Skip to content

A Local’s Guide to Santa Barbara

2014 April 15


We spent Spring Break at home but all this talk of travel has given me the itch to book a few weekend getaways sooner than later. So here is a new local’s guide (you can see the others here) to beautiful Santa Barbara from one of my favorite blogger friends, Sara from Bonzo, Chooch, Mushy and Me:

I was born and raised in Santa Barbara and consider myself so lucky for it – and I feel even luckier that my babies get to grow up here, too. It’s a pretty special place if you don’t mind me saying so. Some call it the American Riviera – beautiful white plaster buildings with red tiled roofs nestled in the hills with the Santa Ynez Mountains behind them and the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands in front – but I’m happy to call it home. I appreciate Santa Barbara’s beauty every day – that I can say for sure – but the one downside to being from here is that I’ll never know what it would be like to see this special place for the first time. I can only imagine it would be pretty spectacular to arrive here and get to take it all in – it’d be a major feast for the eyes. Then getting to explore, shop, eat and wander would only seal the deal. So, whether you should find yourself visiting Santa Barbara for the first time (lucky duck!) or are returning to this lovely place again, here are some of my favorite spots that I hope you’ll check out when you do:

Where to get a facial – Four Seasons – the Tata Harper facials, in particular. I’ll be honest, this one’s on my wish list but if the Four Seasons’ oceanfront location doesn’t blow you away, I’m pretty sure 50 minutes of being pampered with Tata Harper products will do the trick. If you’re looking for something a little more low key with a local vibe, Skin Dance is the spot. It’s tucked away off the beaten path in downtown Santa Barbara and the owner, Andra, is amazing.

Where to get a massage – Bacara Spa – beautiful hotel, amazing waterfront location, incredible spa treatment menu. Yes please. Or Alchemy Arts Center, a wellness and healing center, spa and cafe. I could move in.

Where to shop for your man – James Perse opened recently in Montecito and it’s the perfect spot for cool basics. Warbler Records and Goods stocks new and used vinyl. Rad spot. Guitar Bar – whether or not he plays guitar, this place is worth checking out. And he’ll want to hang out a while, guaranteed.

Where to shop for your home – Upstairs at Pierre Lafond is my favorite home store of all time. I’ve loved it since I was a kid and it just keeps getting better. Botanik – luxury garden and home shop. It’s to die for. Raoul has textiles that will blow your mind, beautiful furniture, art and decor. Such a cool spot – even if it’s just for daydreaming.

Where to shop for your kids – Toy Crazy is a cute little shop filled to the brim with toys that encourage imaginative play. Our go-to spot for birthday presents. Chicken Little: this family-owned shop is a Santa Barbara landmark. It’s been around for years and is wall-to-wall (literally) anything and everything you need for babies and kids: clothes, gear, toys, you name it. Amelia Jane may quite possibly be the sweetest shop for babies and kids ever.

Where to shop for yourself – Diani clothing and shoes. Isabel Marant, Rag and Bone, Mother – you get the drift. So good. Lola: this little spot is right off State Street (the main downtown drag) and is always a reliable place to find pretty, easy, casual, chic pieces that don’t cost a fortune. It could be easily missed if you didn’t know about it but is totally worth stopping into.

Where to get a sweet treat – Rori’s Artisanal Creamery: there’s a location in Montecito and another (just opened!) in the Santa Barbara Public Market so you’re never far from a scoop of artisan, organic ice cream.

Where to get fresh juice – Juice Ranch: this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot is my favorite favorite. Cold-pressed, organic, local, amazing.

Where to get a cheap eat – Brasil Arts Cafe: this new place is rad. The smoothies with homemade nut milks are our favorites. Los Arroyos is our favorite Mexican restaurant. Their downtown location is small, order at the counter, and their Montecito spot is a sit down restaurant – with a full bar and amazing margaritas! La Super-Rica: this place is an institution in Santa Barbara. Lines-around-the-block famous.

Where to wine and dine – Arigato is the best sushi. No reservations – be prepared to wait or go early! Ca’Dario is the best Italian. Order the brown butter sage raviolis as a starter so everyone can try a bite. Hungry Cat = best seafood and San Ysidro Ranch is quintessential, beautiful Santa Barbara.

Where to wine – Municipal Winemakers for a new school, hipster vibe and Santa Barbara Winery for a more old school, classic atmosphere.

Where to have breakfast – Scarlett Begonia serves seasonal and delicious fare in a cute courtyard setting and French Press has the best coffee. The Anacapa street location is my favorite.

Where to take the kids – The Santa Barbara Zoo. I’m admittedly biased but our zoo just might be the cutest one in the world. The giraffes have a million dollar ocean view. The Santa Barbara Natural History Museum: one of our favorite places to go is the museum’s backyard which is creekside. There’s a clearing under giant live oak trees where the kids can play in the running creek water and just be in nature. It’s a magical spot, trust me.

The whole things sounds pretty magical to me, wouldn’t you agree?? Thanks for sharing all your Santa Barbara secrets, Sara!

*image above via here

3 Responses
  1. lizz permalink
    April 15, 2014

    love guides like this! I’m taking notes!

  2. April 16, 2014

    I’m from Santa Barbara and live here still too, but I HAD to read through Sara’s guide to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything. 🙂

    It’s true—the brown butter sage ravioli at Ca’Dario will make you fall in love with whomever you’re with.

  3. April 17, 2014

    thanks again for having me!


Comments are closed.