This past weekend, our friend Kate officially tied the knot and had a destination wedding in Santa Barbara. We had such a blast! Though, such a scenic location can come with a high price tag. But here we’ll share some well-researched ideas and tips to keep your costs low – without sacrificing any fun. Located less than 2 hours from LA (well, without traffic), you’ll get to take in some incredible views along the way.
But before arriving in Santa Barbara, we took a quick detour to one of our other favorite towns along the way – Ojai. We first heard of Ojai while watching the TV show Brothers and Sisters. And had no idea it was a real place until we moved to LA. The little art-centric enclave draws a real mixture of people like writers, artists and spiritual seekers. Oh, and us!
Our moms love Ojai – Kevin’s parents visited and enjoyed the town so much that when my mom visited last year, it was an easy decision to take her here, too (and she gave it a resounding thumbs up!). We had a few hours to kill before meeting up with our friend in Santa Barbara so we hit up one of our favorite Ojai spots called Ojai Coffee Roasting Co. It’s the perfect place to lounge around on some couches and sip coffee.
Next Ojai stop – just a few minutes walking – is Rains Department Store, a home goods store that seems to have just about everything including the locally produced olive oil from the Olive Oil Company. If you have more time, you can even visit the farm on the outskirts of town and take a tour.
If it’s the spring, you can’t leave Ojai without getting the locally-grown Pixies (as you can tell, food is a big reason we love it here!). We personally enjoy stopping at the local Westridge Market. And be sure to pick up a bag of the strangely addicting Bobalu Nuts. Seriously, just trust us!
So onto Santa Barbara! We visit Santa Barbara at least twice a year and have been doing so for at least the past 7 years now. If you’re a fan of Bed and Breakfasts, you’ll want to check out the Bath Street Inn. It’s a cozy, and romantic spot and we love how the place hasn’t really changed much over the years. But again, going back to the food part, we love all the extras they have like the cookies, cakes and wine and cheese hour. And the incredible breakfasts in the morning. They know how to put out a spread!
We’ve stayed in pretty much every room here – but personally would recommend the Tiffany Room out of all, located on the top level of the house (rates run $185-$225 depending on season). If you’re looking for something a little less expensive and don’t mind the cozy factor, we also like the Wedgwood Room (rates from $150-$185).
The wedding was our big draw to Santa Barbara – and we spent most of our time catching up with friends. And I discovered something new about Kevin — the guy loves a photo booth!
We had some extra time the day after the wedding to explore and headed straight to the pier where we spotted all kinds of wildlife including seals and pelicans. During the warmer months, you can even go stand-up paddle boarding. But you’ll need to have pretty good balance – just ask Kevin who can tell you just how chilly that water is (not that he’d EVER fall in it… or be bitter about this subject 3 years later!).
While you’re on the pier, you can make a quick stop at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center (admission $12 for adults and discounted rates for seniors, teens and children) . This is a very compact ocean studies center that can easily be explored in just an hour. Inside local students from one of the many nearby universities can tell you all about the various marine life.
One of the many things you can do is touch the different sea creatures, including a sea anemone that shoots venom that feels like a little buzz on the finger tips (though will cause no damage to humans because of our tough skin… at least that’s what they told us!).
Or you can do the safer version of a shark dive – though Kevin really gets into the part!
Before heading to the second level, be sure to check out the education space where you can measure salt content in the ocean and take samples off the ocean floor. Southern California has been getting a significant amount of rain, which has been causing the salt levels to go down and the many ocean creatures to go deeper into the sea. Who knew?
You’ll exit through the gift shop – and you all know how much I love a shop! It’s mostly toys and stuffed animals but we totally got into the animal puppets – scaring off more people than we’d ever admit!
After all this educational stuff, we worked up an appetite and headed to a place we think has the best Mexican food in the city. There is a lot of fantastic food options in Santa Barbara but take our advice and hit up Los Agaves. This isn’t a formal sit down place – in fact, you’re on your own to get salsa and place your order. It’s open seating – so grab a table quickly because it fills up fast! It’s cheap and portions are massive.
Everything on the menu is fantastic – but you can’t go wrong with the quesadilla or the Los Agaves Salad (mixed greens, tomatoes, cheese, mandarin orange, mango, avocado, cranberries with balsamic). Yum!