The months before you graduate may be the last chance for you to explore this beautiful city. Once you officially step out of school, you may be busy carving out your career path and have no time to enjoy your surroundings. Although Santa Barbara is not a town of hustle and bustle like nearby Los Angeles, there are still plenty of fabulous places to hang out and tasty restaurants for die-hard foodies. Take advantage and visit these places while you still have the chance.
A Breath of Fresh Air: Knapp’s Castle
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you are definitely going to love Knapp’s Castle. Knapp’s Castle is a privately-owned landmark in the Santa Ynez Mountains. To the ruins and back is a 0.8-mile round trip hike with 50 feet of elevation change. From the top of the castle remains, you can see a breathtaking view of nature. By car, it usually takes 45 minutes from campus to the beginning of the trail.
From Highway 101, take Highway 154. Make a right on E Camino Cielo. Then, make a left on Freemount Fuel Break.
Caffeine Fix: Handlebar Coffee Roasters
Having tried almost all the coffee shops in town, I suggest that Handlebar is the place you don’t want to miss. The lattes are perfect with the milk frothed to creaminess without being too foamy and the espresso is extremely flavorful. You actually feel the taste of silk by drinking it. The ambience is cool, reminiscent of “hipster” coffee shops in San Francisco. Many people use the place to study and work, and the outside seating is such a place to relax when the weather is good (which is usually the case). Remember to order an almond croissant with your coffee!
Handlebar Coffee Roasters is located at 128 E Canon Perdido St and 2720 De La Vina Street.
Ocean Views: Santa Barbara Harbor
A place near downtown Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Harbor is a spot for all ocean lovers. There is the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum for you to learn about the rich and varied maritime history of the region, with hands-on exhibits and educational programs. You can watch whales, go kayaking, go jet skiing, or just rent a boat to enjoy the sea. Every November, the Harbor has a seafood festival at which you get the chance to have fresher seafood than in most local restaurants.
The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is located at 113 Harbor Way, Ste 190.
A Fine Dining Experience: Loquita
If you want to have a fine dinner with your important friends and families, Loquita is the go-to place for you. It’s an exotic Spanish restaurant with delicate decorations and cozy ambiance, for close conversations or romance. There are some dishes that I highly recommend. One is pintxos, which are pretty and tiny appetizers with your choice of cheese. Another one is tortilla Española, a kind of Spanish tortilla with potatoes, caramelized onions and herbs. It’s so soft and juicy that you cannot help but have more of it.
Finally, never skip the paella in a Spanish restaurant like this. There are three kinds that Loquita serves: vegan, chicken and seafood. A personal favorite is the chicken, chorizo y pollo. Although it is a bit salty, the rice mixed with the soft gigante beans tastes the best.
Loquita is located at 202 State Street.
Best Brunch: Scarlett Begonia
Scarlett Begonia is hidden away in a courtyard in downtown Santa Barbara. It is an adorable place with outdoor tables, where you can enjoy the sunshine. For appetizers, I highly recommend the dirty fries. Seasoned with spicy aioli, bacon, lemon, and herbs, the ingredients make the dish especially flavorful. Shrimp and grits are the best, with creamy grits and freshly cooked shrimp. The paprika sausage in it also adds variety to the taste. For drinks, don’t miss the coconut limeade. It is not too sweet, but full of coconut flavor.
Scarlett Begonia is located at 11 West Victoria Street #10.