Just an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara hosts a laid-back relief from Los Angeles' bustling streets (and traffic!). Short and scenic, the drive to Santa Barbara leads you up Malibu's coast with breathtaking ocean views alongside the well-preserved Malibu mountains. My trip was a mother-daughter retreat, and our first stop: Solvang.
This "old-town" city is a mini replication of Denmark, packed with cute Danish antique shops, wine-tasting bars, hearty breakfast restaurants, and of course Danish bakeries. Solvang is famous for its "abelskiever", pancake balls topped with raspberry jam, and these are a must-try.
Be sure to take the 20-minute "horse-carriage tour" around the three main streets that make up the city. Our guide was decked in traditional Danish attire and actually had a lot of great knowledge about the city!
Our next stop: Bacara Resort. This Resort is a highly ranked one, and for good reason. An apparent transition from the rustic Solvang retreat, Bacara is a sanctuary for relaxation. Upon being greeted by the valet, you will never have to lift a finger during your stay- they have it all taken care of from golf-cart services to in-room catering. Resting on a cliff just above the beach, Bacara allows our stay to be just the way we love it, both tideside and poolside!
We went on a very overcast day, but the beach was beautiful, nonetheless, in a mysteriously romantic way. The fog rolled in and out, sometimes hiding the long and skinny pier a little ways down the sand. The beach is hillside, just below the resort with a short trail leading to it from the Resort.
Our final stop: Santa Barbara's State Street, a famous and busy hub of Santa Barbara. The street is packed with great eateries, and shops ranging from local boutiques, like LF, to big-name labels like Urban Outfitters and Abercrombie and Fitch. The street is a great way to spend the afternoon!
Backyard Bowls is the go-to breakfast or lunch pitstop for açaí and smoothie bowls. Although hidden behind the hustle of the crowded streets, Backyard Bowls always has a line leading out the door. But not to worry, the young and energetic staff works as a powerhouse, expertly slicing bananas and blending acai puree to keep the line moving and the customers happy.
The bowls are not big, they are huge, something I wish I knew before my mom and I each got our own bowl. We both went with the most popular menu item- the Backyard Bowl. Cold, smooth, and sweet açaí ice-cream topped with strawberries and bananas, then sprinkled in bee-pollen and glazed in honey. After eating one of these bowls, your tastebuds will die and go to heaven. So I urge you, go to Backyard Bowls if and when you're in Santa Barbara. Get the backyard bowl! Or anything else on the menu, because honestly, it all looked amazing!
Our final adventure in Santa Barbara was a whale watching trip. Our bellies full of Backyard Bowl, we made our way onto the boat. It sped across the icy waters, spraying sea mist across our bare skin, which didn't feel... nice...(pro tip: bring a jacket. Or two.) But it was all worth it after about a half hour, when the captain had spotted a spray of sea mist across the horizon and soon we were up close with the fluke of a blue whale!
We also saw hundreds of dolphins and seals.
Santa Barbara was one of my favorite vacations! It was action packed, yet relaxing, full of good eats and fond memories. If you ever get the chance, don't hesitate to visit the beautiful city of Santa Barbara.