Last Updated on 07/16/2021
I think we’ll be seeing an uptick in road trips in 2020, and if we’re being honest, probably 2021 all things considered. I couldn’t think of a better time to share our stop in Santa Barbara during a California road trip.
On our drive from Sacramento to San Diego, we had an unexpected detour due to some significant closures along the I-5. Rerouting to the coastal 101 was our only option to get home. So, we made lemonade out of lemons (possibly the over arching theme of 2020) and decided to stay the night in Santa Barbara. Not only does Santa Barbara make the perfect stop during a road trip, it’s also serves as an end point destination for a fun weekend trip.
Also Read: A Local’s Guide to San Diego
Where to Stay
We booked the Haley Hotel in the car just a few hours before we arrived. This hotel has that laid back California vibe offering outdoor lounge spaces (think corn hole, a large chess game and hanging rattan chairs). There was also a wedding party staying there and they were having the best time hanging out together.
Haley Hotel has easy parking in a lot right next door, bike rentals and even a cooler in your room if you fancy a picnic on the beach. Of course, we had Alfie so dog friendly is a must when we book a hotel. The icing on the cake was that they even had gluten free muffins from a local bakery Lilac Patisserie as part of their complimentary breakfast.
Santa Barbara Accommodation Recommendations:
–Haley Hotel: Casual surfer vibe, walking distance to shops and restaurants
–Hotel Californian: Luxury hotel a block from the beach with ocean views.
Where to Eat
With just one night in Santa Barbara along our road trip, we made sure to see a few highlights and revisit old favorites. My husband went to UCSB so we naturally had to go to Freebirds in Isla Vista, a spot we remember fondly (and at times, vaguely) for serving late night nachos.
We walked from our hotel to have dinner at Natural Cafe. The chain of healthy casual restaurants in Southern California is an old classic from my college days. I had to eat here again, but there are so many great restaurants in the downtown area. To top it all off, we stopped at McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams for dessert.
La Super-Rica Taqueria is also on my list of places to visit. It was reportedly Julia Child’s favorite place to eat when she lived in Santa Barbara.
Things to Do
State Street is the main street that runs from the ocean through downtown Santa Barbara. It’s filled with boutiques, bars and eateries. If you walk on State Street towards the ocean, it brings you straight to Sterns Wharf. Go all the way to the end of the pier for views of the beach.
Before we left the next day, we made sure to stop by the Santa Barbara Courthouse, the most beautiful courthouse in all of California (if not the United States). It’s entirely free to walk around the courthouse and the grounds. Be sure to go up the tower for gorgeous 360 degree views of Santa Barbara.
The Old Santa Barbara Mission is one of the California Missions established by the Spanish Franciscans. It was built in 1786 and still has an active parish today, along with a museum and gardens.
I’m quite obsessed with the homes in Santa Barbara and Spanish Colonial architecture in general. Picture Meryl Streep’s home in the Nancy Meyer’s film It’s Complicated. The Mission-style houses are worth taking a detour down a few side streets on your way out to the freeway.
If you’re thinking of a California road trip this summer, you simply can’t miss Santa Barbara.