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Girlfriends Guide to Santa Barbara

It’s easy for girlfriends to get away and get-together in Santa Barbara. The American Riviera® is very accessible, whether you’re driving, flying or taking the train. Our close proximity to Los Angeles opens options for flying into both LAX and Hollywood Burbank Airports—the latter of which has an Amtrak pick-up if you’re planning to be car-free while the former is conveniently connected via the Santa Barbara Airbus. The charming Santa Barbara Airport also offers direct flights from seven major hubs and is super chill to fly in and out of thanks to its compact size. On the railways, Santa Barbara is serviced by the Pacific Surfliner and Coast Starlight routes and Amtrak stops right in the heart of downtown. If a road trip is calling, Santa Barbara sits along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway and is a 1.5-hour drive from Los Angeles or five-hour drive from San Francisco with spectacular scenery coming in from both north and south.

Day 1

Whatever means of transportation your group opts for, once you arrive and get checked into your accommodations, you can dive right into your touring and tasting agenda. With more than 30 wineries on Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail, you can easily pair wine tasting with shopping, dining, spa-ing and other adventures and diversions. For example, let’s say you arrive in the early afternoon. Get changed into your finest athleisure attire, grab bikes from your hotel (or rent from Wheel Fun Rentals) and take a spin along the Cabrillo Bike Path to feel those refreshing ocean breezes in your hair. Cruise out to Stearns Wharf for a tasting with a panoramic view at Deep Sea Tasting Room, and then board a sunset cruise from Sea Landing or the Harbor. After your sail—and some epic photo ops—return the bikes and refresh yourselves for a late dinner and night on the town. Keep it classy and end your night sipping on fine wines at the stylish Armada Wine + Beer Merchant.

Day 2

After breakfast the following morning, head to the spa for a serious pampering session with your pals. Spa experiences range from seaside resorts to contemporary downtown retreats. Destination spas where you can get the full experience with steam, sauna, poolside lounging and gourmet food service include The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara in Goleta, Hotel Californian on Lower State Street, Belmond El Encanto on the Riviera, and The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara in Montecito. Float Luxury Spa is a locals’ favorite that’s well suited to smaller groups with its charming outdoor patio and cozy relaxation lounge. Along Santa Barbara’s waterfront, let the sound of ocean waves send you into sweet relaxation at Spa Beaumontia, inside Harbor View Inn. For a truly unique experience, venture into Salt Cave Santa Barbara on State Street where you can revel in the healing powers of Himalayan salts and remarkable serenity options.

In the afternoon, you’ll be feeling fresh and ready for some wine tasting and shopping. Wander into the shops and boutiques along State Street, meandering into the inviting, bougainvillea-draped paseos like Paseo Nuevo, La Arcada (pop into Sanford Winery here) and El Paseo (where Jamie Slone Wines and Grassini Family Vineyards offer divine chocolate pairing experiences). The Mill is a cool Lagoon District destination to check out with a winery, brewery and restaurant set in one artsy cooperative complex that’s also home to an interiors store and Catherine Gee’s ready-to-wear showroom. If you’re in that ‘hood,  we recommend a stop Carr Winery or make an appointment for a one-of-a-kind wine tasting paired to music at Sanguis.

Book Your Stay

After your sipping and shopping extravaganza, drop your shopping bags off and regroup at your hotel. Book a dinner in the Funk Zone, where you can squeeze in another tasting or two thanks to the later operating hours in this lively district that’s packed with wine tasting rooms, breweries, galleries, surf shops and some excellent restaurants. For a pre-dinner treat, stop into Les Marchands for an out-of-this-world charcuterie plate, paired to perfection with domestic and international wines.  If you and your girls are fond of bubbles, try a pre-supper sparkling wine flight at Riverbench Winery—and take home one of their glitter-dipped bottles for the ultimate souvenir.

DAY 3

Start your last full day with a yoga class followed by a decadent brunch. Then head to Montecito for a guided tour of Lotusland or Casa Del Herrero—both are stunningly beautiful estates and gardens that require reservations since they are in residential neighborhoods. After stepping back in time and getting a taste of the luxe life, hit the shops on Coast Village Road and in the Upper Village as you make your way towards Summerland for antiquing and wine tasting at Summerland Winery. Contact Santa Barbara Beach Horseback Rides to secure a late afternoon horseback ride on the sand with your lady gang. If you don’t have to part ways until the following morning, that means you have one more night for dinner paired to delicious Santa Barbara wines.

And if you have an extra day to work with, consider booking a guided tour to head over the hill to wine country where the grapes are grown. Several reputable companies offer a diverse range of guided tours complete with a designated driver. Choose from classic tastings at a few wineries with a picnic lunch; tours that emphasize themes like sustainable winemaking and Sideways film locations; or tours that integrate activities like biking, horseback riding and cupcake tasting. If you’re a creative bunch or want to cultivate your artistic skills, book a private painting in the vineyards experience with Gyspy Studios or check their schedule of public classes offered on weekends.

Whether it’s a bachelorette party or a mid-winter getaway to the dreamy California sunshine, girlfriends undoubtedly agree that Santa Barbara is a prime destination to get away, gather and relax—American Riviera® style.