring a flash light if you're going for afternoon to night hikes. The trails are pretty well marked, but some have spurs that lead you into the creek, and if you're chatting while it gets dusk, you might end up soggy (yes, I'm speaking from experience).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:14 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Pierre Lafond has an amazing breakfast spread, I try to go there every time I am in town. Yelp seems to have a lot of people who were displeased with their lunch or dinner (which I have never had and never plan to have). Breakfast however, it is a must!

The James Joyce is another spot worth hitting. It is a very solid bar. If you go at the normal busy times, you will find a reasonable number of UCSB students (unfortunate in my opinion), but if you want to drop in for a pint, it is the place to stop.

In general, SB is a pretty sleepy town. You will probably want to get out of SB if you are there for a week. When I go up in that area, I do it for wine. SB wine country is north of SB proper. The towns to remember are Los Olivos and Solvang. Los Olivos is a quaint little town (most of it would fit on two football fields) with probably 20 tasting rooms (and a delicious sandwich shop! Panini). Solvang has a weird "dutch" element to it and has all sorts of trinkety shops, baskeries, tasting rooms, and other silliness. If you want specific references for tasting rooms that are on the vineyard (most of the nicer facilities are not in the cities, but between them, on the property itself) let me know and I will point you down the path of righteousness!
posted by milqman at 11:25 AM on May 12, 2010

We found two very good bakeries there. D'Angelo Bread - you can have a great breakfast here with eggs and freshly made toast. Anderson's Danish bakery has delicious pastries, and also a full dinner menu.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:26 AM on May 12, 2010

If you want cheap and exceedingly delicious mexican food, go to the Super Rica Taqueria (one step up from a food stand, that has seating on a covered patio.)

Every time I'm in SB I go here.... so yummy.
posted by egeanin at 11:46 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I live in Ventura and work in Santa Barbara.

Renaud's is reputed to have some of the best croissants outside of France.
La Super Rica was Julia Childs' favorite taqueria.
Lilly's Tacos is a taqueria at the other end of the spectrum; simple tacos filled with obscure animal parts for a little over a buck a piece.
Sojourner is my favorite hippie/vegetarian (their menu is not entirely veggie but skews heavily in that direction) place in the area.
Padaro Beach Grill has some good but overpriced food that you get to eat in a very pleasant outdoor lawn setting, right by the nice public beach at Santa Claus Lane.

Island Packers is the only game in town for getting out to the Channel Islands, and by "in town" I mean in Ventura, which is a pleasant 30 minute drive south along the coast. If you do end up at Ventura Harbor you should not miss the opportunity to eat at Andria's, still my favorite fish and chips anywhere.
posted by contraption at 11:49 AM on May 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

oops, I broke my Super Rica link but you can just follow egeanin's.
posted by contraption at 11:54 AM on May 12, 2010

I stayed in this vacation rental. If it's available for the dates you want then I highly recommend it. Beautiful, light, airy duplex. Great big comfy bed in the master bedroom. Kitchen. Deck backing onto a creek. The location is incredible and you don't need a car. 5 minute walk to the beach (and Sambo's Diner) and wharf, 5 minute walk to State St (more like 10 minutes to the start of the real strip on State, but worth it to be by the beach).
posted by caek at 12:24 PM on May 12, 2010

The Presidio Motel is pretty unique, but not in a quaint victorian house sorta way.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:48 PM on May 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of the great suggestions so far!! Please, keep em coming. Also, anyone know if there is a good place to go parasailing in Santa Barbara?
posted by veronicacorningstone at 1:25 PM on May 12, 2010

Oh yeah and Super Rica!!!!
posted by notned at 1:59 PM on May 12, 2010

Parasailing? I've never seen anyone parasailing here, though I don't spend much time at Santa Barbara beaches. I see only one company, Blue Edge, that offers it and haven't heard a thing about them.

I do see people paragliding pretty frequently and it looks like lots of fun, though you would miss out on the cuddling aspect since you'd be on separate gliders, each with an instructor.
posted by contraption at 2:08 PM on May 12, 2010

I was actually just coming in to say what reptile said, the motel 6 by the beach is pretty decent actually and how much time are you planning on spending in the hotel anyway? I would say one thing though, OMG book a room now! Cheap/decent rooms in SB fill up FAST and it is a pretty common tourist destination.

Hotel Possibilities:
Motel 6 at the beach
Best Western Beachside
Holiday Inn Express Downtown
posted by magnetsphere at 2:59 PM on May 12, 2010

I asked where to eat when we went to SB for our first wedding anniversary. Ended up eating at Downey's and loved it. Went there a couple years later and still loved it!
posted by DakotaPaul at 5:00 PM on May 12, 2010

Oh, and I'll second Sojourner. Great place for lunch.
posted by DakotaPaul at 5:01 PM on May 12, 2010

I live in SB.

Santa Barbara as a city doesn't have the Sideways vibe. It is more like a spread out shopping mall with excellent weather and decent food. You'll probably have a fun weekend, but just warning you...

