VISITING SANTA BARBARA: A WEEKEND GUIDE – OUR TOP PICKS FOR A WEEKEND TRIP!
Our first visit to Santa Barbara was in 2018 for our 1 Year wedding anniversary. We had such a nice time that we decided to go back 5 years later for our 6 Year wedding anniversary! Both visits fell on Memorial Day Weekend, and late May is a beautiful time to visit this coastal city. (Yes, holiday weekends do get more crowded than other times of year, so this is definitely something to keep in mind!)
Our first visit was nothing but bright blue skies and hot sun, and the second time around it was quite overcast and cool. To be honest, I was actually happy about our cloudy days this year…It kept us from overheating during hikes and walks around the city!
If you only have a couple of days in town, check out our favorite stops below to build your list of activities as well as find the tastiest food!
ACTIVITIES & DESTINATIONS
Downtown Santa Barbara & State Street
A walk down State Street provides endless restaurant options, unique stores to explore, and the perfect opportunity to sightsee in downtown Santa Barbara! There’s beautiful detail everywhere you look.
Reaching the end of this stretch of road will bring you straight out to the wharf, giving you a great view of the coast and the ocean!
Inspiration Point & The Santa Ynez Mountains
The hikes in the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara are truly gorgeous! To reach Inspiration Point, cars can park along Tunnel Road, and entry to the trails can be found at the Tunnel Road gate. The trail to Inspiration Point is easy enough for beginners, only taking about 1 – 1.5 hours from the gate, but can be made into a much longer excursion by exploring offshoots of other nearby trails.
On a clear day, there are beautiful views of the Santa Barbara coast. We happened to go on an overcast day, but the misty cool weather was actually my preference! We didn’t get too hot and felt like we were up in the clouds.
The only trail offshoot we had difficulty finding was Seven Falls. It was unclear at the time we were there if the trail was temporarily closed. Be sure to look at a map ahead of time!
Santa Barbara Zoo
We spent several hours at the zoo as it was our first time there! The Santa Barbara Zoo is an incredible small zoo and nonprofit that provides great education. It’s a fantastic stop for kids and adults alike! (You’ll need to reserve a time slot to visit through their website. This kept it from getting overly crowded!)
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
In Mission Canyon you’ll find the lovely Botanic Garden! 78 acres and over 1,000 species of plants – This place is beautiful!
Hook & Press
The Boston Cream Pie Donut and the Coffee Donut Holes!
If you’re a donut lover, Hook & Press is truly a must! Their rotating flavors are seriously decadent and one-of-a-kind, with everything made from scratch using high quality ingredients. The Boston Cream Pie Donut was everything it ought to be, and the Coffee Donut Holes were the perfect latte companion.
They also had vegan options and delicious drink choices!
Whether you’re in need of breakfast or craving dessert, Andersen’s Danish Bakery has it all! I wish we could have tried every single incredible pastry in the place. Our breakfast Croissants and afternoon Earl Grey Lavender Cookies were perfect.
We first had breakfast at Scarlett Begonia on our 2018 visit, and it was so good that we had to come back! The Lemon Ricotta Pancakes are the best part if you ask me!
If you love sushi, try Arigato. Everything was super fresh and flavorful! (They even had awesome veggie rolls!)
California cuisine influenced from all around the world, Opal is a great dinner option! The Vegetable Napoleon was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten!
Tondi Gelato has got to be some of the best gelato I’ve ever had! Everything is made on-site from scratch, and while I didn’t manage to get a shot before it was halfway melted, the flavors were all incredible. I picked Salted Caramel, and my husband got half Hazelnut / half Coconut.
They had both traditional dairy as well as non-dairy/vegan choices!
We came to Convivo for our anniversary dinner! All of their food is incredibly unique and inventive. They also kindly gifted us an anniversary dessert (the Chocolate Caramel Bar with Salted Caramel Gelato) and a Polaroid!
We certainly plan to visit Santa Barbara again in the future as it’s only a couple of hours north of Los Angeles. When we do, I’ll be sure to update this list!