santa barbara day trip

When people talk about Santa Barbara they’re really talking about two things: Santa Barbara wine country and Santa Barbara the town. Both are lovely! We recently took a day trip up to Santa Barbara the town. It’s a beach community: laid back – waaaay back. Here’s what we got up to and some things we’d recommend.

santa barbara

Morning Coffee on the Wharf

Stearn’s Wharf gets touristy by midday, but in the morning it’s quiet with lots of fishermen casting off the sides.  We took our coffees out to the very end, where we got a front row seat to watch the sailboats.


State Street Shops

Downtown Santa Barbara is centered around State Street.  You’ll get your chain stores and souvenir shops, but also a few really charming boutiques, especially if you get off the main drag.  We bought big floppy hats and crystals, which just seemed right.  Industry Home was a highlight – brimful of craft furniture and vintage scores.

industry home

Ice Cream Break

McConnell’s Ice Cream has been a Santa Barbara staple since 1949.  It’s almost required that you drop in for a scoop of Santa Barbara strawberry.  They’ve been doing the local ingredient and grass-grazed thing, since before that was a thing.


Historic La Arcada

The architecture in Santa Barbara is traditional Spanish.  Even the post office looks classic!  La Arcada is a great example.  It’s walking mall lined with fountains, sculptures, and mosaics, with art galleries and cafes tucked into its nooks.  We got a little respite from the sun and did some window shopping here.

wint tasting

Wine Tasting

If you can’t get up to wine country, that’s ok, because wine country comes to town. Most of the vineyards 30-45 minutes north have a tasting room. We dropped into Happy Canyon Vineyard‘s tasting room (of Piocho Ranch).  After a long day of walking, a tasting room with comfy seats and air conditioning was a priority, plus their wines are great.  The ranch also has a polo ground, so there are lots of pony-inspired touches.

hungry cat 2            hungry cat_edited

Early Dinner at The Hungry Cat

The Hungry Cat is a hip seafood house that’s also obsessed with smoking, curing, and pickling. Since Santa Barbara is known for sea urchin, I trusted that Hungry Cat to be my shop for this particular treat.  After a good seafood feast, a healthy dose of people watching, and an after dinner stroll, we made our way home.

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