Everything is better in California. Believe me, I would know! I spent an unforgettable weekend in Santa Barbara. Oh the views, wine, food, vibes…Sorry, I digressed. Kinda.
Keep reading for the details.
How to get to Santa Barbara
My Santa Barbara weekend started with a flight to LAX airport. Then I hopped on the Amtrak train. The train took about two hours to arrive in Santa Barbara. Although, I did not mind because the view was beautiful. On one side is the mountain, and on the other is the ocean. Natural goodness surrounded me the entire time.
And the affordability! I was shocked that business class was only about $41 one-way; thus, I had to try it. It was spacious, comfortable, and came with a bottle of water and a snack. Economy was extremely affordable at only $20 each way. The space wasn’t the same, but the seats recline comfortably, making for a nice ride.
The train stops right in Downtown Santa Barbara, making it super convenient to explore. Oh, don’t be surprised if the stop is referred to as Goleta. Goleta is the name of the city, which is in Southern Santa Barbara county. The moment you walk off the train and see the mountain view, you know you’ve arrived at a special place.
Fair warning, everything in California is better and also expensive. A 20-minute Uber drive to my hotel cost me almost $40. It isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Where to Stay
I stayed at the Ritz Carlton, affectionately known as The Bacara to the locals. And oh do they know how to treat a girl. They upgraded me to a one-bedroom suite with a partial ocean view for my birthday. It was the ultimate gift!
Everything about the hotel was gorgeous minus the beach. There’s beach access, but it isn’t a maintained beach, there are no beach chairs or towels. However, they do have a beautiful pool with a spectacular view of the beach. The service was nice, as to be expected, but as I mentioned, expensive. I ordered a burger, fries, salad, and one drink and I paid $70+, including tip.
But other hotels that caught my eye are:
Kimpton Canary Hotel – My favorite feature of this hotel is the rooftop pool. It’s simply gorgeous. But the Kimpton is also a hotel that boasts luxurious accommodations and is gorgeous. Definitely, a must-visit if the Ritz is out of your price range. Plus, it’s a short walk from the train station!
Hotel Californian: Another hotel I considered, which apparently the rich and famous stay here so you’re likely to rub shoulders with them. The entire property is gorgeous.
Rosewood Miramar: If you got money, money, then this is for you. And not Ritz money, either! This hotel is similar to the Ritz in that it is on the beach. If you’ve ever stayed at a Rosewood property, you know just what to expect and this does not disappoint.
Things to Do
Wine Tour in the #1 Wine Region in the World
While there are so many things you can do, for this Santa Barbara weekend, I decided to fit as much in while maintaining the perfect relaxation mode.
When in wine country, drink wine and that’s what I did!
I initially signed up with Sustainable Wine Tours but they did not meet the minimum number of occupants to run my tour of choice, so I went with Santa Barbara Adventure Co. The later also offers other adventures like surf lessons and kayaking tours.
There wasn’t much difference in how they operated as they both pick you up from your hotel and take you to three vineyards in the wine country. Fun fact: The Santa Barbara region was voted as the top wine region in the world in 2021.
The vineyards are beautiful and each has a beautiful vibe. The tours had small vans, with a max occupancy of ten people. I went on a Monday, so I was fortunate enough to play the fifth wheel to two couples. Each tour gives you about four to five pours each and you’re introduced to several varietals of wine. Would definitely try again.
Horseback Riding: Canyons or Beach
But this Santa Barbara weekend best execursion goes to horseback riding through the canyons! I wasn’t prepared for the drop-dead gorgeousness of the beauty that surrounded me. I did this with Circle Bar. The “tour guides” are real life cowboys- with the accent and chaps to match! Just hearing their stories was entertainment within itself.
Now I know some of you may be like, “hard pass on the horseback”. But hear me out. Be like me and take a private tour for $50 more ($150) and the cowboy will guide the horse for you. That way you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the view without being worried if you’re guiding the horse correctly. Also, if beach horseback riding is more of your vibe, Los Padres Outfitters offer that option.
If neither of the above options are up your alley, sign up for a food tour. Santa Barbara is known for good food, a lot of which is farm-to-table.
Similar to the food, the Santa Barbara area is known for it’s beaches and surfing. I hear Butterfly Beach in Montecito, CA is gorgeous (oh- and Montecito is where Oprah lives!!)
You can also take a quick 30-minute drive or so up to Solvang, The Danish Capital of America. It’s such a super cute town that transports you directly to Denmark. We drove passed it during the wine tour and it looks like it lives up to the hype.
Need more resources on how to find activities to do on your tip? Check out this blog post that gives tips on selecting your vacation activities.
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If you do anything mentioned in this post, be sure to tag me on IG @thetravelingtwinmama.