For the past two years, I’ve been helping my parents and brother, who had become ill and are no longer able to drive. During that time, I was also attempting to complete my college education, which I finally did last year. Therefore, I hadn’t taken a vacation since 2009, so I was way overdue for one and it couldn’t have come at a better time. 🙏🏽🙂
Several years ago, my brother, his friend and I drove to Southern California to attend an event. We ended up making a quick stop in Santa Barbara. This was my first introduction to California’s Central Coast. Since then, I had been wanting to take a trip to Santa Barbara because I had heard how beautiful it was.
On July 15th, I drove to Sacramento and stayed with my cousin, Rosa, because it’s a shorter distance from there to Santa Barbara. The following day, we drove towards Monterey thinking we would take the scenic drive in to Santa Barbara via Highway 1. We actually made a pit stop in Big Sur believing we were going to take Hwy. 1 all the way south, but we soon discovered that a closed section of the famous highway wasn’t going to permit us to do so.
We arrived in Santa Barbara about six hours later–at about 5 p.m. We discussed where to go for dinner and after reading some information in my Santa Barbara Magazine, as well as online, we opted to drive to the Santa Barbara Public Market.
We walked around the market to get a feel of what was there. A few minutes later, we stumbled across a restaurant called Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar. All I’ll say about the dish we both ordered, which was Pan Fried Pancit Noodle, was that it was delicious! 😋 It consisted of wheat noodles, bunashimeji mushrooms, Chinese shitake, white button mushrooms, fresh garlic, mushroom soy sauce, oyster sauce, Chinese broccoli, carrots, bean sprouts and chicken.
The following day, we contemplated where to eat breakfast. It was while we were pumping gas in to my cousin’s car that she then noticed Garrett’s Restaurant behind us. It looked like a neighborhood diner, so we drove around the corner, crossed the street and then walked in and waited for about 10 minutes. As we sat at the counter, we noticed how busy the restaurant was. We soon placed our order, which was brought to us about eight minutes later. While biting into my scrambled egg, I couldn’t help but think that Garrett’s reminded me of a restaurant back home called Flakey Cream Do-nuts & Coffee Shop–minus the donuts. 🍳🥓🥞
Next on our agenda was to visit some of the city’s history. We drove to the Old Mission Santa Barbara and were amazed with its beauty. We walked in to the church and then went on a self-guided tour around the Mission. The architecture is what stood out the most, as well as the floral landscape.
After the tour at the Mission, we walked around the back, where there is a cemetery and mausoleum containing the remains of some Franciscan friars and a number of prominent citizens who were part of the early history of Santa Barbara.
After spending about 1.5 hours at the Mission, we left and headed to Stearns Wharf , which is located in the harbor in Santa Barbara. According to SantaBarbaraCA.com, in 1872, the wharf became the longest deep-water Wharf between San Pedro and San Francisco. The Wharf boasts 17 businesses, including three full service restaurants, a candy store and a marine museum. We walked around the Wharf and went inside some of the shops. We planned to return a few hours later for dinner. The Wharf actually reminded me of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and the Santa Monica Pier.
By now, it was about 12 p.m., sunny and the temperature was in the 70’s; it was just perfect. We then walked away from the Wharf and towards the main street alongside West Beach. My cousin was looking for some specific shops, but we had no luck finding them in the direction we were going, so we went back towards the front of Stearns Wharf and then discussed taking a trolley ride around Santa Barbara. Across the Wharf is the Santa Barbara Visitors Center, so we stopped by and purchased two tickets for the trolley ride. After a 30 minute wait, the trolley arrived and we were off!
The Santa Barbara Trolley takes you in and around Santa Barbara. It also drives past the zoo and other noteable landmarks, as well as through the trendy city of Montecito, which is home to celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe, Ellen DeGeneres and Beanie Baby founder Ty Warner.
Montecito reminded me of Beverly Hills in that it’s exclusive, quiet and loaded with lots of wealth and beautiful homes. 🏡💰
The entire trolley ride was great because the tour guide provided you with the history of the city and history has always been one of my favorite subjects.
