3 days in Santa Barbara

Where to stay

Kimpton Goodland: Located in Goleta, the neighboring town to Santa Barbara, Kimpton Goodland is both affordable and classy with an eclectic, surf inspired design. Also houses the Outpost, a delicious and modern seafood restaurant that’s a local favorite.

Butterfly Beach (Photographer: OC Gonzalex; Source: Unsplash), Handlebar Coffee Roasters (Source: Yelp), Super-rica Taqueria (Source: Yelp)

Day 1

  1. Grab a coffee and croissant at the best coffee joint in town, and among the top 10 in California — Handlebar Coffee Roasters. Started in 2011 by two professional cyclists who share a passion for cafe culture and coffee roasting, this hole in the wall cafe quickly grew its reputation for quality and has expanded to two locations. Outdoor seating available.
  2. If you want to do a hike during your stay, Inspiration Point is the quintessential one to do. This 3 mile out-and-back journey reveals a panoramic vista of the city and the Pacific. There’s incline, shade and beautiful fauna – meant for those who want to burn some calories and a fun hike to do with friends.
  3. La Super-rica Taqueria has been a Santa Barbara staple forever, and won acclaim after Julia Child said it was her favorite restaurant in SB when she retired here. Typically fans line up and wait their turn to devour delicious tacos and tamales (wait well worth it). Tortillas and guacamole are made fresh. Insider tip: try their specials which rotate daily and include vegetarian options. Outdoor seating available.
  4. Butterfly beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area (neck and neck with Arroyo Burro beach). Located in the neighboring town of Montecito, this is a great spot to chill at and sunset watch. Dolphin and seal sightings are common, and dogs are welcomed.
Third Window Brewing (Source: Yelp), Santa Barbara Mission and Rose Garden (Source: Wikimedia, Niranjan Arminius)

Day 2

  1. Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro has hands down the best croissants, omelets and pastries in the area. Authentically French, simple and delicious, and popular among locals. Coffee is so so but the quality of the food makes up for it. Outdoor seating available.
  2. There are plenty of bike rental shops in town. A solid one is E-Bikery, family owned and offers e-bikes at an affordable price. While a regular bike is fine to use, Santa Barbara is on a slope so the e-bike can come in handy if you want to cover a lot of terrain in one day. Bike to the Santa Barbara waterfront which has a dedicated bike path that you can take for ~4 miles (the road next to the waterfront also has bike lanes). Along this path, stop by a few beaches as well as Stern’s Wharf and the Santa Barbara Harbor.
  3. Grab a beer at the excellent Third Window Brewing Co. They offer Third Window beers, local guest taps and non alcoholic options, as well as respectable nosh. Plenty of outdoor seating in a beautiful cabin-like milieu.
  4. Check out the Santa Barbara Mission, which just celebrated its bicentennial, as well as Rose Garden (right across the street from the Mission) and check out a beautiful, historical spot. Then head to the Santa Barbara Courthouse for incredible Spanish architecture and potentially see a wedding party or two. The courthouse is near State Street, the downtown strip with many shops and food options to check out.
  5. Vegans and Middle Eastern food lovers flock to Mesa Verde. Their Syrian inspired fare is full of color and flavor. Outdoor seating available.
Santa Barbara Shellfish Co (Source: Yelp)

Day 3

  1. Get brunch at Scarlet Begonia. A favorite spot of the Barefoot Contessa, each dish is thoughtfully crafted – from homemade cinnamon rolls and biscuits, to shrimp and grits, to lemon ricotta pancakes.
  2. Rent kayaking or paddle boarding gear at the Paddle Sports Center and set out from the Santa Barbara Harbor. Santa Barbara offers tremendous aquatic life, from dolphins and seals to herons and pelicans, which you can see up close. Because Santa Barbara’s coastal line faces south, not west, the waters are also calmer.
  3. Stop by On The Alley for some fresh, delicious fish tacos, located right next to the Santa Barbara Fish Market right on the harbor.
  4. Grab a glass of wine at Municipal Winemakers. They offer a variety of interesting reds and whites in a hipster, warehouse vibe. Located in the “funk zone” an area of town with art galleries and wineries.
  5. There are a number of high quality French restaurant in Santa Barbara, but Stella Mare wins for its beautiful, romantic and secluded ambiance. Nestled a few minutes away from downtown and near a wetland preserve.
  6. Alternative option: Another staple of Santa Barbara for any seafood lover is the Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. right on Stern’s Wharf. Pair freshly caught crab, lobster and mussels with an oceanfront view.

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Often overlooked, Mt. Laguna and Lake Cuyamaca offer scenic views and toddler-friendly hikes within an hour’s drive from San Diego.

The drive to the top of the summit of Mt. Laguna (elevation: 5,777 ft) takes about an hour from downtown San Diego on the I-8E. Close to the summit are a couple of short (~1 mile), toddler friendly hikes:

Lake Cuyamaca is situated along state highway 79 that runs N-S and about 10 miles west along the I-8 from the exit for Mt. Laguna. It’s possible to do some of these activities as a separate excursion or on the same day as a Mt. Laguna excursion:

  • Azalea Glen Little Loop: 1.4 mile loop (stroller friendly) with picturesque wooden bridges and remains of burned trees that make for an interesting landscape. There are picnic tables and restrooms in the parking lot area, and benches about half way along the trail.
  • Lake Cuyamaca Restaurant: A bit busy, but a decent option for sandwiches and burgers if you need to grab a bite. Overlooks Lake Cuyamaca.

Another option to wrap up the day is to drive back to San Diego via Julian and Santa Ysabel (~ 2 hours drive time) and stop by for some apple pie at the Julian Pie Company.

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Accessible within a couple of hours drive from San Diego and Los Angeles, Palm Springs offers great options for a day trip filled with outdoor activities.

  • Start your day at Koffi South with great coffee and baked goods options. The southern part of Palm Springs tends to be a bit less crowded than the downtown/northern part allowing for a more relaxing and socially distanced start to the day
  • Next, hike a stretch of the nearby Indian Canyon West Fork Trail located inside an Indian reservation. There is a ~$10 entry fee to get in. If the line to get in is too long, feel free to make a U-turn, and head on over to the next stop
  • Big Wheel Tours is a great bike rental shop. They have a big map of suggested bike paths, and our 3 year old loved their bike carriage. The Tahquitz Creek Loop is an easy path to complete in 2-3 hours. Pack a picnic and enjoy it in Demuth Park
  • Enjoy great ice-cream at Kreem across the street from the bike rental.

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