When people think of Santa Barbara, California, they tend to think of the beach and the festive activities near the university. While these are certainly two of the aspects of life in Santa Barbara, there is a lot more happening here than that. Until recently, I only wished I had known, because I had never been there. I got an opportunity to attend a few days of meetings there, but the schedule was so packed that I knew I would not really see much other than a couple of restaurants, a meeting room and a hotel bed. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the meetings would be ending a day early and I would be able to stay another day in Santa Barbara if I wanted. All I needed to do was find a Santa Barbara hotel room, as my stay at the current place was ending.
That can be a bit of a problem, as anyone who travels a lot knows – it’s not easy finding a hotel at the last minute. I wasn’t sure where to start, as Santa Barbara hotels can be found everywhere online, but I decided to hop onto HotelTonight. I’m glad I did. Rather than plow through a pile of red tape, I had my choice of Santa Barbara hotels in front of me in seconds and a room booked within a couple of minutes.
There’s really no place to get to know a city for its true feel than in its downtown area, and in that regard Santa Barbara was no different than many other places I had visited. Downtown here was vibrant but relaxed at the same time. You could see a lot of different cultures here and people of all ages and walks of life all in one place. Students, young professionals, families, older folks, Americans, visitors from other parts of the world… it all came together quite nicely, and it all made sense in this beautiful setting.
As I said, I like to do what the locals like to do when I visit a place. Do you know what the locals like to do in Santa Barbara? Spend time at the beach in one way or another. West Beach sits near the University of California Santa Barbara campus, and it’s simply gorgeous. It’s also easy to walk around here, and not just on the sand. All of this sea air made me a bit thirsty, so I decided to stop in at a café for an iced coffee. It was exactly what I needed to refuel my tank and get right back into what was becoming a very fun day.
What can I say? There are a lot of gorgeous beaches here. Butterfly Beach is just a hop, skip and a jump from West Beach, but you’d never know it given the different views and feel to these places when compared to each other. Both are beautiful in their own way, but each is also unique. There is a timeless quality to pristine sand and roaring ocean waves smacking the shore, and the people here all seem to embody this timelessness. While my watch may not have mattered at the moment, my body clock did. It was lunchtime and I was hungry.
I pulled into Montecito, a nearby neighborhood with a huge appetite. I felt like Mexican food, and there are plenty of options for that here, making it easy to find a great spot to satiate my craving. The food was so amazing that I needed to walk it off, and I was in a good place to do so, as Montecito is an area filled with a lot of shops and art to check out.
Laguna was lovely – anyone could see that within seconds. I continued to walk off my lunch through Ortega Park, which was bucolic and breathtaking all at once. Local residents played with their dogs, joggers bounced by and children chased each other without a care in the world. I decided to ask someone about a good place for dinner, because eventually I would be hungry again. I got a tip and after a couple of hours of window shopping, I decided on the seafood joint I had heard about. It was also fantastic, and thankfully not as filling as the Mexican lunch I had devoured earlier in the day.
It had been a full, fulfilling and fun day. I really enjoyed seeing this gorgeous part of the world for myself. I also enjoyed learning that the locals here live pretty much like everyone else you see – in a relaxed and upbeat way. I was also thankful that I was able to find HotelTonight, as the app helped me find a Santa Barbara hotel within a couple of minutes instead of a couple of hours.