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Apr 19, 2012 07:37 AM

Santa Barbara help!

Attending a wedding in Santa Barbara the second week in May and spending an extra week in the area. Could someone please provide tips on things I have to do, or places I have to go while I'm there. I am a foodie who enjoys the entire spectrum of food. I want the intimate side of SB, not the touristy stuff. Thank you for your help!

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  1. The Santa Barbara Bowl is a nice place to see a concert, so you can check out the schedule to see if there is anything that fits your interest. I like the natural history museum and arboretum there. The zoo is a lovely place for a half day, maybe a full day with kids. It is small but has a good selection of popular animals. The Mission is also very pretty. Yes, these may be classified as 'touristy,' but that does not mean they are not worth seeing. The Old Courthouse is nice, and there are lots of murals and a great view from the clock tower. The nearby library and art museum are also worth a gander. Most of these can be done in 1/2 to a 1/3 day each. If you are there on the weekend with the day to kill, the Craft Fair along the beachfront is a fun way to kill some time and get out in the sun.

    For food, don't miss La Super Rica, a taco stand that has grown a bit, but is excellent. Be prepared for a long line at prime times. I don't really care for much on the wharf, but I will have a drink and a sandwich at Longboarder's. The food is not great, but I like the view. Superior, in my opinion, is Shoreline Beach Cafe, where you can sit on the beach and have a few margaritas and some decent fish tacos (or whatever you like).

    I had a fabulous dinner at Petite Valintien a ways back, and would definitely go for a second time if I was looking for a nice dinner slightly off the beaten track. There are tons of other bars and restaurants along State Street.

    Outside of SB proper, you could go up into wine country. It is a nice drive over the Cachuma Pass. You end up in Solvang if you take it the whole way back to the highway, which is definitely a tourist mecca. I like Kayla winery, I used to get a shipment from them on a regular basis as part of the wine club. They also have a tasting room in SB off State Street if you don't want to make the haul out of town. If you come back through the pass, you can stop for dinner at the Cold Springs Tavern and have some game in a very nice setting. Lunch is a little more basic, but also an option if you are making the loop back to the highway, and you can always go to the Hitching Post. Make it a full on Sideways day, since Kayla is the winery where Sandra Oh's character worked and they ate at the Hitching Post. Just make sure you do not order the Merlot.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ocshooter

      Thank you so much for the detailed suggestions! Looking forward to more than one of them! Cheers!

    2. I highly recommend Stella Mare's in SB. It's French Country, located in an historic landmark house in the SB Bird Refuge. You asked for 'intimate' and this restaurant definitely defines this.
      I always dine in the green house...everything about this lovely place is wonderful....the setting, the beautiful eucalyptus trees, the quietness, the incredible food and the wonderful service. This restaurant is definitely not's a favorite with the locals and I do not think you'd be disappointed.
      As far as things to see....the Santa Barbara Mission...located up in the hills, beautiful with a rich early California history and very much worth seeing. A few blocks away...the SB Natural History Museum, featuring the regional history of that area.
      Of course, the SB unbelievably beautiful representation of Spanish Colonial architecture, distinct to the area. Also, walk up and down De La Guerra's just loaded with history.
      If you find yourself wanting to drive a ways....Cold Spring Tavern, up in the hills was a Stage Coach stop at one time, long ago, and the food isn't too bad :).
      Enjoy one of S California's most beautiful towns...I know I always do.

      1. SB has a great Italian heritage from the stone masons who built our lovely sandstone retaining walls and sandstone block buildings to those bringing the fishing industry and truck gardening traditions here as well.

        So wandering around the area called the Riviera which are the hills behind the Mission is one of the best ways to see the deep loveliness of this area and honor this part of our "Spanish pueblo" history which takes front and center -- but these Italian craftsmen left their permanent mark on who we are too.

        Therefore packing a real deli lunch from Via Maestra 42 on Upper State Street, taking it up to the overlook at Franceschi Park on the Riviera and wandering its rustic garden pathways that can lead you to all sorts of stone ally ways threading through this historic Riviera residential district is truly an insiders love affair withSanta Barbara.

        Some online research about our stone retaking ways, pedestrian trails and the Franceschi House will give you a little more structure to this exploration. I wish I could lay out a pathway for you, but even if you just picnic at the Franceschi House overlook you will be savoring our history, our views and our remarkable "mediterranean" heritage with is our Santa Barbara.

        PS: you can't go wrong with any of the suggestions here so far. Today is simply gorgeous and we locals keep falling in love all over again ourselves with SB, no matter how long we have lived here. It is the small details, the small favorite places, meals and corners that make this town constantly re-inventing itself in our own eyes no matter how long we lived here. Slowing down and savoring the details of the Riviera neighborhood is just one of the ways we keep finding new things too.

        4 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr

          Tons of great ideas gang! So here's another Q I've stumbled upon. Do I rent a car to have with us? I understand SB itself is very easily navigated on foot, or better off on bike. We're staying at the Canary the entire week. I'm guessing we should rent a car for the days we head to places like Cold Spring Tavern, wineries, etc...

          1. re: pcusic

            I would have a car. SB is spread out and is built up into the hill.

            1. re: pcusic

              We like to think you can come to SB and be "car-free" (there is a website telling you how and you picked a great downtown location hotel and a place I also like for lunch, a lot of what we are suggesting will need a car though if you want to be clever you can use our bus system which tries to be good, but it would not get you out to the Santa Ynez Valley and Cold Springs Tavern, but certainly up to the Mission - google "MTD" for bus routes. But they even suggest going up to Lompoc by train and hooking up with some of the local private winery tour companies - so who knows if you need/want a car afterall?

              It would be a very interesting report for a Chowhounder to make - wine and dine in Santa Barbara without a car. Certainly all our most often recommended spots are within a few blocks of walking from the Canary Hotel - I always call the 1100-1300 blocks of State Street and their one block side streets our town's restaurant Ground Zero --- but that would leave out Julienne off the 900 block, but even that is close to the Canary by a few blocks.

              Plus we have a Downtown SB Walking Urban WineTrail though you might want to take the easy downtown shuttle (25 cents if you visit this late in the afternoon (shuttle stops running after 5:30 or so)

              1. re: glbtrtr

                Scanning the list of "Car-Free" discounts on their Santa Barbara website above, if you don't bring a car, I noticed the 10% off for Canary Hotel and a free dessert at Louie's in the historic Upham Hotel - which is a long favorite mid-tier spot which I myself often forget about - it is like Stella Mares but would be easier to get to if you decide to "car-free" Santa Barbara. (or not)