It was my first time taking the Amtrak to Santa Barbara and I had no idea what to expect. I had never considered exploring Southern California by rail but I was looking forward to something new. It was but a quick drive to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, followed by an easy check-in, and I was on my way up North riding the Surfliner. I was seated in business class, in a decked out car with a personalized wine tasting courtesy of Sanford Winery. By no means was this the average train ride, as I was experiencing it as a VIP, but It wasn't too far off either–standard business class does entail wine, snacks, and a less populated car. If you can afford to pay slightly more, I'd recommend you choose that option.
Santa Barbara is a mere 2.5 hours from Los Angeles on the train and a beautiful ride alongside the Pacific Ocean. I've been to SB a handful of times but had foolishly never considered it a necessary destination. I've been a regular in Ojai and Los Alamos over the past decade, but as far as Santa Barbara was concerned, it wasn't on my radar and I most certainly didn't have a personal database that I could pull from to offer recommendations.
Although still familiarizing myself with the ocean-side city known to locals as the American Riviera, I managed to see, eat, and experience a multitude of things during my 24-hour stay. I am looking forward to returning to Santa Barbara, so that I may explore it further, hopefully with a boo for a romantic getaway or with my girls for a weekend of wine tasting. This trip was a great reminder of how magical California is and that getting away from the city is always much easier than it seems.
FOOD & DRINK
119 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Santo Mezcal is an upscale Mexican restaurant located in the "Funk Zone" of Santa Barbara. Owned by handsome restaurateur Carlos Luna, whose family has a history in Santa Barbara by way of Guadalajara, with Chef Ricardo Garcia overseeing the kitchen, this is a must stop for elevated cocktails. The queso fundido and pulpo ceviche are not to be missed, in addition to a wide selection of dishes excellent for any seafood lover.
202 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
This was my favorite meal ever in Santa Barbara, which makes it my current favorite in the city. It was also one of the best meals I've enjoyed this year. Focused on the flavors of Spain, Loquita's menu impresses with a jamón sampler, croquettes, paella, and pulpo–to name a few. They boast an impressive cocktail program, a Spanish wine list, and an horchata made with oat milk that tastes like it was conceived in the heavens.
36 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Goat Tree is the perfect spot to enjoy a casual breakfast (especially for early risers) a mere 5 minutes from the ocean. Connected to the high-designed Hotel Californian, every inch of this space has been impeccably constructed, from the tiles to light fixtures. They have an solid espresso bar, marvelous pastries, and an avocado toast that satisfies. Don't forget to order a side of bacon and slice of the goat cheese cheesecake which has the locals raving.
La Arcada Courtyard, 1114 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA
Located in Downtown Santa Barbara, the Sanford Wine room is fit for anyone looking to get a taste of what SB wines have to offer. I had some time to learn from the Sanford team about what makes wine from this region of California so great, and I was blown away by the information I received. Pull up a chair to learn how Santa Barbara's varying climate is the most ideal for grapes in the state and why Sonoma wine country depends on this region.
Arts & Culture
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara
653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Have you ever been to a museum that was located in an outdoor mall? Don't let that distract you from the interesting shows that go up at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara. Open 5 days a week and free to the public, MCASB is a must stop for those seeking something left of center in the city or in need of their contemporary art fix. I was hyped to see the thorough Barry McGee solo exhibition, which should not be missed.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Although under major construction, the galleries that are currently open at he Santa Barbara Museum of Art offer a refreshing collection, ranging from 19th century European paintings to Asian art to Modern Art. My favorite pieces on display were Nam June Paik's TV Clock and Jenny Holzer's The Living Series: There is a period when it is clear... Cannot wait to see what the musem offers post-construction.
Part of this trip was funded by the Visit Santa Barbara
Top photo (1) & photo 4 + 5 via Pexels.com