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Travel Guide: Santa Barbara

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Take me back to Santa Barbara!!

If anyone followed along with my many, many stories over the weekend know that I was on a girls’ trip to Santa Barbara. I went with my sister, Stephany, and my friends, Laura & Sarah. The four of us have been close for many, many years now and have been there for majority of the big moments in each other’s lives – weddings, babies, birthdays, kids’ parties, etc. But last year we took our first trip together to Newport Beach and decided that it needed to be an annual trip. So after a little back and forth about what kind of trip we wanted – good food, the ocean, cooler weather and pretty architecture – we planned our trip to Santa Barbara. None of us had been there before, so it was fun to experience it all together. It was the best mixture of relaxation and adventure and in case you plan on taking a trip there, I’m sharing all of our favorites with you!

where we stayed

la palerma

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We found the cutest home on VRBO to stay! Considering that I have renovated, designed and furnished 20 of my own vacation rentals and my sister manages over half of them, the fact that we were SO impressed and in love with this house says a lot. The two of us are picky about where we stay (thanks, Mom! haha!) and we loved this place. From the moment we walked up, it was cute and welcoming and it set the tone for how we felt about what we were going to walk into. The porch was adorable the steps had pumpkins up and down them.

The house had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a cozy living room and a great kitchen and dining space. The backyard was beautiful and we loved using the hot tub and sitting out by the fire. It was within walking distance of both downtown Santa Barbara and the Funk Zone and Stearns Wharf.

There were intentional touches everywhere from charging stations, speakers in each room and robes. Plus, our host Venessa was the best and totally helped me surprise my friends with a giant charcuterie board and wine that was set up when we arrived.

Long story short, book a stay here! You won’t be disappointed.

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Where we ate & Drank

Buckle in…because we ate and drank at a lot of places! And they were all so good. From seafood to Mexican food to wine to Spanish tapas…we had it all and then some! Honestly, I would go back to every single place that we went though.

malibu farm

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Instead of flying direct into Santa Barbara, we decided to fly into LAX and drive to Santa Barbara. This way we could stop anywhere along our route and one of our favorite places to eat is Malibu Farm, so that was a no brainer. Their cocktails are incredible and their food is delicious. Get the nachos with steak or the fish tacos. Those two items are some of our favorites.

santa barbara sheelfish co

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We didn’t know we were going to end up here for lunch, but we are so glad that we did. It’s at the very end of the pier at Stearns Wharf and we sat outside overlooking the ocean. It was pretty chilly and not everyone brought a jacket, but a beer and some clam chowder helped warm everyone up. The crab cakes were great and everyone got the lobster tacos and loved them! Definitely give Santa Barbara Shellfish Co a shot! And take a photo with the whale on your walk over. 🙂

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la paloma

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We weren’t super hungry after our lunch, but we wanted to grab a snack and drinks before our ghost tour adventure. Everything was great at La Paloma. We got a couple of pitchers of the Late Night margaritas and split the crispy brussels, the shishito peppers and a couple of orders of ranch fries. And then I finished with a Oaxaca Old Fashioned, which was really yummy!

pierre la fond

We found Pierre la Fond, a cute market and eatery by chance and grabbed a quick lunch here. I got the bacon potato quiche at the counter and it was really good. I also grabbed an oat milk matcha latte at their coffee shop, which I enjoyed. The girls split a different quiche and we all took a couple of bites of a blueberry coffee cake that I would highly recommend!

finch & fork

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You can tell from this photo that we had a great time at dinner at Finch & Fork. We started with a round of drinks and an order of the tator tots. And for dinner we had the diver scallops and the catch of the day, which was Halibut. Everything was freaking delicious! Instead of heading home when planned, we stopped at the bar for another round of drinks and then stayed for one more. I promise you once you have tried the Fig Old Fashioned, you will understand why. 🙂

bree’osh artisan bakery

We stopped by Bree’osh for a quick breakfast and some caffeine. The line was out the door when we got there, so I felt confident it was going to be good. And I was right. Their croissants were ridiculous! I ordered the ham and cheese croissant and a chai latte with oat milk, plus a chocolate almond croissant to snack on later.

santo mezcal

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We walked by Santo Mezcal on our way to Stearns Wharf on Friday and the interior looked so cute that I looked up the menu. The drink menu alone looked so good and I really wanted to try it out. But then it was recommended to us by one of my Instagram friends and also our server at Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. So then we knew we had to go. I was so impressed with everything I ordered. But the highlights for me were the Ceviche Verde, Pulpo a las Brasas (octopus and it was amazing!) and the snap pea smash. It’s a gin drink, which seems out place when there is so much tequila and mezcal to drink, but it was different and delicious. I also had the Besa Ardiente with Casaamigos Reposado and it was also really good, especially if you like spicy margaritas…which I do.

