Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   United States (
-   -   Santa Barbara at Christmas--trip report! (

AZWildcat Dec 28th, 2006 01:38 PM

Santa Barbara at Christmas--trip report!
First of all, thanks to all the threads here regarding SB—I took many of the suggestions from here! We left for SB from the Bay Area on Friday, Dec. 22, arriving in the town of Solvang for lunch around 2pm at Paula’s Pancake House. Delish! The food really hit the spot after four hours of driving, and DH and I agreed that the flat, huge Danish pancakes were the highlight. Then we walked around the town of Solvang—good time to be there—just before Christmas—lots of shopping. Bought a pretty needlepoint sampler kit from a needlepoint shop there. And of course enjoyed a Danish from one of the bakeries. Yum! This was just the right amount of time to visit a tiny town—a whole day was definitely not needed.

Then we continued on to SB and checked into our hotel—the Franciscan Inn. Great location, friendly staff, and yummy warm chocolate chip cookies every afternoon. We had a good rate of $180 for Fri/Sat nights, then $145 for Sunday night. The room was clean, nice queen suite with full kitchenette. Only weird thing was the extremely short shower spigot in the bathroom. Other than that—I highly recommend this place that is just a few blocks from the beach. I swam in their 80-degree pool even in December, and enjoyed their free continental breakfast one morning.

Saturday at 10AM we met up with the SB Architectural Foundation’s $5 walking tour of downtown SB. Our guide was an architect, and we enjoyed the 2h walk around town, as he pointed out some historical, anecdotal and interesting features of SB buildings. From there, we had a nice light lunch of salad at Puscucci’s Italian restaurant on State Ave. Highly recommend for lunch!

Saturday afternoon we shopped around on State Ave. for awhile, then drove down to Ojai (about 30minutes away—lovely, interesting drive through a hilly pass). We shopped around in Ojai a bit and had icecream on the main street downtown. While we enjoyed window shopping at the art galleries, I think this town would be more fun if you had a big art budget, which we do not. My favorite store was Studio Sauvageau—the artist that makes tapestry bags was there, and her bags were beautiful.

We drove back to SB, then headed to an early movie at Paseo Nuevo mall on State Ave. After the show, we had a quick burrito at Rudy’s Mexican (just okay—nothing spectacular), and turned in for the night.

AZWildcat Dec 28th, 2006 01:39 PM

Sunday morning we had a light breakfast at Pierre LaFond bakery (so-so, not a great place for hot breakfast, although the baked goods looked tasty), then checked out the SB Art Gallery. Lovely building, and interesting collection, with several well-known artists’ works. I was impressed at the quality of the artwork for such a small town, but thought the collection overall was somewhat disorganized. As an art novice, I like galleries to have distinct themes—makes it easier to follow, easier to learn from and easier to compare the artwork, IMHO. Overall great though, and a steal for FREE on Sundays.

We then headed down to the waterfront to see the Martime Museum. Excellent collection of maritime memorabilia and descriptive history of SB’s martime past. Highly recommend this—we had a 2 for 1 coupon from a “pocket concierge” at our hotel, but didn’t need them, as the museum was closing an hour later, so the hostess let us in for free. Kids in the museum seemed to be having a great time with the interactive learning exhibits.

Had a fast lunch at the Breakwater Restaurant next door to the museum. Disappointing food, but they seemed to be hurrying to close due to it being Christmas Eve. Great view, however from their outdoor patio!

Returned to hotel to clean up, then headed out for 5pm Christmas Eve Mass at the SB Mission. I reviewed this on another thread, so will leave out the details here…suffice it to say that as Methodists, we loved the service and it was a very special Christmas event for us to be included in their celebration of the holiday.

After mass, we were aware that not many restaurants would be open, so we took our hotel staff’s suggestion of Opal restaurant on State Ave., and we were absolutely not disappointed. This turned out to be our favorite meal of the trip. Wonderful ambiance—not too loud, yet cozy. Waitstaff was great, food was delicious and the price was only $60 total for two, including several drinks for my DH. We enjoyed dessert there too. HIGHLY recommend this restaurant—especially since they were able to squeeze us in on a holiday without reservations (I recommend reservations there if you need a specific time, or are a large party!)

Turned in for the evening, and awoke to a GORGEOUS Christmas morning. We walked along the beach—and everyone was so friendly and wishing each other Merry Christmas—lots of people out enjoying the day! Then we headed south out of town toward LA, grabbing breakfast at IHOP in Carpenteria on our way out of town.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to SB and look forward to another trip!

SandyBrit Jan 27th, 2007 11:22 AM

AZWildcat - Just read your Christmas trip report which I am across starting my reseach on a side trip from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. What a lovely way to spend your Christmas. Enjoyed all the details, well done.

Are you from the San Francisco area? If so do you know if there is a train that you can take from San Franscisco to Santa Barbara.

LoveItaly Jan 27th, 2007 12:49 PM

Hello SandyBrit, you can take Amtrak from Emeryville to Santa Barbara (Emeryville is across the SF Bay just east of San Francisco). There is bus service provided by Amtrak from SF to Emeryville. The last I knew the bus departs close to the Ferry Bldg. at the end of Market St. in SF.

Here is the website

Just a note of caution, Amtrak can be late in arriving at your destination so keep that in mind when planning your trip. Best wishes.

SandyBrit Jan 27th, 2007 01:23 PM

LoveItaly - thank you.


LoveItaly Jan 27th, 2007 03:05 PM

You are quit welcome Sandy. You will be in two beautiful areas, San Francisco and Santa Barbara! Enjoy your trip.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:57 AM.