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I think we can all agree that life is full of, well, life. You never know what tomorrow, or even today, will bring. Whether it be hectic, joyous, disappointing, exciting, stressful or satisfying – I’m always looking for more.
More what? More experiences. More food. More laughter. More discoveries. More life.
But funny enough, recently this has also led me on a search for less. Less technology. Less stress. Less noise.
If I’m being completely honest, what I’ve really been craving is less everyone else and more me.
So I decided to take some time to explore more of my own “back yard” and take a me-cation. I wanted somewhere fairly close to home so I wouldn’t lose a lot of time in travel, but it also had to have that beach vacation vibe. After just a few minutes on Expedia’s Mobile App, it hit me. A solo trip just a couple hours up the coast to beautiful Santa Barbara was just what I needed.
Known to most as a “college town”, Santa Barbara is a place I’ve always wanted to visit but somehow just never really ended up in. The city itself has a population of only about 90,000, but it hosts millions of visitors each year. Why? Well there is literally something for everyone in or near Santa Barbara. You ready? You could…
- Relax on the beach (my favorite past time)
- Pamper yourself with a spa day (also a favorite past time)
- Jump off a perfectly good cliff
- Catch your dinner off Stearns Wharf
- Shake a leg or two on State Street
- Throw a dinner party on a yacht
- Attend a festival, or five
- Tour the local wineries … on a bike
- Meander the outdoor Farmer’s Market (every day except Monday)
- Explore the five Channel Islands while gracefully commandeering an ocean kayak (it’s a National Park!)
- Ogle multi-million dollar homes in Hope Ranch
- Visit a foreign country (ok, almost)
- and a gazillion other things
With so much to do, see and eat, I really appreciated having the Expedia Mobile App to help me decide on where to stay and fun things to do on my little solo getaway.
Admittedly, I purposefully planned a lot of time to just wander and follow shiny objects without a real schedule. I love exploring destinations this way and it’s really only feasible when you travel alone because the only person you have to answer to about changing your mind on a whim is YOU! My other favorite perk is having a huge king size bed all to myself so I can sleep diagonal, upside down, or any which way I feel like it.
Fun Facts: Expedia’s first Solo Travel Report reveals 60% of travelers plan to take a solo trip in the next two years and what’s even more interesting, is that two-thirds of respondents agree they prefer the freedom of traveling alone and meeting new people over the desire to have a companion on vacation.
Well, one thing is for sure – two days in Santa Barbara is definitely not enough time. I’m pretty certain a second (and probably third) me-cation is in order to complete my tour of Santa Barbara, but in the meantime, here are some of my favorite discoveries from my trip.
Where to Stay
Pacific Crest Hotel Santa Barbara
We all have our priorities when choosing the perfect hotel to call home. For this trip, complimentary breakfast, a pool, complimentary self-parking on-site, and being within walking distance to the beach and wharf were high on my wishlist. I also wanted a room that was comfortable but not necessarily luxurious because I knew I wanted to spend time eating my way through Santa Barbara. Pacific Crest Hotel Santa Barbara caught my eye because it received outstanding reviews on Expedia (with a 4.7 out of 5 guest rating) but when I saw that it is also smoke-free property run by locals, I was sold.
TIP: Don’t miss the complimentary breakfast with fresh homemade breads and sweets, designer oatmeal, egg quiche and a variety of fresh fruit. They even serve their own exclusive branded local coffee.
433 Corona Del Mar Drive
Santa Barbara, CA
Where to Eat
Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
I usually avoid the real touristy areas for food so I was hesitant when all the online reviews kept pointing me to the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. While it’s location at the very end of Stearns Wharf makes for stunning sunset dining, it also makes it highly suspect in my experience for being affordable or a quality representation of local cuisine. Man, was I wrong and I’m so glad I listened to the reviewers. I had a hankering for steamed clams and these were some of the best I’ve ever had.
I followed them up with a plate of lobster tacos and while they weren’t a home run for me, they were pretty darn good. Best part was the super friendly service and reasonable, dare I say affordable, prices.
And the view. I mean, come on. Be sure to choose outdoor seating for those warmer summer evenings, but don’t worry – you’ll still get all the views if you sit inside at the window counter too!
230 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Loquita Santa Barbara
If you’re craving Spanish tapas or love charcuterie and cheeses, then you have to try Loquita Santa Barbara. Bring your big girl purse though, this place will set you back a few bucks…but your taste buds will thank you for it. It’s the perfect spot when you feel like splurging and treating yourself to all the yummy noms.
Showcasing the flavors and traditional cooking methods of Spain with hot and cold tapas, wood-fired seafood, grilled meats and three types of paella, you can choose to enjoy your meal al-fresco on the large patio or inside where the vibe is a bit more funky.
Open nightly 5pm to 10pm and Sunday Brunch 11am to 2pm.
MUST TRY MENU ITEMS: Charcuteria, Gambas al Ajillo, Mariscos Paella and the Ibiza Handcrafted Cocktail (Citrus Infused Vokda | Spiced Honey | Mezcal Mist | Firewater Bitters)
202 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (805) 880-3380
What to do
You Had Me at Wine
If you’re a wine aficionado (yes, 2 Buck Chuck counts), then definitely plan on indulging in some wine tasting seminars or walking vineyard tours offered by one (or nine) of the amazing family-owned wineries in Santa Barbara.
It’s a no-brainer that drinking and driving is not a good idea, so they’ve come up with a bunch of creative ways that you can tour a few of the over 100 wineries in the area, aside from the usual limo or bus – like by jeep, bike, train and for the adventurous, by hot air balloon.
Grassini Family Vineyards
Passed down through generations, the Grassini Family Vineyards pairs its crisp wines with beautiful scenery so amazing that the private estate winery in Santa Ynez has been featured in such publications as Martha Stewart Weddings.
In this Valley’s eastern edge is the area known as Happy Canyon – where the days are warm and there are cool marine influences that don’t have many variations.
About 45 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara, this Happy Canyon where the Grassini Family Vineyards Private Estate resides creates rare, tranquil conditions to make their rich, flavorful wines.
If you want to experience this winery without leaving downtown Santa Barbara, take a trip to their tasting room in the historic El Paseo shopping center. While you sip on those amazing wines you can also enjoy homemade truffles.
TIP: Try the 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Bottled from the best nine barrels in the Grassini cellar, this wine embodies aromas of tobacco, leather, figs and ripe cherries in its rich bouquet.
813 Anacapa Street #6,
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (805) 897-3366
Hunt for Shells on the Beach
Santa Barbara has miles of coastline and plenty of public beach access. I spent a lot of time just walking along the shore, playing in the foam and looking for the occasional seashell or rare sea glass find. Honestly, just listening to the sounds of the waves and feeling the sand between my toes…it’s something I can do all day. Find that perfect spot to carve out a comfortable spot for your bum and get into that book you’ve been meaning to start all year. THIS is the perfect way to spend any me-cation, am-I-right?
So where would you like to go on your first or next solo trip? Somewhere sunny and beachy and quiet and mountainous? PSSSTTTTTT – Thanks to our partnership I am able to offer you an awesome coupon code to score 10% off hotels when you book your very own trip via the Expedia Mobile App using the following: SOLOTRAVEL. Remember, you’ll also earn double Expedia Rewards points every time you book through the app.
Adventure awaits, friends – get out there and enjoy it!