One Day and Night in Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara is quiet the weekend after Thanksgiving! We spent the day and evening doing a little more wedding weekend planning, and I enjoyed many delicious vegan options!

Watching the SB sunset on Butterfly Beach in Montecito.
Butterfly Beach

Reconnaissance for a Santa Barbara Wedding Weekend

On the weekend following Thanksgiving, we spent the day and night in SB with our daughter and her fiancé.  They’re getting married in SB in April on the lawn of the Santa Barbara Courthouse with the celebration following at El Paseo, and we thought we’d go do another day of reconnaissance.  We were able to make a one night reservation at The Waterman hotel in the Funk Zone, one of the recommended hotels on the wedding website.  Other than that, we had no reservations.  We wanted to check out several different places together: The Boat House at Hendry’s Beach, Deep Sea Winery on Stearns Wharf, the Brass Bear Brewery, The Californian Hotel, and the Goat Tree restaurant.  

El Paseo
Future Wedding Site

Staying in the Funk Zone

We left LA in the morning and arrived in SB in an easy two hours (not including a quick stop to see our one year old granddaughter).  We each had our own car so our plan was to meet at the Waterman Hotel so we could drop off one car. The Waterman is in the Marriott hotel family and is undergoing a remodel to become a Moxy hotel (still in the Marriott family). We chose the Waterman because of it’s great location in the Funk Zone, and the fact that we could just stay for one night. We were pleased that the hotel had two rooms available, and we were able to check into the hotel and bring in our luggage and belongings. I’m not sure if it was because of the current remodel (on the ground floor they are building a bar and a lobby area), but we were given “coupons” for a drip coffee and pastry at Helena Avenue Bakery, as well as an offer for a cocktail when requested, and two more drinks plus breakfast or appetizers at the nearby Marriott Courtyard. We appreciated the refrigerated bottled water available at the front desk, as there is no mini-fridge in the very compact room, which is described as “cozy” or “petite”. The design is intentional and considered “smart”, though I think it appeals to a younger customer base. I hope by the time of the wedding, the remodel will be finished (which means that guests will check in at the bar), and that any of our guests staying there might also enjoy the outdoor pool and the bicycles available to use and rent. Despite being situated next to the train tracks and adjacent to State Street, we actually found it to be fairly quiet, though this was traditionally a low occupancy weekend.  Parking is $35 a night. You can’t beat the convenient location, as you can walk anywhere in the Funk Zone, across the street to the pier and the beach, and also venture up State Street. 

Palm Tree Reflections

Al Fresco Beachfront Dining

After a quick coffee from Helena Avenue Bakery down the block, we drove over to Hendry’s Beach.  We wanted to check out The Boat House to see if we’d like to have dinner their on Friday evening before the wedding.  The drive to Hendry’s Beach from the Funk Zone was just. Few minutes and did not require getting on the freeway.  There’s plenty of free parking in the lot, but I imagine it’s often as crowded as it was when we arrived, though we luckily got a spot quickly. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and we arrived to the sun shimmering on the bright blue waters, framed by a rustic yet cozy beach.  Opting to sit at a small high top table with four stools rather than wait the 30-40 predicted minutes to get a table, we put our order in.. Whether indoors or outdoors, it looks like all tables have an ocean view.  The menu is seafood-focused, but offers a variety that appeals to all. Beverage choices are plentiful, with both artistic cocktails and wines and beers highlighting local wineries and breweries. Soon our waiter set down on the table, a cheese burger and fries, grilled fish tacos, Mahi Mahi asian cabbage salad, and my special request of the same salad with grilled tofu instead of fish.  The portions were generous but we were all hungry and finished most of our food! The Boat House is open every day from 7:30 am until 9:00 pm, serving We wandered around the beach area a bit, feeling happy about this find and deciding it would be a great place to met up for an early no-host dinner on the Friday preceding the wedding. Sunset will be around 7:30 in mid-April.

Beach View from The Boat House
Asian Slaw with Grilled Tofu

We returned back to our Funk Zone home base and starting in on our to-see list. 

Playing in the Funk Zone

Pali Wine and Shades

The Funk Zone is a vibrant area in Santa Barbara that is bordered by (lower) State Street, Cabrillo Boulevard (across the street from the beach), Garden Street and Montecito Street, which is west of and parallel to Hwy 101.  It’s an eclectic collection of wine bars, breweries, unique retail spots, restaurants and even lodging. It is also one of five neighborhoods in the region that make up the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. Saturday afternoons are usually busy in the Fun Zone, and while there were definitely people around, it was quieter than normal. We took a look at The California Rooftop Pool, enjoying the amazing view and had a delicious splash of sparking at The Society: State and Mason, where the Californian offers their signature wine tasting experience. 

