Despite Mother Nature’s Havoc, Santa Barbara Is Still An Ideal Vacation Spot
By Jill Webb
Right on the coast of Southern California, Santa Barbara offers a wonderful array of beaches, hotels, attractions, and dining options for its visitors.
While it was rocked by the Thomas Fire and mudslides in late 2017 and early 2018, the region is making a comeback for travelers. Considered the northernmost point of SoCal, the region spans 100 miles over California’s gorgeous coastline.
Arthur von Wiesenberger, the host of the award-winning travel show, Around The World, lives in Santa Barbara and is sharing insider tips with GoNOMAD on all the latest and greatest hot spots of the area.
Wiesenberger is also the co-publisher of The Santa Barbara News-Press and the author of The Santa Barbara Restaurant Guide.
The Funk Zone
One area of Santa Barbara, according to Wiesenberger, has recently become one of the hottest neighborhoods– it’s called the Funk Zone.
“The Funk Zone continues to boom,”
Wiesenberger said. The zone is home to brewpubs, wine tastings, art galleries, and trendy boutiques.
The region used to be much less visually appealing, comprised of mainly industrial warehouses. What was once a hub for the fishing industry during the nineteenth century is now turning into an upscale spot that is attracting eclectic artists and business owners.
The Funk Zone is surrounded by go-to tourist areas, such as State Street, Stearns Wharf, and East Beach.
“Everybody who comes to Santa Barbara generally goes to the Dolphin Fountain and then goes for a walk down on Stearns Wharf,” Wiesenberger said.
Best places to stay
Hotels in Santa Barbara are also stepping their game up.
The Santa Barbara Inn has gone through a ground-up remodel and is now complete with newly renovated rooms and suites which outlook the beach and mountains.
You can continue to enjoy the stunning views at Convivo restaurant, which Wiesenberger describes as being an “excellent Italian-inspired with exotic overtones restaurant.”
The Santa Barbara Inn, 901 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Contact: (805) 966-2285, www.santabarbarainn.com
If you’re searching for a more exotic atmosphere, check out Hotel Californian.
The public areas of the hotel give off a Middle Eastern vibe and are made up of three buildings spanning over State Street.
“That’s really brought a whole new vitality down to lower State Street, probably in response to the Funk Zone which is nearby as well,” Wiesenberger said.
Hotel Californian 36 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Contact: (805) 920-8200 www.thehotelcalifornian.com
While it hasn’t yet opened, the Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito is now taking reservations for after January 7th, 2019.
The beautiful resort sits on Miramar Beach in Montecito, a blissful community east of the City of Santa Barbara. It occupies the land of the old Miramar By the Sea Hotel.
Embrace the relaxing atmosphere with early-morning yoga or unwind at their Sense spa. They will also have an exclusive membership-only beach club.
They even have luxurious accommodations for your furry friends, with dog walking services, a custom pet menu, exclusive amenities, and a special afternoon pet trek.
Rosewood Miramar Beach, Montecito, 1555 South Jameson Lane, Montecito, CA 93108
Contact: 888-767-3966 www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/miramar-beach-montecito
Fresh Takes on food
There’s plenty of new options to grab a bite at in Santa Barbara.
Santa Mezcal is restaurateur Carlos Luna of Los Agaves Restaurants’ latest creation. The cuisine puts a Santa Barbara spin on traditional Mexican flavors by mixing in local and seasonal ingredients of the Santa Barbara region in. “The food is terrific, it’s very authentic,” Wiesenberger said.
Sit outside on the terrace to people-watch State Street’s pedestrians as you indulge in bold, exciting dishes.
“You can sit on the street and watch all the action on State Street– or you could sit inside and watch all the action at the bar,” Wiesenberger said.
Santo Mezcal 119 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101,
Contact: (805) 883-3593 www.santomezcalsb.com
Seafood lovers should swing by the Lure Fish House. The Santa Barbara restaurant is the fourth location in the chain which also has sites in Camarillo, Ventura, and Westlake.
“The fresh fish is the main event here and the quality and prices are very good,” Wiesenberger said.
It’s also the perfect place to get some treats on the half-shell. “There is also an oyster bar, usually with a selection of half a dozen varieties of freshly shucked oysters serve on iced metal platters,” Wiesenberger said. “They have a long happy hour that runs pretty much all-day Sunday, and so the result of that [is] they’re always packed.”
Lure Fish House 3815 State St Suite G131, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Contact: (805) 618-1816 www.lurefishhouse.com
If you haven’t gotten you seafood fix with Lure, try the Bluewater Grill for some fresh, sustainable choices. The spot just opened along the beachfront near Stearns Wharf and is also part of a restaurant chain. “The historic location with a mini-lighthouse has a stunning view from the upper deck of the coastline,” Wiesenberger said.
Bluewater Grill 16, E. Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Contact: (805) 845-5121 www.bluewatergrill.com/locations/santa-barbara
In Hindu, Bibi Ji is a title used to honor and offer respect to India’s mothers and grandmothers. India’s Bibi Jis are known for the hospitality, greeting guests of her home with warmth, delicious food, and a smile.
The new restaurant in the city, Bibi Ji, hopes to live up to its name. They pride themselves on being “not your typical Indian joint” according to their website. The restaurant mixes traditional Indian food, Austrailian styles, and fine dining. They also have a top-notch wine bar and bottle shop.
Bibi Ji, 734 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Contact: 805-560-6845, www.bibijisb.com
Recovering from Mother Nature
Santa Barbara has been put through the wringer the past few months.
On Dec. 4, 2017, an enormous wildfire named the Thomas Fire began. It mainly affected the Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. It wasn’t fully contained until Jan. 12, 2018.
“The ash from the fire was so intense that people couldn’t breathe; you had to wear a mask,” Wiesenberger said.
Over 104,607 residents had evacuated their homes for the largest wildfire in modern California history.
“A lot of people left town when they came back once the fire was under control. They got back in time for Christmas,” Wiesenberger said. But, right after Christmas, came the mudslide.
The mudslides hit early in the morning of January 9th and resulted in 21 fatalities.
“There isn’t a person, I don’t think, in Montecito that doesn’t know at least one of those, or more, people who died,” Wiesenberger said.
It also cut off Santa Barbara from more southern cities, like Ventura and Los Angeles.
“My son lives in a house that was on the other side of the mudslide, so we didn’t see each other for quite a few weeks,” Wiesenberger said.
Driving around certain areas of Montecito serves as a reminder of the destruction the area faced earlier in the year.
“You see the devastation on the side of the roads. You see the boulders that were never there before, you see all the trees that are gone that used be there that made it very lush, you see the houses that are half torn apart,” Wiesenberger said. “That’s all still very visible in Montecito.”
Despite everything the Santa Barbara region has been through in 2018, the residents are powering through and continuing to build back their businesses if they were destroyed.
Santa Barbara, with its beautiful coastline, superb cuisine, and idyllic views, remains one of California’s staple getaways.