The New York Times recently highlighted the beaches, architecture, dining, and history of the American Riviera in the story, “36 Hours in Santa Barbara County.” Writer Freda Moon starts by summing up the Central Coast region like this: “With its Mission-style facades and showy tropical foliage, Santa Barbara could be a commercial for the California good life.”
Moon invites you to start your 36-hour tour at the Santa Barbara Public Market, an urban marketplace with a collection of locally-sourced food, wine, and craft beer. Cruise by the Old Mission Santa Barbara for a quick history lesson and stroll through the 78-acre Santa Barbara Botanic Garden to gain an appreciation for the area's native plants. End your day with a special-occasion seven-course dinner at the intimate, 10-table Yoichi’s, or go casual at the outer-space-themed Satellite, which serves distinctively vegetarian California dishes like "Sexy Toast" and "Yoga Pants Salad."
No trip to Santa Barbara is complete without spending time on its spectacular beaches—whether you lounge in the sun at Refugio State Beach or Gaviota State Park or go for a kayaking tour with Santa Barbara Adventure Company.
Day two of this NYT itinerary focuses on another one of the region's specialties: wine. Venture inland, where “the Santa Ynez Valley’s wine-growing reputation has begun drawing not only wine enthusiasts, but the restaurants to feed them.” Moon suggests wine tasting at Pence Vineyards and Winery and Los Olivos’ Story of Soil, with stops for food at Buellton’s Industrial Eats and Cold Spring Tavern or Loquita’s on your way back to Santa Barbara.
Looking for more Santa Barbara vacation ideas? Check out these three spectacular itineraries, discover 31 ways to plan a trip there, or learn about how celebrities enjoy the American Riviera.