Fall is one of the most beautiful, vibrant times of the year in Santa Barbara. The days are generally still warm and summer-like, the nights get crisp enough to call it “sweater weather,” and the dramatic sunset skies take on more saturated hues. Pumpkin patches are open and farmers’ markets abound with seasonal specialties like persimmons, figs, and pears. Over in wine country, harvest is in full swing as the vineyard leaves turn shades of yellow, orange, and red. The crowds of summer thin out making it even easier to social distance and you can linger longer thanks to attractive hotel deals that include booking two nights and getting the third free. Check out our fall travel guide below for more trip-planning ideas and itinerary inspiration.
Go Pumpkin Picking
Nothing shouts fall more than a trip to the pumpkin patch, whether you’re taking the kids on an outing to get into the spirit of Halloween or looking for decorative accents to set the mood in your home. Family-run Lane Farms on Hollister Avenue (between Santa Barbara and Goleta) is a local favorite for their vast pumpkin patch and other fun activities. Shop their produce stand, check out the farm animals and treat the kids to corn maze and hayride adventures after they pick out their carving pumpkins. Big Wave Dave’s sets up a pumpkin patch in La Cumbre Plaza (near Macy’s) for the month of October. In addition to pumpkins of all sizes, they also have a variety of gourds, hay bales, and corn stalks to spruce up your home, plus photo ops galore.
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Savor Seasonal Flavors
Pumpkin Spice Lattes aren’t the only autumn specialty to get excited about. Our chefs build dishes around seasonal ingredients that shine this time of year. Winter squash, apples, and broccoli rabe start appearing on menus for a spell, as does spiny lobster straight from the Santa Barbara Channel. You’ll find local fishermen selling premium spiny lobster at the Santa Barbara Fish Market on Saturdays. Some years, Santa Barbara Spot Prawns have a limited fall haul as well, so if you see those on a menu, don’t miss your chance to relish in that local delicacy.
Plan a Picnic
Picnics are a perfect way to enjoy the warm autumn days and subtle seasonal shifts while taking advantage of our many social distancing friendly landscapes. If you like a hands-on, DIY approach, shop one of the weekly Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Markets to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies and artisanal items. For a sweet finish, stop by Chocolates du Cali Bressan to buy a sampler of their seasonal spiced cinnamon bonbons or Chocolate Maya for her Marshmallow Fluffy, a gluten-free marshmallow treat layered with a 70% dark creamy chocolate ganache. If you prefer to simplify when it comes to sourcing your provisions, pick up hearty sandwiches from local deli or bakery Savoy Cafe & Deli. Better yet, make it a deluxe, ultra gourmet fall picnic by working with a vendor like Santa Barbara Picnic Co. or Slate Catering. We are currently all about the burrata board trend!
Some of our go-to locations for a spacious fall picnic include Alameda Park and its neighboring Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, both tucked on a leafy residential street a couple of blocks off State Street. For ocean views, Shoreline Park and the Douglas Family Preserve offer dreamy vantages. Elings Park serves up 230 acres of prime picnicking grounds, including several perches with ocean views. In Goleta, Rancho La Patera & Stow House is a charming locale to settle in for a picnic with 19th-century ambiance. Goleta Beach Park is another top seaside spot with picnic tables.
Cheers to Oktoberfest
There is no need to skip Oktoberfest this fall. You can celebrate social-distanced style by visiting our craft breweries on a mission to taste their seasonal offerings. Here’s a recipe for a festive-yet-responsible Oktoberfest-inspired self-guided brew trek with the recommended pour: Rincon Brewery (Oktoberfest), Night Lizard (Delta Smelt S’mores Stout), Draughtsmen Aleworks (Octuple), The Garden (Märzen Oktoberfest), and Captain Fatty’s (Walk the Plank Milk Stout). The latter comes with toasted marshmallow garnish, making it the perfect “finale” to your seasonal ale trail!
Is it time to update your wardrobe with a few staples or statement pieces to usher in the cooler months? Our boutiques are open with limited capacity to ensure a safe shopping experience. Diani Boutique and Diani Shoes in Arlington Plaza are stocked with cozy sweaters, stylish coats and blazers and effortlessly chic boots for women. K. Frank in Montecito outfits men and women in timeless designer threads. Denim is always in season and Loveworn in the Funk Zone is a wonderland of vintage denim for all. Locally-designed slip dresses that make the perfect foundation for layering can be found at Catherine Gee in the Haley Corridor. These are just a handful of local shopping ideas—you can find many more independent and chain retailers at our outdoor shopping centers like Paseo Nuevo, La Cumbre Plaza, Montecito Country Mart, and La Arcada Court.
Halloween is certainly not “cancelled” in Santa Barbara this year, it’s just taking on a modified form to look out for the health and safety of locals and visitors alike. You can trust that retailers and shopping districts will be decked out with festive displays, setting the mood, and providing plenty of photos ops. Given Halloween falls on a Saturday, why not make a weekend getaway of it, and enjoy a full line-up of socially distanced Halloween activities and specials?! Here’s our full guide to Halloween events and happenings.
Thanksgiving is one of the most peaceful holidays in Santa Barbara, and the weekend following is an ideal time to tackle holiday shopping by meandering through our pedestrian-friendly, open-air shopping districts. Several restaurants will be serving Thanksgiving Day feasts. Here’s a full list of restaurants taking reservations or catering to-go for Thanksgiving.