If you believe you can tackle all that Santa Barbara has to offer in just one day, you my friend, are truly mistaken. Between the can’t-beat beaches, adventure-awaiting mountains, full-belly foodie scene, the shop-till you drop State Street, and an unmistakable arts and cultural backdrop, fitting all of Santa Barbara into even just one weekend might pose a challenge.
Now that we’ve convinced you to make your stay last more than one day, we suggest staying somewhere iconic to Santa Barbara: The Biltmore. Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, a Santa Barbara staple for 90 years, will put you seconds away from Butterfly Beach and only few minutes’ drive away from downtown. Combined with their lush jungle gardens and endless amenities (private bungalows, an ocean-front spa and the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, to name a few), you’ll likely end up never wanting to leave.
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After check-in, head downtown to jump into the heart of the city and explore Santa Barbara’s urban side. Start with State Street, Santa Barbara’s historic hub for shopping and strolling. With a diverse selection of shops and boutiques, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. Or, simply enjoy the walk and pass through red-tiled paseos along the way – you won’t be disappointed.
While you’re on State Street, stop into the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, on the corner of De La Guerra Street and Chapala Street, inside Paseo Nuevo Shops & Restaurants. Here you’ll find a number of world-class exhibitions on rotation, featuring groundbreaking works by world-class artists from across the globe. The Museum is non-collecting, so every visit will reward you with something new and exciting to discover. Admission to the Museum is free, and makes for a quick culture stop on your walk through the city. Beginning March 2017, be on the lookout for takepart | makeart: arte para todos, a public art initiative centered around a contemporary art pavilion that will move throughout several Santa Barbara neighborhoods over a six-month period. Other events for the year include: Rimini Protokoll: City as Stage (on view January 22-April 30), Free Play (on view May 21- August 13) and Guatemala from 33,000 km: Contemporary Guatemalan Art from 1960 – Present (on view September 17 – December 17, 2017).
As you get closer to the water, take time to wander through Santa Barbara’s hippest neighborhood: The Funk Zone. While you take in the area’s many vibrant murals and graffiti art pieces, you’ll also run into boutique shops, urban wine tasting rooms, art galleries and more. Stop by Loquita to end your day downtown with a five-star meal you won’t forget. We’d recommend sharing the Paella and partaking in a handcrafted cocktail.
Since a vacation to Santa Barbara wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the beach, spend your second day exploring the Waterfront. Rent bikes and coast along Cabrillo Boulevard, taking in the sights of our palm tree-lined paradise. This stretch of boulevard will bring you to Stearns Wharf, a Santa Barbara favorite. Here you’ll find a few shops and restaurants, but what you’ll be most excited about is the remarkable views of the Santa Barbara coastline. Bonus: While you’re out there, keep an eye out for any seals or dolphins that might swim by. On your way back to the beach, stop into the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center for some hands-on, seaside learning. With touch tanks and interactive tide pools, you’ll get up close and personal with Santa Barbara sea life.
After the Wharf, stroll along the beach and make your way towards Santa Barbara Harbor. Along with great views over the marina, check out the amazing food at Brophy Bros. Clam Bar & Restaurant. Grab a drink out on the patio and soak up the sunshine over some of the freshest seafood around.
End your day by heading up the Riviera for another amazing view – perhaps the best one in town. At Old Mission Santa Barbara, you’ll get the chance to step inside California’s history, as well as into one of the most iconic spots in Santa Barbara. This breathtaking landmark provides an impressive look into Santa Barbara’s Spanish heritage, and, if you stay long enough, home to the most magical sunset around.
Before calling it a day, next door is the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, where you can let your curiosity run wild. Take a peek into space at the planetarium, learn about local wildlife and come face to face with a 74-foot Blue Whale skeleton. While you’re here, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. The exhibits are designed to get you involved – you can even try checking out things under a microscope or re-creating an earthquake. Feel free to pick things up and get a closer look! You’ll leave with a new appreciation for the Santa Barbara outdoors. Upcoming activities for the year include: Secrets of the Ness of Brodgar (March 2), Bugs… Outside of the Box (May 29- September 8), Santa Barbara Wine & Food Festival (June 24), Santa Barbara Artwalk (September 23-24) and the Folk & Tribal Arts Marketplace (December 1-3).
On your final day in Santa Barbara, take a chance to enjoy all the ways you can relax and revive during your stay. Start with breakfast at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, preferably with a fresh-pressed juice on the patio. Brunch at Bella Vista is one of the most celebrated in the United States; celebrate yours with their selection of hot breakfast, house-made charcuterie and fresh seafood. Once you’re full, you can admire the grounds – over 22 acres of lush jungle and tranquil gardens – or make your way down to the beach. Butterfly Beach is a secluded Santa Barbara paradise, and is known to have celebrity sightings now and again. With year-round sunshine being the Santa Barbara specialty, you can lay on the beach and explore the waterfront all day long.
If you get tired of the beach (we doubt it!), fill the rest of your afternoon with time by the pool at the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, one of the most exclusive social clubs in the area. Or, if you’re in the mood, feel free to indulge in the resort’s luxurious, ocean-front spa. We guarantee once it reaches time to check out, you’ll have wish you booked more than a weekend.