We then walked along the pier onto Stearns Wharf and up the stairs to Deep Sea Tasting Room. Owned by Conway Family Wines, the site has an outdoor balcony that faces the East Beach and Montecito coast and the majestic Santa Barbara mountains. Indoor seating is spread over a few different rooms with charming different seating options.  There is also a smaller balcony on the opposite side with bar seating. I hadn’t been here until my daughter took me there in July during our first wedding reconnaissance experience, and we loved sitting outside, enjoying a flight of wines and the exceptional Santa Barbara views, including the different boats and sea birds.  We decided we’d come back to wine taste there at sunset. On a beautiful day, you may want to include this tasting bar on your wine tasting itinerary!

Back down to the Funk Zone, we landed at Pali Wine Garden. They have a great outdoor area with lots of seating, which quickly filled up.  Enjoying the music from the live singer Kai, we leisurely sipped on a few different flights between our group of four. Happy after that, we strolled in the area, hitting a few retail spots, including The Shopkeepers, where my daughter found a chic leather jacket, and Channel Island Surfboards Flagship Store.  My son-in-law to be is a surfer and we can’t pass a surf shop without going in, though this time he was the only one to walk out without a purchase!

Pali Wine Patio
Deep Sea Balcony
Dvora at Deep Sea

We ushered in a gorgeous sunset at the Deep Sea Tasting Room, squeezing onto the outdoor balcony so we could enjoy the pink and orange sky of the sunset, as well as the almost full moon!  Then we headed over to Brass Bear Brewing. We’re having the Wedding Welcome event there on the Saturday before the wedding.  It’s a great casual site that’s basically like a big giant backyard with lot of picnic tables, heat lamps and string lights.  They offer wine, beer, cocktails and “pub” fare, and their menu even includes a few vegan items—I enjoyed the zucchini spears (REALLY spicy!) and the Grilled Veggie Wrap. There was a relaxed family vibe that evening, with young families, grandparents, dates and dogs.  They even have a play area for little ones. We’re looking forward to renting the entire facility on the late afternoon/early evening of our event, as it can fit the 150+ guests with whom we expect to celebrate!

Still Hungry in Santa Barbara

Our group was still hungry and we made a spontaneous decision to drive over to La Super-Rica Taqueria on Milpas.  We waited in the long line for 30 minutes until we finally ordered. We use to go to this place whenever we visited on of two of our kids who went to UCSB (’10 and ’16), but I hadn’t been since I switched to plant-based eating.  The only vegan choices I had was the guacamole and the beans that were really spicy.  I ordered the guacamole with the handmade tortillas, which was just enough for me. The group then headed for dessert at Tondi Gelato on State Street, which has delicious, creamy gelato, and always has several vegan flavors available.  

Flavors at Tondi Gelato

Fueling Up for the Road

The next morning we wanted to head back home early. First we headed over to Helena Avenue Bakery. The Waterman Hotel gave us cards for a drip coffee and pastry, though we planned to eat breakfast there.  Unfortunately, they don’t start serving breakfast until 8:00 am, and we’d arrived at 7:15.  So we got some coffee and pastries to go (I got the vegan cookie), and then headed over to Goat Tree, which is basically the main cafe at The Californian, where we had some breakfast before each couple got back on the road to head home. I enjoyed the Avocado Toast sans egg and cheese, which was just enough.  I suppose we could have headed over to one of our all-time favorites, Jeannine’s, which is open everyday at 7:30. For years and years, I don’t think there was ever a trip I made to Santa Barbara where I wouldn’t go to one of the Jeannine’s locations and order the Banana Kahlua French Toast. Though now the vegan me will choose the oatmeal or Avocado Toast. They also have a few vegan choices on their lunch menu.  This place will definitely be on our recommendation list for our wedding guests.  

Avocado Toast at Goat Tree with tomatoes and pickled red onions.
Avocado Toast at Goat Tree
Avocado Toast from Helena Ave. Bakery with cucumbers and sprouts.
Avocado Toast at Helena Avenue Bakery

We made great time on the road, getting home in just five hours!  It was a great trip that fired us up even more for the upcoming wedding!

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