Between SLO CAL Los Angeles, you’ll find beautiful Santa Barbara. It’s known as the American Riviera thanks to its distinctive Spanish-style architecture, Mediterranean climate, coastal scenery, rich heritage and wealth of food and wine offerings.
Tucked between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, this welcoming city is also home to one of Southern California’s most iconic hotels: El Encanto, belmond.com/hotels/north-america/usa/ca/santa-barbara/belmond-el-encanto. Set high in the foothills, the Forbes star-rated resort has been a celebrated hideaway for over a century and it continues to dazzle. George, Chelsea and the kids loved this spot and its many perks, from their Terrace Suite to the car service and beach amenities.
Meals were special occasions and included an artisanal picnic by the Turtle Pond, a delicious poolside lunch and dinner in the ambient dining room. El Encanto is revered for its innovative, coastal-inspired fare and service. The family also enjoyed The Botanica Afternoon Tea Experience at El Encanto, including custom-blended teas and other delights, such smoked salmon mousse with lemon-zested creme fraiche and fresh rosemary scones with strawberry basil jam.
The culinary treats continued, courtesy of a unique foodie tour through the Santa Barbara Farmers Market with Chef Greg Murphy from bouchon Santa Barbara, bouchonsantabarbara.com. With the chef’s assistance, the Canadians had the opportunity to select ingredients for a three-course meal with wine pairings they enjoyed upon return to the restaurant for dinner. Bouchon is acclaimed for its warm hospitality and focus on fresh, local ingredients.
Another Santa Barbara restaurant that’s sure to please is called The Lark, thelarksb.com. It highlights bold flavours and seasonal ingredients and it’s in the Funk Zone, an arts and entertainment district.
In downtown Santa Barbara, there are a number of other compelling attractions. Salt Cave, saltcavesb.com, the largest underground crystal salt cave in North America, is where you can relax in zero-gravity lounge chairs or pamper yourself with treatments such as massage, salt scrubs and facials. Santa Barbara Bcycle, santabarbara.bcycle.com, an electric bike share program, and Wheel Fun Rentals of Santa Barbara, wheelfunrentals.com/ca/santa-barbara/mason, offer fun ways to get around or you can enjoy a 90-minute narrated tour of the city on the Santa Barbara Trolley Tour, sbtrolley.com.
Cat Therapy, cattherapysb.com, Santa Barbara’s first cat café, is the purrfect place to get your feline fix and at the family-friendly Santa Barbara Museum of Art, sbma.net, you’ll see artworks that span more than 5,000 years.
Near the waterfront, you can do everything from strum an eight-foot giant guitar to create your own soundtracks at MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, moxi.org. And at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, sbmm.org, you can check out the Surfs Up! exhibit that’s dedicated to the region’s surf culture and history.
The “turf” is impressive too. In fact, the 78-acre Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, sbbotanicgarden.org, is home to over 1,000 species of rare and indigenous plants. In the
Mission Canyon neighborhood, you’ll find the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, sbnature.org. Its interactive exhibits, 3.5 million-plus specimens, planetarium and 17 acres of oak woodland will captivate. Its Sea Centre, at 211 Stearns Wharf, introduces you to the marine animals from the Santa Barbara Channel.
Old Mission Santa Barbara, santabarbaramission.org, is another must-visit attraction. It was founded by the Spanish Franciscans in 1786. Nestled on 15 acres, this site includes lush gardens a museum, church, historic cemetery and mausoleum. Experience its grandeur on a self-guided tour.
Since there’s so much to see, Santa Barbara’s Third Night Free hotel promotion, santabarbaraca.com/places-to-stay/santa-barbara-savvy, might be in order. Over a dozen hotels and resorts are participating.