My dad retired recently (I use the word retire loosely, because I am still keeping the dream alive that he will go work at REI where he belongs), and he took me and my brother to Santa Barbara, taking advantage of the time off and burning some frequent flyer miles and hotel points. He spent much of his high school and college aged years in the area, so it is a special place to him. (Notice I say college-aged, and not college, because this was when he decided being a surf bum trumped going to school. Can’t say I disagree on the strategy.)
Here are some of my favorite stops during our trip. If you are ever in the Santa Barbara area, put these on the top of your list.
This is one of those secret beaches that only locals know about. If you are willing to take the long and windy drive back to it, it’s worth it. This was one of my dad’s favorite surf spots, and it’s easy to see why.
After spending the day at the beach, make sure you stop at the Jalama Store for the Wold Famous Jalama Burger.
Babcock Winery & Vineyards
Life is full of compromises, and traveling with my dad and brother is no different. I could spend all day walking through vineyards and tasting rooms, but the rest of my trio felt differently. So I picked one vineyard, and Babcock Winery didn’t disappoint.
Babcock Winery is run by a husband wife duo. Bryan Babcock is the adventurous winemaker, and his wife, Lisa, also the vice president of merchandising for Forever 21, travels to flea markets and estate sales, picking up pieces to design the beautiful and eclectic tasting room.
The Babcock tasting room is a gallery full of Lisa’s finds. I loved being able to have a glass of wine while sorting through all of the treasures that have surfaced around this beautiful winery.
Lisa uses quite a few quotes to decorate, which makes my little teacher heart oh so happy. Maybe she will come decorate my classroom for me.
We only went to one vineyard, but Babcock is right next door to Melville Winery, and surrounded by many others. You could easily make a day out of visiting vineyards.
After spending the day exploring State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, (where I quickly located Handlebar Coffee, H&M, Free People, and Paper Source), we ended at the pier and wrapped up a beautiful day with dinner at The Lark. I did my homework beforehand, and I knew that this was one stop we couldn’t pass up. If I have one regret in life, it’s that I didn’t take pictures of every single thing I ate and drank at The Lark. Holy moly, I have never had a better meal.
We easily dropped $200 between the three of us, but even on this tiny teacher salary, I would do it all over again. The Lark serves all of their dishes family style, so we shared about 5 different plates.
We ordered the crispy brussel sprouts, oysters, scallops, redfish, and a half rack of lamb ribs. I would have loved to try everything on the menu, but like I said, life is full of compromise. While everything we ate was delicious, I could spend every day at The Lark drinking beet juice mojitos and eating brussel sprouts. I’m not kidding. I have had dreams about these. My dying wish is that I will be able to taste heaven again at The Lark.
Other noteworthy places to visit include Ventura, where I had several beautiful runs along the pier, ending with tacos and bloody marys at Beach House Tacos, and Kay’s Coffee Shop, the local Ventura coffee shop I fell in love with. I stopped in for coffee each morning, and got to chat with some of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met. They made me feel like a local. The coffee is great, and their nobake cookies, locally named Trucker Twinkies, are delicious. The chia seeds and granola even trick you into thinking they’re healthy.
Thanks, Dad, for showing us your old stomping grounds! It’s easy to see why you fell in love with Southern California.