Any reason to escape to Santa Barbara is a great one, but country star Brad Paisley’s upcoming concert gives you the perfect opportunity to plan a weekend getaway. The concert, dubbed “The 2nd Responders: A Benefit for the Community,” takes place Saturday, May 12 at the Santa Barbara Bowl and will honor the first responders who risked their lives during the recent Southern California wildfires and mudslides. Proceeds from the concert will go to local organizations to support service workers and the revitalization of the Santa Barbara region.
Thanks to the community’s amazing spirit and resilience, Santa Barbara is up and running and ready to welcome you. There’s never been a better time to support Santa Barbara’s hotels, restaurants and other local businesses, so we’ve compiled this handy three-day itinerary to inspire you to extend your weekend.
Book Your Stay
Leave stress behind by taking the iconic Amtrak® Pacific Surfliner® to Santa Barbara. The Pacific Surfliner winds along the southern California coast, offering five daily trains from San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and Ventura to Santa Barbara. Rather than battling rush hour, you can grab a glass of wine, sit back and take in the gorgeous ocean and countryside views that you’d miss from the midst of a traffic jam. In fact, click here to secure discounts on train tickets and make your stay even sweeter.
Your train arrives right in the heart of Santa Barbara and just two blocks from the beach. Getting around town without a car is no problem, with lots of great lodging options close to the train station, including the sophisticated Hotel Indigo steps away on State Street, or the newly opened Hotel Californian, with its enviable beachside location and stunning architecture. You’ll also be within easy walking, biking or electric-trolley riding distance of dozens of museums, shops, bars and restaurants.
After checking into your hotel, kick off the long weekend by taking in the scene on State Street, Santa Barbara’s picturesque palm-lined thoroughfare in downtown Santa Barbara. Within State Street’s charming adobe buildings, you’ll find indie boutiques, surf shops, art galleries, cafés and wine bars. Browse gorgeous home goods at Diani Living, artisan jewelry at Plum Goods and signature SoCal-style fashion at Wendy Foster. Grab a sweet treat at McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams or get a handcrafted caffeine fix at French Press (known to be a favorite of Brad Paisley’s as mentioned on Ellen).
As you walk further down, State Street leads straight to Stearns Wharf, where you can stroll along the famous boardwalk past a variety of souvenir shops and restaurants. Ready for happy hour? Stop in at the cozy Conway Deep Sea Tasting Room to sample homegrown wines and check out the panoramic view of the Pacific.
For dinner, head to the Funk Zone, the artsy district that spans the area between the ocean and Highway 101 adjacent to the Amtrak station. The Lark is Funk Zone staple located within the converted historic Fish Market building, offering delicious locally sourced cuisine served family-style and complemented by craft cocktails and a comprehensive list of Santa Barbara County wines.
Start your day with hearty breakfast fare and a mimosa or two at Sambo’s, a favorite Santa Barbara spot on Cabrillo Boulevard right across from the beach. They’ve been dishing up classics like eggs benedict, breakfast burritos and Belgian waffles since 1957. Afterward, work off a few calories with a morning beach walk, where you can dip your toes in the ocean and watch the fishing boats coming back with the catch of the day.
Next up, take advantage of your proximity to Santa Barbara County’s world-renowned wine country. With more than 200 local wine producers to choose from, many local tour companies specialize in guided day trips through the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. There’s no need to worry about driving, as tour operators will pick you up from your hotel and ferry you from winery to winery. And shuttle buses are not the only transportation option; you can also visit the vineyards via bicycle, atop a horse or airborne in a private plane or helicopter, where you’ll soar above the ocean and mountains before landing among the Valley’s rolling hills.
If you’d rather stay in town, just follow the Urban Wine Trail, which takes you from one tasting room to the next in the Funk Zone and Presidio Neighborhood. For extra guidance navigating Santa Barbara’s food and wine terrain, opt for a walking tour with Santa Barbara Tasting Tours or amp up your culinary photography skills as you sample local wine on a tour with Eat This, Shoot That!
Once you’ve tasted to your heart’s content, head to the Santa Barbara Bowl for the weekend’s main event and enjoy an evening of music under the stars. Your best bet for getting there is ride sharing; the Santa Barbara Bowl even has a convenient drop-off/pick-up area for Taxi, Lyft and Uber.
Make the most of your Sunday in Santa Barbara by spending it outdoors. Fuel up at one of Santa Barbara’s many tasty places for brunch and then head to the beach. No place is better suited to two-wheel cruising than Santa Barbara’s beachfront Cabrillo Boulevard, and you can easily rent a bike for a few hours or the day at Wheel Fun Rentals near Stearns Wharf. They even offer beach chairs and umbrellas for you to set up camp on the shore when you need a break from your ride.
If you’re itching to get out on the water, book a guided tour or lesson on a sea kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP). Santa Barbara’s coastline is one of the best for exploration, and both sports are fun and easygoing enough for beginners to try. You’ll get a unique sea-level view looking back at the American Riviera, and you might even be lucky enough to spot unique birds and other marine wildlife such as sea lions, dolphins and whales. Looking for a bigger adrenaline rush? Try a surf lesson with a local outfitter.
After your marine excursion, head to nearby Leadbetter Beach to drink in a few more moments of the Santa Barbara lifestyle. A favorite of college students and surfers, Leadbetter has knockout views, white sand and picnic tables, and you can order a snack or meal at Shoreline Café. By the time you need to catch your train home, you’ll already be dreaming of your trip to Santa Barbara—when you might need to stay for more than a weekend!