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Weekend Travel Guide: Santa Barbara, California 2022

contributor Travel Editor Tracey Minkin shares a three-day itinerary of fun in our favorite destinations around the world. Find more travel inspiration in Jump of the weekend.

I hope the genius who coined Santa Barbara “The American Riviera” gets a dime every time I call this prettiest of California’s coastal towns by its slogan. Because they were right; Santa Barbara is a magnificent testimony to the fascinating power of Mediterranean architecture (Revival).

A few palm trees and the cobalt blue of the Pacific Ocean don’t hurt either. And doing the OG Riviera better, Santa Barbara is one of the most fun, high-quality wine towns around. I bet Gerald and Sara Murphy could have used a good beach taco and poured some natural wine. Here’s my favorite way to drink the local vintages and views of glorious Santa Barbara.

But first, the wine

Bibiji-Restaurant

Courtesy of Bibi Ji

The bustling link to the lava flows of this exciting wine region is the Funk Zone, which once housed industrial buildings on the wrong side of the tracks (literally), but now houses more than 15 tasting rooms within a 10-block radius. Start with the Riesling at Municipal winegrowers while hanging vitamin D in a natural way on their outdoor terrace. So pay homage to circa 1962 Santa Barbara Wine Estate with a drink on their outdoor terrace and a plate of cheeses Pierre Lafond market and charcuterie.

And then the food (and more wine)

Power with local Dart Coffee Co. wonders of brewing and baking bread Helena Avenue Bakery. Head to the Santa Barbara Public Market for Corazon Cocina’s superb ceviche and taco spread. There are not only fertile wine regions, there are agricultural lands. So make the most of it with farm restaurants like Satellitea wine bar and vegetarian restaurant in the heart of downtown, and Bibi Ji for Chef Jessi Singh’s Contemporary Indian, which pairs perfectly with standout local labels like LoFi and Storm wines.

Historical mini-jumps

the entrance arch to the santa barbara county ca courthouse

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

John Penney//Getty Images

It’s easy to swoon and be captivated by the overall beauty of the city’s wealth of historic Mediterranean Renaissance architecture; get the real story and pick up the myriad examples with the experts at Santa Barbara Architectural Foundation, which organizes private walking tours by appointment for groups of up to 10 people (arrangements must be made at least two weeks in advance and are subject to the availability of the guides). To schedule a visit, email [email protected] or call 805-965-6307.

Californian hotel designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard was quick to share his favorite cultural hideout in the city: the Mission Museum in Former Mission Santa Barbara. “It’s like stepping back in time,” he says of the “Queen of the Missions” founded by the Spanish Franciscans in 1786 (the current buildings date from the early 19and century). “You really feel the spirit and the history of old Santa Barbara,” he says.

For a fresh take on Santa Barbara, check out the buildings of local-born architect (and author) Jeff Shelton who reimagine Spanish Colonial Revival in wild and compelling ways. the Jeff Shelton Architecture Tour is a self-guided walk through eight of its downtown buildings (download the map here).

Shopping Edit

showroom at raoul textiles, santa barbara

Showroom fantasy at Raoul Textiles

Matt Wier, courtesy of Raoul Textiles

Raoul Textiles. and

First Stop: Santa Barbara Design Legend The curated rooms of this studio/showroom hybrid are IRL lookbooks for California art living in a Mediterranean renaissance world. Keep an eye out for this season’s new wool-linen stripes, as well as the studio’s latest Engle & Deutch armchair, based on a 19th-century French side chair (open by appointment Monday-Friday) .

heather taylor home at montecito country mart

Heather Taylor Home at Montecito Country Mart

Courtesy of Heather Taylor

You won’t mind the car ride, as it ends at Montecito Country Mart, and you will need the car to do your shopping. Look for favorites like Claire V. and Poppy Shop, and novelties Doen and a pop-up store with Heather Taylor Home. Allow time for a pizza (and more wine?) at Betina.

Sleep in splendor

californian hotel, santa barbara

Californian Hotel

Californian Courtesy Hotel

Who better than Martyn Lawrence Bullard to imagine a new vision of the American Riviera? It’s magic turned to Californian Hotel, which mixes Spanish Colonial Revival architecture with Moorish-influenced interiors (both the Californian design follies of the 1920s and one of the designer’s trademark gestures). Here, black-and-white geometries play with pops of emerald and saffron, Moroccan tiles lead to winding paseos, and a rooftop pool oasis offers gentle waters and sweeping views of the Pacific skyline. The last: Society: State and Mason is the hotel’s new intimate wine tasting room that will offer classes, winemaker dinners, special events and much more in addition to tastings.

palihouse santa barbara

The bright lobby of the Palihouse Santa Barbara

Courtesy of Palihouse Santa Barbara

Meanwhile, the arrival in 2021 of Palihouse Santa Barbara featured designer and hotel impresario Avi Brosh’s revival of rooms and suites of the historic Santa Barbara School of the Arts building circa 1920 in the historic Presidio district of downtown. It’s all pops of color playing amidst the Spanish colonial revival, and it’s stunning.

The Essential Excursion

lotusland, montecito

Olive Alley at Lotusland

Photograph by Kim Baile. Lotusland copyright.

We can not-can not—come to this part of the world and not go to Montecito to pay homage to the legendary Lotusland by Madame Ganna Walska, his former home and extraordinary gardens which feature remarkable collections of dry garden plants, including some of the world’s most famous bromeliads. Book half a day for this fabulous pilgrimage, you’ll be glad you did.

Weekend must-sees: Santa Barbara