After the trolley ride, we got off in front of Stearn Wharf and walked up to the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company.
This restaurant on the Wharf was recommended by a friend of my cousin’s. I’m so glad we ate here because I was so hungry by the time our dinner arrived! 🍛
Believe it or not, this was only my second time eating lobster and I was NOT disappointed! 🦐 The tacos were so delicious and the Mexican Rice (one of my favorite dishes) complemented the tacos. 🌮 When we finished dinner, we drove back to downtown Santa Barbara and parked close to La Arcada Court, where there are numerous boutique shops.
One place we heard about during the trolley tour was McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream. Now who can resist ice cream?
There were so many great ice cream flavors, so it made it more difficult to choose which one I wanted. I quickly chose English Toffee Crunch and Churros con Leche. It was the best choice I made! 🍦
After dessert, we walked up and down State Street, as well as some of the neighboring streets, to check out some of the stores. I was looking to buy a few momentos to bring back to my parents, sibling and niece. I found a few things and was done shopping that night. My cousin, on the other hand, continued to window shop.
When we finally returned to our hotel about 8 p.m.-ish, I quickly changed in to my PJ’s and got in to bed because I was so beat! 😣
The next day was our last full day in Santa Barbara. We ate breakfast at Andersen’s Restaurant, which I had read about in my magazine. The breakfast was simple and the two pieces of pastry they gave us were pretty tasty.
After breakfast, we walked to La Arcada again and walked in to some shops we wanted to check out. We stopped by Lewis & Clark where I purchased two cute knick knacks that would remind me of the trip. 🙂
About an hour or so later, we walked to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and took the elevator up to its tower. The view of the county from the tower is amazing! From this point, you can see the Old Mission, the Santa Ynez Mountains, as well the beach and ocean, and Montecito Peak.
After our trip to the Courthouse, my cousin wanted to go wine tasting, so we started at Jamie Slone Wines. We met their tasting room hostess Jeannine and after I told her where we were from, she replied, “I lived there for 11 years!” What a small world! 🌏 She was awesome and so friendly! We told her we had planned to do more wine tasting and asked if she could recommend some other places. She told us about the Funk Zone and that we could take the (electric) green and white bus there. The Funk Zone is compromised of boutique tasting rooms, cafes, shops and galleries catering to Santa Barbara’s contemporary side. 🍷
Taking the bus to get around downtown Santa Barbara was a breeze! 🚌 Not to mention the fare to ride the bus was only .50 cents each way.
We got off at our destination and by this time, it was noon, which meant I needed to put something in my stomach! We ordered a Cuban sandwich to share at the Helena Avenue Bakery and then walked to nearby Pali Wines, where my cousin ordered a tasting flight. I took a sip of all the wines, which were quite good–especially the “Sunset” Rosé. 🍷
After wine tasting, we picked up the bus again and made our way back to the downtown area. Of course, we ended up near La Arcada again, so we walked around some more until we decided it was time for dinner. We returned to the Santa Barbara Public Market and had dinner at Corazón Cocina, where we both ordered a Norteño Taco and I (of course) ordered it with a side of Mexican Rice. Again, I was very content with my choice in food! The taco was so delicious! If I ever return to Santa Barbara, I’m definitely going to stop by Corazón Cocina again!
To end our last night in Santa Barbara, we couldn’t leave this beautiful city without eating some more dessert! We finally stopped by Rori’s Artisanal Creamery at the Santa Barbara Public Market and I’m so glad we did! My cousin ordered a scoop of Honey Almond Crunch and I ordered a scoop of the English Almond Toffee. Both our sweet tooths were satisfied! 🍦🍦
I’m so glad we made the trip down to Santa Barbara. I’m also grateful to my cousin for having been my ‘partner-in-crime’ on this adventure. 🙏🏽😀 The city was just as beautiful as I had pictured it! The weather was perfect, the food was outstanding and it was a great place to visit. I certainly plan to visit SB again in the future! 🏖🌊🛍😎