Fave Five Things to Do in Santa Barbara

Staff writer Emily McManus shares her favorite activities in this vibrant coastal city By: Emily McManus
The writer feeds a giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo. // © 2011, Emily McManus
The writer feeds a giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo. // © 2011, Emily McManus

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Wine barrels at the Koehler Winery // © 2011, Emily McManus
Wine barrels at the Koehler Winery // © 2011, Emily McManus

State Street, the heart of downtown Santa Barbara // © 2011, Emily McManus
State Street, the heart of downtown Santa Barbara // © 2011, Emily McManus

The writer enjoying the views from Stearns Wharf // © 2011, Emily McManus
The writer enjoying the views from Stearns Wharf // © 2011, Emily McManus

Fresh seafood at Brophy Bros is tasty and sustainable. // © 2011, Emily McManus
Fresh seafood at Brophy Bros is tasty and sustainable. // © 2011, Emily McManus
California’s Central Coast boasts stunning views and the promise of outdoor adventures, which I experienced on a recent weekend getaway with my girlfriends to Santa Barbara. Good company, local wine and fresh seafood ensured that we left satisfied, rested and ready to return.

Cheers to the Vineyards!
Santa Barbara was the chosen location for our three-day escape because of its reputation for wine. In the rolling hills of the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, famously spotlighted in the film “Sideways,” visitors can follow the same wine trail as the characters in the movie or choose to take advantage of the wide variety of wine tasting opportunities in the entire region.

There are plenty of tour companies that pick up clients from areas throughout Santa Barbara and shuttle them to the vineyards, where they can visit different wineries and taste each location’s selection. On the fully-guided tours, guides can help visitors learn about tannins and the difference between full-bodied and fruit-forward wines. Guests can also learn about the winemaking process by observing the wine barrels and steel drums outside of the tasting rooms, if they are not too distracted by the views of the rolling vineyards.

The Urban Wine Trail is an alternative that allows visitors to go on their own walking tour of the wineries in Santa Barbara. All within blocks of downtown and the beach, the eleven different tasting rooms are each uniquely decorated and offer their own special blend of red and white wines. Most tastings include four to six wines as well as a wine glass to take home for usually no more than $15. This trail offers both novices and aficionados the opportunity to learn about and taste wines of different varieties from local Santa Barbara vineyards at their own pace.

Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail

Strolling State Street

Downtown Santa Barbara is most distinctly identified by State Street, a long walkway of shops, bars, wineries, restaurants and murals that characterize the unique culture of the city. Any given afternoon, State Street offers a lively way of taking in the scenery and the comfortable coastal weather. In between shopping at local boutiques and the mall, visitors can venture out to the nearby movie theaters, the Santa Barbara Art Museum or at a local cafe, outside watching the people go by. The open-air streets offer a pedestrian-friendly walk and can lead visitors all the way down to the beach once they are done with their browsing. The heart of downtown, State Street offers something for everyone.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Lions, Tigers and Bears – Oh My!

The Santa Barbara Zoo is known as one of the most beautiful zoos in the country, and it surely does not disappoint. The ten acres of land is home to more than 500 animals representing over 160 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. Similar to much of the city, the zoo provides scenic views of the coastline as a backdrop for elephants, gorillas and more. Located in the lush botanical gardens overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the zoo is also a perfect place to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy with friends or family on the grassy hills.

Baby animals are a crowd favorite wherever you are, but the Santa Barbara Zoo’s new addition to the golden lion tamarin family is exceptional. Born in February, the baby tamarin clung to its parents tightly, while they hopped around their cages. Even though the famous crooked-neck giraffe has passed on, the giraffe exhibit has also welcomed a recent arrival. Guests can even feed the adult giraffes with a handful of leafy greens for $5. The tongue of a giraffe is long and scratchy, and that is sure to be an experience that visitors will not forget.

Santa Barbara Zoo

Walk Along the Wharf

Santa Barbara’s most visited landmark is Stearns Wharf, which includes a long walk lined with shops and eateries. Beginning where State Street hits the beach, a historic three dolphin fountain marks the entrance to the wharf. The small stores are good for beach trinkets and souvenirs to send back home, but the magic of the wharf lies in the views of Santa Barbara and surrounding beaches. For clients, suggest a breezy walk next to the ocean, rife with photo opportunities.

Along the path of merchants, restaurants and ocean views, visitors can see fishermen casting their lines early in the morning or getting their fortune told in the afternoon. If they’re lucky, they may even be able to see a group of dolphins or whales in the channel. The Ty Warner Sea Center is located around the middle of the wharf and is a great attraction for guests of all ages. As an interactive marine education facility, the center acts as both an aquarium and a museum for visitors to learn about the creatures swimming beneath them.

Stearns Wharf

Getting Some Grub
One of the benefits of visiting a beach city is the fresh seafood that is readily available to try. Santa Barbara does not disappoint with its wide array of seafood restaurants, but one of the best is Brophy Bros Restaurant and Clam Bar. Located right on the beach, there are both outdoor and indoor seating options. Clients get an authentic seafood experience eating delicious fish, clam chowder and fresh sourdough bread. Brophy Bros has not only received nearly every best seafood restaurant award in the city for over 20 years, but they are also a partner of Santa Barbara’s Sustainable Seafood Program. They have pledged to remove any menu items that belong to overfished populations or come from damaging practices, offering a tasty treat that is also environmentally-conscious.

Brophy Bros Restaurant and Clam Bar
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