I took a long weekend trip over Easter Weekend 2019 to L.A. and Santa Barbara. I’ve been to L.A. quite a few times, most recently last September for a work trip and New Years Eve 2016. I really do love the West Coast and could totally see myself live out there someday. As much as I love NYC, the older I get, the more I crave outdoor space, access to nature, and being into health & wellness. L.A. has changed a lot in past 18 years (I first visited when I was 21) and I love how the quality of produce/food is fresher, there’s tons of beachside communities to visit, there’s a great amount of culture and activities, and the weather is usually great (compared to East Coast 6 month long winters!).
For this trip I went out to visit a friend and we did a short overnight stay in Santa Barbara. My impressions of Santa Barbara were as follows:
Cute beachside town - has a lot more character than Santa Monica and other places closer to L.A. I think it’s because it’s way less touristy (it’s a 90 minute drive north of L.A.) so it doesn’t feel as overcrowded as Santa Monica does, even though SB also has a pier/wharf area, a stretch of pedestrian-friendly shopping area, and nice beaches.
The food scene is delish - the best meal of the trip was at Les Marchands and the Lark. Both are right next to each other and I’d rate Les Marchands better because the menu (Italian-based) was more unique and diverse.
I’d recommend spending two nights here if you want to do some hiking. We didn’t do any hiking since we spent only one night. Inspiration Point is a popular one that was recommended.
Definitely go to the Douglas Family Preserve for catching a glorious sunset. This park sits on a cliff above Arroyo Beach and accessible to the public from a residential street. Can take an Uber there (plenty of street parking though) and lots of locals/dog walkers walking around in the evening.
Visit the wine valley. We did a bike tour with iBike Santa Barbara. It was well organized and the bike tour was nice and relaxing. We rode 13 miles around and then had a few wine tastings and lunch. This took up most of a day.
A lot of great spas are here too but I think it’s only worth visiting a spa if you’re going to use their amenities as well. I looked into their prices and most massages/treatments started at $200+ so I wouldn’t go just for a treatment and leave. You should make it worth your time/value by spending a few hours relaxing in whatever amenities the spa offers too. I think since in NYC I can get a great (though no frills) massage for under $60 an hour, I find it hard to pay 3-4x that amount and just spend less than two hours at a spa.
Overall I enjoyed Santa Barbara— great for couple, girlfriend getaways, and families. There really is something for everyone! If I go back it would be more for spa and hiking.
My time in L.A. was fun as well—my favorite place to eat in L.A. this trip around was at Nightmarket in Venice Beach. Amazing Southeast Asian food and knowledgable waitstaff who made excellent menu suggestions! Mama Shelter was also a fun rooftop bar in downtown L.A. with great cocktails and service. I look forward to future visits back!