Santa Barbara Micro Guide

 

Santa Barbara has long held visitors enthralled. Its mission architecture, seen throughout the city, makes it a unique cultural destination. Restaurants featuring locally sourced produce and meats have always been de rigueur. And with abundant sunshine throughout the year, weary winter-phobes have flocked here during the colder months. Here are our selections on where to eat, play and stay in this charming American city.

Eat: Santa Barbara boasts a plethora of great restaurants. You can find authentic Mexican eateries all over the city. Casa Blanca is one of the best near the wharf and is popular for its all-you-can-eat Taco Tuesdays. For choice cocktails and amazing water views, head to the Four Seasons’ Ty Lounge. Sit by the cozy fireplace or relax on the outdoor terrace as you sip on an authentic bellini and nosh on Spanish tapas. The warm  ocean breezes will transport you to another world. Since it opened in 2013, The Lark has remained a dining hotspot. Situated in the historic fish market building in the city’s artsy Funk Zone, the restaurant caters to a well heeled, food-centric crowd. Opt for the patio at twilight and start off with a class of Santa Barbara red. The menu is to be enjoyed family style and portions increase in size as they increase in price. The crispy brussel sprouts are a particular fave, thanks to the garam masala and Medjool dates. The bone marrow crushed beef cheeks are also mouthwateringly good.

Play: The town has plenty of spots to keep you enthralled. Any visit to the city wouldn’t be complete without a trek to the Old Mission. Founded by the Franciscans in 1786, the well-preserved landmark boasts 10 acres of lush landscaping and is still home to the friars but the public is welcome in the sacred garden, cemetery, church, and museum portion of the facility. Like the Mission, El Presidio is a relic from the past. Built in 1782, it was the last of four Spanish fortresses in coastal New Spain. Exhibits run the gamut from historic photography to lectures on how life was like in California in the 18th century. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art boasts permanent and temporary exhibitions throughout the year and features Asian and European art and a number of antiquities. The current temporary exhibition featuring the works of Botticelli and Titian shouldn’t be missed (it closed May 3). The town is home to 26 urban wineries, featuring everything from Viognier to Grenache and Cabernet Franc. Start your tour at Sanford on popular State Street, venture down to Au Bon Climat and end your day at Deep Sea Tasting Room on the pier. Science fiction lovers will find Area 5.1 Winery of particular appeal. 

Related: Elegance Personified. The Bacara Resort & Spa

Stay: Lodging in town has always had a historic but elegant feel. The Bacara Resort is the most exclusive area hotel but who needs fussy when you can have cool? The Wayfarer is the hippest new hotel in the city’s Funk Zone. Open just six months, it’s become the go-to spot for young men and women looking for a chic place to stay that won’t break the bank. Challenge your friends at the gigantic Connect Four and Zenga games in the lobby or relax by the cozy pool on a hot day. Rooms are inviting, with subway-tiled bathrooms featuring C.O. Bigelow amenities and beds enveloped in crisp white duvets and yellow throw pillows. Flatscreen TVs are available in every room, even dorm-style accommodations, and the helpful staff offer a wealth of knowledge about the local area. Grab a bottle of local vino and mingle with fellow guests in the open and airy kitchen on the ground floor. It’s a great way to relax after a long day of sightseeing.