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pearl social

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We stopped by Pearl Social for drinks before dinner and it was so cute. We grabbed some comfy seats outside and it was just what we needed to rally and it make it to dinner. It was relaxing and the drinks were great! Plus, I love watching the bartenders make the drinks at really good cocktail bars. It really is an art. The best one was called Accident in Paradise and I almost felt healthy when I tasted it. It has a cucumber-mint-cilantro puree in it. Sounds weird, but it’s their most popular drink and for good reason.

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loquita

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Listen…we almost didn’t make it to Loquita (one of us really needed to rally!) and that would have been a travesty. It might have been the best meal of the trip. It was amazing!! I love a good tapas restaurant and everything was so good. Like, when can I go back good? The V.S. O.F. cocktail, which was a chai spiced old fashioned, was to die for! I chatted with the bartender to get the chai syrup recipe and we shared it with me. I plan on trying to reinvent this drink very soon. The highlights of our meal were the dates, croquetas, patatas bravas, vaca and mariscos paella. Then we finished with churros and the basque cheesecake, which was a different type of cheesecake that we all really loved.

helena ave bakery

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I know, I know. We ate and drank at A LOT of places and this list is getting long, but this is the last place to tell you about. I was most excited to try Helena Ave Bakery after seeing something called The Elvis. It’s banana bread with peanut butter, bananas, bacon pepper and honey. It was as good as I hoped it was going to be. I could really go for another piece again…like right now. My friend, Laura, got the breakfast taco and she loved it. The fried chicken sandwich was good – get it hot on the buttermilk biscuit. Also, the brown butter cinnamon roll was also really nice. The frosting was worth licking off of the plate.

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What we did

I know it seems that all we did was eat and drink on this trip. And for sure we did a lot of that, but this trip had plenty of adventure too. Most of our mornings were pretty slow, but once we ventured out we did a lot of things! Here is what we did – most I would recommend that you do also!

ghost tour

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Why don’t we start with the one I wouldn’t recommend and get that out of the way? Haha! I wanted to love this. I really did. I have done ghost tours in other cities and I have enjoyed them so much. I definitely talked my friends into doing this even though they were unsure and I was bummed that it wasn’t very good. I’m not going to list the company since that just seems mean, but it just didn’t do it for us. Having a couple of drinks ahead of time really helped us make the best of it though. And find friends that you can laugh with. It makes everything better!

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house stalking

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I love looking at homes, especially beautiful homes and the houses that we saw in Montecito were insanely gorgeous! We drove around and even got out a walked around a few neighborhoods. We for sure looked out of place walking around streets with no sidewalks, but even just driving around was so inspiring.

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hiking

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We drove to San Ysidro Trailhead and our goal was to make it to the falls, but we got busy house stalking and by the time we started hiking, we ran out of time. We hiked for about 45 minutes total and it was still a good hike, but someday I’d like to go back and make it to the falls. The trail was surrounded by pretty houses, a babbling brook and gorgeous mountains so even though we didn’t make it too far in, we still really enjoyed it.

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sunset electric boat cruise

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So, here is the thing…3 of us on this trip get motion sickness and the idea of a sunset electric boat cruise was great. My family and I have rented one in Lido in Newport Beach and we have gone out for a couple of hours to see houses and pretty views. I thought that this might be the same, but it was mainly heading out the ocean and then slowly going towards the wharf and back to the docks before the sun sets. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but once you hit the ocean and you stop moving and start bobbing, that is when the sea sickness starts. We brought cute little individual charcuterie boxes from Olive Branch Provisions , wine and Prosecco. It just didn’t happen for us. Overall, we loved Captain Mike I would still recommend Celebration Cruises and had we felt better, it would have been a really good time.

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bike rental

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How can something be so much fun and so much work at the same time?! After lunch on Saturday we decided to rent a 4 person surrey bike from Wheel Fun Rentals and ride around the board walk and Funk Town for an hour. Maybe we should have waited a little longer after lunch?? Haha! You have to do this with friends that you can yell at and still be okay with, because it takes teamwork and sometimes you feel like you are going off of the sidewalk or you get stuck and can’t turn around. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time and we were sweating like 5 minutes in, but it was worth it. We even stopped for a little photo op under the rainbow bridge.

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butterfly beach

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What we realized once we got there is that there is not much shoreline in Montecito beaches. All the blogs said to go to Butterfly Beach and we did. We couldn’t go on the beach since the tide was so high and went all the way to the wall, but we walked on a really pretty bath with a ton wild plants and flowers and hummingbirds. And the cliffs and ocean together was really pretty.

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walk around funk town

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Over our few days there, we walked around Funk Town quite a bit. We went into shops, did some sparkling wine tasting at River Bench, had a beer flight at Figueroa Mountain Taproom and walked around Hotel Californian. It’s gorgeous and has a really cool vibe. I would think about staying there on my next visit for sure!

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Well, there you have it – our Santa Barbara girls’ trip! If you go and try any of these things, I hope you love it as much as we did. Oh, and driving from LAX is worth it for a stop in Santa Monica for some shopping on your way out. Just saying…

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