To do:
- Paragliding? Elings Park is where you want to go.
- LotusLand if you can.
- Walk around the pier.
- If you're here at the right time of year, the butterflies at the Natural History Museum (behind the Mission) are fun.

Place to stay:
I like the Upham Hotel because of its location in the center of downtown. It is a B&B.
The Motel 6, as others mentioned, isn't bad.
I'd recommend staying either downtown or East or West Beach. Watch out for stuff on upper State. There are a ton of hotels there but few are very nice and they're further from the action. If you're looking at places online, feel free to MeMail me and I'll give you the scoop on where they're located.

If you have a car, Sakana in Montecito is great sushi. There are a few sushi places downtown SB too, but I've never been too impressed.
Ca'Dario is pretty good Italian.

I can help more with specific cuisines...
posted by k8t at 5:11 PM on May 12, 2010

The Cheese Shop in Downtown Santa Barbara has truly amazing varieties of cheeses and the best cheese sandwiches ever. Also, lots of cool quirky shops for shopping. The French Press has fabulous coffee.
posted by eleanna at 5:34 PM on May 12, 2010

Response by poster: K8t, Not going for the Sideways vibe. Just wanted a funny quote relative to Santa Barbara. I DO appreciate the warning though, and your suggestions are great.

Thank you everyone for the additional Hotel suggestions... definitely the biggest challenge at this point.
posted by veronicacorningstone at 5:40 PM on May 12, 2010

Agave Inn?
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:20 PM on May 12, 2010

If you are hikers, head up Cold Spring Trail in Montecito.

It's a great hike, and you can make it a loop along Cold Spring Ridge Trail if you don't want to go all the way up to Montecito Peak. Absolutely fantastic views of the city and surroundings.

We like the Doubletree Fess Parker Inn but it's definitely in the "expensive" category.

If you want a short walk, head to the Douglas Preserve. Beautiful location, lots of dogs.
posted by tybstar at 9:48 PM on May 12, 2010

Seconding (thirding?) the following:

Presidio Motel. Great price, great location, interesting/funky/sweet/charming rooms, without that B&B victorian lace bedspread feel. They also have loaner bikes that you can borrow (for free!) and ride around town without having to worry about parking (otherwise somewhat of a pain). Walking distance from the main drag.

La Superica. Get the specials, and anything you don't recognize. It's amazing, I go there every time. It's super casual (plastic chairs, order/pickup at a window), and a bit slow if you go at main meal times. But so worth it. The "La Superrica Especial" is my favorite, as well as the thing that is basically "Melted cheese with tomatos".

There's a great little winery at the south (beach) end of State Street (the main drag) that is a great deal and has really good wines, especially if you like dessert wines and/or port-like substances. It's called Geissinger. For $8 you get 18 (18!) tastes. Don't planning on driving right afterwards!

You can rent kayaks (and other misc water vehicles) at Sea Landing at the boat harbor, and self-propel yourself around the bay for an hour or two. Might be fun if you're into that.

Wine tasting, of course, head up to Los Olivos area and hit Foxen Canyon Road. Pretty nice scenery up there too.

The Santa Barbara Zoo is pretty nice if you like Zoos.

If you want a gourmet romantic meal, Bouchon is one of the best I've ever had. Pricey, but very much worth it.

Random: Santa Barbara's IHOP is huge, clean, and relatively unchaotic (as IHOPs go). I usually hit it for breakfast.

The movie theater on State Street is absolutely gorgeous -- Vintage with a capital V. If something good is playing, the 11am (ish) Sunday show is usually very quiet.

On weekends there's an art fair of sorts along Cabrillo Drive (which runs along the beach).

On certain Thursdays, the art museum has a happy hour art fair thing, which I'm told is fun if you're at all interested in art. The cafe in the art museum is also a great place to stop and refuel. Excellent food, not too overpriced.

Santa Barbara is really a nice place to hang out, have fun! Beware though, it can be quite chilly, especially in the summer. Or more chilly than one might expect anyway.
posted by bluesky78987 at 10:22 PM on May 12, 2010

Best answer: Sorry it took so long to repost, but thank you all for your responses. We stayed in a LOVELY motel that I highly recommend, the Marina Beach Motel. They have bicycle rentals for free and upgraded our room for our anniversary. In a great location in West Beach, near the pier.

We ate at Brophy Brothers for lunch which was AMAZING, we got way too much food.

Our Anniversary dinner at Buchon the food was incredible and they spread lovely orange rose petals all over the table for our celebration. It was a meal to remember to be sure.

Brunch Sunday Morning was at the Boat House which is just off a beach where they allow dogs, so its very fun to watch the dogs play while you wait.

Otherwise, we rode bikes along the beach, went to the Pier, had cocktails and beers up and down State Street and had a generally fantastic time. Thanks to those who mentioned the Fog in June, because we certainly had a lot of that. :)

Oh and the James Joyce was a great place, milqman, thanks for the recommendation.

Alas, Lotus land and segway tours will have to wait til our next adventure there, but we definitely fell in love with SB and will be back. Thanks again for all your help and advice!
posted by veronicacorningstone at 11:13 AM on August 26, 2010

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