It's summertime, which means it's the perfect chance to make an exodus from the Valley, either by hitting the open road or jetting off to somewhere cool. Over the next few weeks, Jackalope Ranch will profile a few unique destinations around Arizona and the southwest that are perfect places for a daytrip or a weekend getaway.
It's time to address what Phoenicians have zipped up and neglected in the closet -- their suitcases. Right about now, Arizonans need a refreshing destination like the one between the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez Mountains. Here is the city of Santa Barbara.
The first-class beach town offers opportunities for both energetic and relaxed vacationers. Visitors can go jet-skiing, windsurfing and kayaking -- or a beach chair, lounge in the sand and soak in the scenery. A quick excursion to the seaside city serves as a much-deserved break.
Drive Time: Located 466 mi from Phoenix, getting to Santa Barbara is almost an 8-hour car ride.
See and Do:
More than 200 years after it was established, Old Mission Santa Barbara (2201 Laguna St., 805-682-4713) is still a central cultural landmark and continues to have an active and engaged parish. The "Queen of the Missions" was the tenth California mission to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans, but just because the Mission is older doesn't mean it can't have some fun. Inspired by the tradition of 16th-century artists depicting the Madonna on pavements outside of churches, street painters recently transformed the Mission plaza. Using pastels, the artists created rich and vivid, large-scale images during the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival. This year, the festival took place from May 26-28, so the drawings are still relatively fresh.
For an easygoing horseback ride through the Santa Ynez Mountains, stop by the Circle Bar B Guest Ranch and Stables (1800 Refugio Road, Goleta, 805-968-1113). If you arrive early, you can chat with one of the wranglers before a cowboy leads you through the fern-lined trail through small creeks, past a waterfall and up to lookout points of the Channel Islands. The 1 ½ hour rides are priced at $50 while the half-day rides are $90.
On a day that is too foggy or too toasty by the beach, explore the shaded Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (1212 Mission Canyon Rd., 805-682-4726), the oldest California garden that is devoted to preserving and showing diverse native flora. Five and a half miles of public trails wind through the 40 acres, featuring over 1,000 different types of plants. What can also be seen are the remains of the Mission Dam and aqueduct built in 1807 and the Japanese Teahouse ShinKanAn, which is used for chanoyu tea ceremonies.
Shop: State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara features distinctive specialty stores as well as more recognizable retailers. Filled with a variety of galleries, jewelry stores and gift shops, the shopping sections El Paseo (at the 800 block near De la Guerra St.) and La Arcada (off of Figuroa St.) are one of the most convenient places to meander and absorb some of the Southern California atmosphere. While strolling through outdoor plazas and brick-lined sidewalks, note the fountains and bronze statues that adorn the Spanish-style courtyards. When you're done shopping, continue down to Santa Barbara's most visited landmark, Stearns Wharf, located at the bottom of State Street and marked by a three-dolphin fountain at the entrance.
Palapa Fine Mexican Restaurant (4123 State Street, 805 683-3074) adds flavor to an evening with a fresh seafood menu and mariachi on Fridays. If you go with friends, go big. The generous portions of the platters make it entirely worth the expense. Though the platters are said to be for 2-3 people, they can easily serve 4-5. The delicious seafood parillada serves mojarra (tilapia), shrimp with diabla salsa, ceviche, oysters, octopus in garlic sauce, fish fajitas, green rice and vegetables. But if you're not much of a seafood person, the restaurant also offers plenty of platillos and burritos.
For a dance and a drink, The James Joyce (513 State Street, 805-962-2688) offers live music six days a week. Folk stomp, bluesy rock 'n' roll, acoustically inspired R&B, New Orleans-style jazz and traditional Irish bands regularly make an appearance each week. If those aren't your style, the Irish bar also houses a jukebox with over 30,000 song selections. Join the swing dancers on Saturday for a chance to have a lesson in jiving.
A drive into the hills leads to Cold Springs Tavern (5995 Stagecoach Rd., 805-967-0066), an 1860s stagecoach stop that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sundays serve up local blues music and tri-tip sandwiches outside, attracting people of all sorts. A biker scene and family outing have never blended so well together.
Sleep: The Motel 6 Santa Barbara (3505 State Street, 805-687-5400) won't be the most luxurious place to stay, but it's definitely the most affordable in the area. It'll be best to save money on the room because experiencing everything Santa Barbara has to offer will keep you out and about all day. You'll just need a place to rest your head at night. For two people on Friday and Saturday, a room is $155.99/night, but the prices dip down early in the week to $105.99.
Go There: -- Because of the romantic surfers. Jack Johnson's song "Bubble Toes" references the first time he met his wife while attending UC Santa Barbara: "I was eating lunch at the DLG/ When this little girl came and she sat next to me/ I never seen nobody move the way she did." Gauchos recognize the reference as the De la Guerra Dining Commons on campus.
-- Oprah's 23,000 square foot home is right outside of Santa Barbara in Montecito. Hey, if it's good enough for Oprah...
-- It has the Southern California feel without the aggressive drivers and endless traffic.