Santa Barbara is a beautiful seaside city about ninety minutes and a world away from Los Angeles. With a feel (and climate) like a Mediterranean city in France or Italy, the region has embraced fine food and wine, like those European destinations. I just visited the city on a getaway roadtrip in the 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, which was the perfect car to drive especially on CA 154 and CA 192, the windy back roads connecting the 101 freeway to Santa Barbara, when coming down from the north. Aside from driving there in an Jag F-Type R Coupe, here are five key travel tips to ensure a perfect Santa Barbara getaway:
Nestled, and I do mean nestled, on seven lush acres in the hills above the city, with sweeping views of the Pacific below, Belmond El Encanto offers more than a luxury resort experience. Like visiting a wealthy friend’s estate and staying in their impeccably decorated guesthouse, the resort’s accommodations are all individual (or multi-unit) casitas and bungalows. While the fantastic accommodations offer total peace and privacy, the resort has a world-class spa, incredible bar and restaurant and other luxury amenities.
For some of the city’s and the region’s best, genuine American cuisine, The Lark is the place to go. Fresh, seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients, an innovative chef and creative owner combine to offer a truly wonderful dining experience. With an extensive wine cellar, knowledgeable staff and an expert sommelier, the quality and variety of the wine selection matches the world-class food. The Lark also partners with local Santa Barbara wineries and vintners to produce exclusive vintages. Located in the city’s developing Funk Zone, the foodie area also includes many galleries, bars and wine spots.
For some of the country’s best ice cream, a visit to McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams on State Street is a necessity. Making people happy since 1949, the company specializes in unique, seasonal delights like Boysenberry Rose Milk Jam and Eureka Lemon and Marionberries. Ice cream purists will delight in the extensive traditional flavors like vanilla and chocolate, offered in various delicious artisinal versions.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art offers a range of visual stimulation, from California’s 20th century masters to Old Masters. Over 5,000 years of history is covered in the museum’s collection of 27,000 pieces of art. Located in Santa Barbara’s downtown area, the museum makes a great cultural stop amid some wonderful shopping.
Old Mission Santa Barbara, part of the system of Spanish missions that helped settle California, offers guided tours, both docent and self-led. In addition to the church, there’s a museum, gardens and historic cemetery, all documenting life in early California.
The Santa Barbara Zoo offers some amazing, behind-the-scenes experiences that allow visitors to really get hands-on with animals and learn how a zoo works. Backstage Pass experiences allow guests to spend a few hours working with keepers in different parts of the zoo. Behind-the-scenes tours offer groups of up to six the opportunity to experience the zoo on a personal level and the zoo’s awesome Keeper for a Day experiences provide an immersive, full-day zookeeper experience, without the need for years of college.
Available at the winery’s downtown tasting room or at the city’s best restaurants and hotels, Au Bon Climat is a local (Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County) winery producing some amazing, Burgundian-style wines, some coming complete with thick, French-style bottles. The 2011 Pinot Noir, available at the time of this writing, is a truly amazing wine to experience.
Follow luxury travel blogger Freddy Sherman on Twitter @luxuryfred and on his blog, luxuryfred.com