When my mum called me a few weeks ago, floating the idea of her coming to visit, I was more than happy to host her and my sister for a few days! Spring Break is the perfect time to welcome your family to Santa Barbara! I immediately started brainstorming all the things we could do during their stay.
After the treacherous trek to LAX, fueled by far too much caffeine (and carpool karaoke), I swept them up into the car (feeling like a Universal Studios tour guide) and the adventure began. Driving back to Santa Barbara up the PCH as the sun was setting was an event in itself. You can’t really complain about LA traffic when the views are that breathtaking (well maybe you can complain a bit).
Crashing down onto the fresh hotel linens that night, our eyes closed before they even hit the pillow. Both travel days had taken it out of all three of us, so we decided to rest up to make the most of the few days we had.
The first morning, as the crisp Californian winter sun lit up the mountains, we were ravenous. Walking directly out of our hotel gates, we stumbled upon the famous yellow umbrellas of Chad’s. After scanning the ever-enticing menu, we settled on an omelet, two eggs and meat (a classic!), and an eggs benedict. All were delicious and extremely filling, setting us up for a great day ahead. With the view of the mountains and the pier in our peripherals, as well as the smell of fresh coffee and bacon, there really wasn’t a better way to start our day.
Coffee culture here in SB has very hastily become my main personality trait. I love discovering new spots, going with my friends, and finding unexplored study zones, so I wanted to share some of my favorites with my mum and my sister. My top three would have to be:
Nestled in the Funk Zone, this groovy cafe can be spotted quickly by the continuous trickle of bright pink coffee cup lids followed by the enveloping smell of freshly roasted coffee. My all-time favorite drink there would have to be the June Bug Lavender latte or the Pink Sky drink (for those who don’t love coffee). To accompany the delicious beverages, they also offer breakfast burritos, empanadas, and fresh pastries! Also, there is extended outdoor seating in the Dart garden just across the street from the main cafe, which is a gorgeous spot to sun bathe now the weather is warming up.
I also took my sister to Old Town Coffee Roasters in Old Town Goleta. It’s one of my favorite study spots (although the avocado toast comes in at a whopping $10!), also with freshly roasted coffee and a garden out back. It is the perfect pick-me-up spot.
Red Kettle Coffee in Summerland is my best-kept coffee secret. Perched just off the freeway and guarded by a large ceramic gnome, this little house is home to fabulous flavors, trinkets, and snacks. With only a few picnic tables outside and no indoor seating, it is a very intimate atmosphere. Both their seasonal flavors and staples pack a punch and it is always hard to pull yourself away from the storefront without falling victim to the insanely cute knik knaks.
While my mum and sister were here I wanted to make the most of good eating, (as we all know college diets can be questionable at times) so before they even got here I booked us into my top two restaurants for dinner.
Just off State Street, this delectable Lebanese treat has something for everyone. Snuggled around a gas-warmed fire and under twinkling fairy lights, somehow food tastes better. The mezzes are delicious, from the hummus and tzatziki to their staple pistachio spread. Always accompanied by fresh hot pitas, it’s hard to not fill up before the entrees. We tried both the mixed shawarma and the chicken kebab and both were more than enough. Immensely filling and massively flavourful, it felt like we were anywhere but downtown Santa Barbara!
Valentine’s Day happened while my family visiting so I decided it would be nice to treat ourselves to a “fancy” dinner, just the girls. Tre Lune was the perfect location for this. At the center of Montecito, in a little heated canopy, we were seated at a pastel pink-clothed table (special for Valentine’s Day.) Even in the chilly February night air we were quickly warmed up by fabulous wine and mouthwateringly warm bread.
Two pasta dishes and a salad later we were unzipping our trousers to let our food babies breathe, when the waiter came up and offered us the Valentine’s dessert special. Of course we had to say yes. A mound of red velvet and berry cake appeared in front of our noses. But we powered on through, and in mere moments the plate was cleaned. Rolling ourselves out of the door (being literally the last ones there) we were extremely satisfied and pleased with everything we had. 10/10 experience from start to finish.
As well as all of the foodie highlights, here are a few other things we did to fill the days!
If you are able to rent a car or have a car yourself, a great way to explore the local area would be to drive around to explore! Some specifics that have gorgeous views are:
- The 101 North towards Solvang
- The 152 past Lake Cacahuma
- The 192 both up to Ojai and through the Montecito Mountains
- The 1/ PCH down to Malibu
Even just exploring the mountains and finding little neighborhood areas or gawping at the million-dollar houses can be fun activities. All you need is a good playlist (and maybe some caffeine).
Explore the hotels and stores along the Downtown Santa Barbara waterfront to explore or rent out bikes to take up and down the long beach stretch. This is both a fun and active way to take in the scenes and the weather: a great family activity.
Shopping is also a great activity! The Funk Zone has some really eccentric vintage and boutique shops. If you want something more mainstream, State Street is lined with more classic brand names. Also for some more sustainable stores, check out the thrift stores. Alpha Thrift is my personal favorite (both downtown and in Goleta). My sister had to be physically dragged away to prevent her from overfilling her suitcase!
Santa Barbara has so much to offer and there is so much to do. The location makes the opportunities endless. Whether you have visitors for two days or two weeks, you will struggle to find yourself bored. And if all goes smoothly, you will find the time having whisked by and the ever-looming goodbye on the horizon (which from experience, never gets easier).