Since my teen years I always dreamed of a road trip around California and it remained as only a dream for quite some time. It was an idea, a “once in a lifetime” opportunity you may say. Something I thought I wouldn’t be able to actually afford or do in my 20’s. If I’m perfectly honest, I never really had any intentions of traveling at all during this period of my life, apart from the odd beach break here and there – especially after finally getting a good job out of university. I thought that I would wait for the perfect timing to go on such an adventure. Two years soon passed as a graduate and I quickly learned that the “perfect” timing to do anything, travel included, doesn’t quite exist and cannot be controlled. Instead, I could be in control of saving up some money, carefully planning my route and gaining some courage to do something that I always wanted to do. As confident and open minded as I am, I must admit that leaving the comfort of routine and predictability behind was quite a scary idea … even if it was only for a matter of a few weeks or months. That being said, this trip was the best decision I’ve made in a long time.
If you’re new to this travel series, you catch up on my journey so far here. If you’re keeping up to date with me, I last left you in San Luis Obispo. I next took a quick detour to Solvang, where the famous Californian golden sun was shining bright as I walked through a real life Hans Christen Anderson storybook. Solvang is a town where Danish-American’s settled, and a tribute to the author is paid through the Hans Christian Anderson museum. My boyfriend and I spent some time mooching around the stores, enjoying Danish pastries and soaking up some sun, before heading over the Santa Ynez Mountains to Santa Barbara.
As we drove to our next stop, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in Europe rather than America. The Mediterranean style apartments with their red roofs and white walls hold a stark similarity to it’s Croatian friend across the pond. The Spanish influence is also particularly strong and is evident within the laid back, community feel to the town; a familiar feeling throughout typical Californian lifestyle and Santa Barbara is certainly no exception.
On route to the Summer Solstice Festival
When? I visited Santa Barbara in late June for 2 days over Summer Solstice weekend.
Weather? June gloom! It was around 22 degrees but the sun had gone away and only reappeared as we left.
Accommodation? Airbnb about 5 minutes drive away from the centre.
To Do? Beaches, Hikes, Rainbow Monument, Casa del Herrero, Stearns Wharf, Presidio of Santa Barbara, Botanical Garden, Lotusland, Deep Sea Tasting Room and more!
To Eat & Drink? Funk Zone, Paxi, Smithys, Wine Therapi, Cold Spring Tavern
We arrived in Santa Barbara unfortunately during the June Gloom period where grey, overcast skies mirrored the English climate far too much for my liking. Luckily for the optimist within me, this wasn’t enough to dampen my mood. The Summer Solstice Festival was in full swing, so we dropped off our bags at our Airbnb and quickly drove down to catch the end of the Parade at Almeda Park. Soon realising that lots of dancing, drinks and good times were to be had, we swiftly returned back to our Airbnb to park our rental car and caught an Uber instead. The entrance fee to the Summer Solstice festival was $20 which entitled us to one drink each, if my memory serves me correctly. Hungry from all the excitement, we ate some Greek food and danced the afternoon away with a few cold ones in hand. After a few hours of people watching, dancing, singing along to some songs, we then strolled along the streets into town and made the most of not having to drive, by getting another drink at Smithy’s. This was a recommended bar from a fellow blogger, that I too would definitely suggest if you’re stopping over in Santa Barbara. For dinner we chose pizza at Paxi and ended with a night cap at Wine Therapi where we listened to more live music (Oh how I loved Santa Barbara – I think I say that about every stop in this series!)
A wedding taking place in the grounds of Santa Barbara County Court House
Our Airbnb host recommended that we go to Cold Spring Tavern for a famous tri-tip sandwich, so the next day we headed on over to this Western style saloon. This eatery is located on a scenic mountainside where families and a ton of (friendly) bikers visit. We filled up on a sandwich along with, wait for it… even more live music! We then decided to use up all that energy on a hike to Inspiration Point. If you have the chance to do this whilst you are in Santa Barbara, I would recommend to complete the hike when there is bit more sun out. Although this sadly was not an option for us, we did enjoy some good old fashioned air as well as having the opportunity to just talk and take in some beautiful Californian nature. After cooling off back home, we explored more of the town in the afternoon from Stearns Wharf, East Beach to Butterfly Beach. We even saw a panoramic view of the town whilst a wedding was happening in the grounds of the County Court House! We then topped off our visit with a date night out bowling. Even though my visit to Santa Barbara was short and sweet, it definitely made a long-standing impression on me. I know for sure that I’ll definitely be back to see it again, especially to capture my missed Instagram opportunity by the colourful Paseo steps!
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