By Mara Pyzel
The tail end of 2017 was ruthless on Santa Barbara, California. This seaside paradise was ravaged by wildfires and mudslides leaving the community reeling from the devastation. In the aftermath of such destruction, Santa Barbarians, as they are known, proved their resiliency. The community bounced back quickly, thanks to the hard work of nonprofits like The Bucket Brigade, Direct Relief, and the Red Cross. Concerts at the historic County Bowl by local musicians Katy Perry and Jack Johnson helped further finance recovery. But the most proactive way to support Santa Barbara is simply by spending a weekend exploring the downtown — eating, shopping, and relishing in the splendor this coastal community offers.
The 95 coastal miles (152 km) between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara can be traversed by plane, train, or automobile. A 40-minute LAX-SBA flight has unmatched views of the Channel Islands. Amtrak’s two and a half hour Pacific Surfliner rail route provides the comforts of wifi and a dining car. Passengers glimpse a riders-only view of the southern coastline as the tracks wind their way along the Pacific. Another perk: Santa Barbara’s train station is situated in the downtown area so hotels, restaurants, bars, and the beach are all within easy walking distance. Love to drive? Take Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu for a top-down, wind-in-your-hair experience. Connect to the 101 from PCH and you’ll be pulling into Santa Barbara in under two hours.
Wake up with the most delicious breakfast in town at Jeanine’s Bakery. Whether you need a cappuccino and salmon bagel to go or are looking to for a more leisurely brunch experience (mimosas anyone?), Jeannine’s family-owned European bakery has something for everyone. Fuel your day with an egg white veggie scramble, banana Kahlua French toast, or Irish oatmeal with all the fixins.
The Funk Zone, where State Street meets the beach, is a neighborhood of repurposed warehouses, now home to local breweries and wine bars. Settle in at one of these chic lounges and indulge in a tasting or meander these few blocks conducting your own. A must for a hot summer’s day: Lucky Penny’s frosé - a rosé-strawberry-tarragon slushie on their picnic patio.
Just across the tracks from the train station, you’ll find Santo Mezcal. A haven for tequila lovers, the creatively mixed cocktails pair perfectly with the modern Mexican fare made from locally sourced ingredients. Happy hour here is always lively and the friendly staff and knowledgeable bartenders become fast friends.
Take in the view of the Santa Barbara Harbor with traditional cocktails and seafood dishes at the bustling Brophy Brothers Restaurant. The chowder at this nautical eatery is legendary among the harbor crowd whom you will find swapping stories after a day at sea.
The long summer days in Santa Barbara lend themselves to pleasant evening strolls down State Street. On Tuesday afternoons, support local agriculture by tasting your way through the Farmer’s Market. At the bottom of State Street is Stearn’s Wharf. After an ice cream cone and a visit to the Ty Warner Sea Center’s touch tank, catch the water taxi Lil’ Toot for a 15-minute narrated ride to the Santa Barbara Harbor. A stroll along the flag-lined breakwater allows you to take in the majesty of Santa Ynez Mountains. Stop at a restaurant in the harbor then hop on the Waterfront Electric Shuttle and for just 50 cents per passenger, you will be back in the downtown area in minutes.
Boasting breathtaking coastlines, locals and visitors are naturally drawn to the beaches. Play volleyball at the free nets on West Beach. In the calm of morning, kayak or stand up paddle around the harbor with rentals from the Santa Barbara Sailing Center. At low tide, a curious underwater world is exposed. The afternoon winds are perfect for a sailing lesson in the Channel with an instructor from the Sailing Center, regardless of experience. And no Southern California trip would be complete without a surf session! Catch a wave at breaks like Ledbetter Beach or the world-renowned Rincon Point with a rental from the dudes at A Frame Surf Shop who will hook you up with a board and local ocean knowledge.
Cruise the palm-lined beachfront along Cabrillo Boulevard between Shoreline Park and the Bird Refuge. This designated path is perfect for jogging, walking, rollerblading, biking — you name it! Have a laugh on surrey cycle from locally owned Wheel Fun. These colorful four-wheelers speckle the beachside bike path, cruising in a shaded and fun fashion. For a water break, check out Skater’s Point to be amazed by the local skateboard talent.
Broken Shaker at Freehand Los Angeles
Credit: Frank Lee