How to Spend a Long Weekend in Santa Barbara

Last month I shared with you guys the dreamy accommodations I enjoyed on my weekend in Santa Barbara—remember this post on the fabulous Belmond El Encanto?—and promised I’d be back with my tips on what to see, do, and eat in this charming getaway town. So here they are, all the juicy details on how to pack as much into your trip as possible. Just editing these photos brings up so many fond memories of my jaunt up the coast, and inspires schemes of how soon I can plan another one!

For a Chilled-Out Friday Afternoon: When you arrive in Santa Barbara, head straight for the award-winning Float Luxury Spa (top image) in the heart of downtown to shake off the travel aches with a full-body massage. Relax in the reflecting pool garden or lounge in your robe by the fireplace; then be sure to stock up on samples from their carefully curated line of all-natural skincare products. Once you’re in a vacation state of mind, stroll the streets surrounding the State Street Plaza district. We grabbed a healthy late lunch at Panino Cafe before scouring the racks of dreamy designer duds at Diani Boutique, then lingered away the evening at Armada Wine & Beer Merchant (header image). Proprietresses Tucker and Jaime are just about the friendliest and most knowledgeable lady wine geeks I’ve ever had the pleasure of raising a glass with!

For a Saturday of Exploration: Wake up refreshed and head out for a lazy, leisurely morning in The Funk Zone. Stock up on vintage decor finds at The Blue Door (top image)—with over three floors the selection of Art Deco, midcentury, and more is dangerously good!—then travel a few blocks over to Millworks (middle image) where you’ll go gaga for the mix of artisan housewares, luxury beauty scores, and custom furnishings. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, be sure stop in at Wildwood Kitchen for an order of Frito Pie and the best cornbread I’ve had this side of the Mississippi.

For a Fancy Saturday Night Out: Regroup at your hotel (and let that Frito Pie digest!) before hopping in the car and winding your way over to the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. A California icon since the 1920’s, the hotel recently underwent a major renovation to restore it to its original glory (top image), and you needn’t be a guest to reap the rewards. Take in happy hour tapas at the Ty Lounge before checking in for dinner at the Tydes Restaurant. The view overlooking the ocean from the latter’s balcony is once-in-a-lifetime; and so is the impeccable service, the impossibly chic Art Deco decor, and the pretzel bread that arrives fresh from the oven onto your table!

For a Sunday Breath of Fresh Air: After all the eating you’ve been doing, you’re definitely going to want some physical activity, so put your name down for a guided tour of Lotusland! This 37 acre estate is the former home and passion project of an eccentric Polish expat, and today it exists as one of the most exotic and extensive botanical gardens in the world. Tours are two hours long and lead you on an unforgettable journey over water gardens and under orchards, through cacti forests and fern jungles. Then, be sure to squeeze in some last minute window shopping on the Coast Village Road in nearby Montecito Village (particular favorites include Maison K and K. Frank) before you hit the road back home!