When it comes to bucket list road trips, driving up PCH has been at the top of mine for years. I have been to California many times to visit my older sister, but we usually end up staying in Los Angeles where she lives. Don’t get me wrong, Los Angeles has so much to offer and I love going there to visit my family, but there is no denying that California has so many other amazing cities to discover as well. That is why when I found out that I had to go to Anaheim for a work conference, tacking on a couple extra days for a little 48-hour road trip to Santa Barbara with my sister was an easy decision.
There is something special about driving along a windy ocean coastline, the salty wind in your hair, listening to your favourite tunes that can make any stress you are feeling completely fade away. At least that’s how I started to feel as we approached Santa Barbara, a small costal city cradled by the Santa Ynez Valley that is known for its So-Cal lifestyle, surf culture, and of course amazing wines. In anticipation for this trip I had put together a jam-packed itinerary that was going to be so much fun my sister and I could not wait to kickoff our little ‘sister bonding getaway’!
During my research I came across so many cute hotel properties in Santa Barbara. Ultimately, and after much debate, my sister and I ended up settling on the Kimpton Goodland in Goleta, a small town just 10 minutes outside of Santa Barbara proper. The hotel looked very trendy, the kind of trendy that would be appealing to millennials looking for a not-so-fussy, yet hip and comfortable place to stay while in town. The property used to be an old motel that the Kimpton brand took over and revamped, and I loved the nod to surf culture and its So-Cal aesthetic. Our room was small but cozy for two and we ended up spending most of our time hanging around the pool, enjoying complimentary wine and appetizers in the lobby (6PM daily), and making s’mores around the hotel’s fire pit. Even though we only stayed there for one night we really enjoyed ourselves and would totally stay there again!
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Kimpton Goodland (Santa Barbara, California) Hotel + Room Tour This Southern California boutique surf hotel is located in Santa Barbara's sister city Goleta. Only a 10 minute drive away from Santa Barbara's downtown area, it is the perfect place to stay for millennials when visiting. The property itself is reminiscent of an older motel style property with buildings surrounding a large pool area however all rooms and decor have been upgraded to a more modern 'SoCal chic' vibe. My sister and I stayed here during our visit to Santa Barbara and absolutely loved our time here. We made sure to take advantage of their Free Wine and Appitizer Hour each night along with their Free S'mores bundles!
Being a huge wino, visiting wine country while in Santa Barbara was a must! The Santa Ynez valley is known for producing numerous varietals thanks to its varying micro climates – a very unusual thing. Further, one of the reasons why Santa Barbara County produces such flavourful wines is because the Santa Ynez valley actually runs east-west as oppose to the typical north-south. This means that vineyards and crops have more hours of daylight and therefor produce more flavourful fruits and vegetables. Naturally the first thing we planned to do when we got to Santa Barbara was hop on a tour with Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours. Shortly after checking into our hotel the van arrived to pick us up and within 40 minutes we were sitting in the heart of the Santa Ynez valley sipping on a delicious glass of Rosé. Our driver Paco was very knowledgeable and told us all about the wineries and the history of the area. A picnic lunch was arranged as part of our tour and Paco had made sure to reserve an area on the outdoor patio overlooking the vineyard from where to enjoy it. Paco wanted to make sure we had time to fully absorb the experience and made sure we stayed on schedule and had enough time at each winery. To sweeten the experience he also provided complimentary waters and snacks for us to enjoy while on the bus between wineries, leaving us to sit back, relax and really enjoy the experience.
After our amazing day with Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours, my sister and I made our way into Santa Barbara for dinner at a new food hall that had recently opened downtown. Cubaneo, a California inspired Cuban restaurant; Shaker Mill, a Cuban inspired craft cocktail bar; and Modern Times, a soon-to-be opened brewery, share a casual indoor and outdoor eatery space dubbed Kim’s Service Department. My sister and I both love food and we both know when travelling to unfamiliar cities it’s easy to blow a lot of money on expensive dinners at well-known restaurants. What we were after though was finding those smaller, cheap and cheerful spots that only locals go to and Kim’s Service Department was just that. Menu prices were extremely reasonable and both my sister and I found something on the menu to enjoy. Being a Cuban restaurant, I went for the ‘Number One’, a gluttonous pork loin sandwich with caramelized onions, pickled Fresno chilis, cilantro, garlic aioli, and little gem lettuce on a toasted baguette. The combination of flavours was incredible and I loved how the toasted baguette ended up soaked up all the juices and flavors to help you get the full impact of each ingredient. Paired with delicious fruity craft cocktails from Shaker Mill, this made for the perfect end to our first day in Santa Barbara.
The next day, while enjoying breakfast in bed, my sister and I decided that after checking out and before heading back to Los Angeles, we would drive back to Santa Barbara to check out the Funk Zone. My sister, who is a fantastic artist, really wanted to wander through the numerous artist studios, galleries, home good stores, cafes and shops that make up the Funk Zone and I was happy to oblige. The Funk Zone, once considered an undesirable part of town, has been gentrifying in recent years. Converted warehouse spaces now house a variety of interesting businesses, breweries, restaurants, and market spaces. Murals and contemporary art pieces are scattered throughout the neighbourhood as well as over two dozen wine tasting rooms - all within blocks of each other. That’s right, you don’t even need to leave downtown Santa Barbara to experience their amazing wine!
Before heading back to Los Angeles we decided to grab a quick lunch at Tyger Tyger, a Southeast Asian food cart inspired restaurant in the Funk Zone. The building is hard to miss with its giant, white tiger mural painted on its facade. Inside, neon pink lanterns lining the ceiling add further charm to its trendy Asian aesthetic. Once again, we weren’t looking for anything too fancy and Tyger Tyger’s quick, counter service setup was the perfect combo of price point and deliciousness. Starving, we ended up ordering way more than our stomachs could handle, but we both loved the exotic flavours that came with each dish. My favourite was definitely the Vietnamese crepes and the Shrimp Summer rolls, while my sister was more drawn to the Pulled Chicken Salad – all great options if you ask me.
Although short and sweet our road trip to Santa Barbara was packed full of fun activities and definitely only made my desire to see more of California even stronger. If you ever find yourself doing a PCH road trip or are in the Los Angeles area for an extended amount of time, I definitely recommend doing the 90-minute drive to Santa Barbara and experiencing the beautiful city for yourself. You don’t necessarily even have to stay overnight, but one thing is for sure, it’s definitely a city that can’t be missed!
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS FROM MY TRIP