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Visit Santa Barbara. Skip the Beach.

Head inland to check out an evolving, grown-up destination.

The Goodland

The interior of The Goodland. 


Santa Barbara is lined with beautiful beaches and features some of the best sunset viewing in the state. But warm-weather beach destinations come with groups of tourists, cranky toddlers, and (especially in SoCal) beer-guzzling college kids. The development of the Funk Zone, a few blocks from the pier, created a much-needed hangout space for people who weren’t into the touristy, fratty, or hoity toity scenes, but a saturation of wine tasting rooms has reduced it to little more than a fancy day-drinking spot. But luckily, a slew of new places have opened in northern Santa Barbara over the last six months, making it a worthwhile tourist-free, grown-up destination.

The newly minted—and long anticipated—Santa Barbara Public Market is the Central Coast’s answer to San Francisco’s Ferry Building. The sleek steel interior houses 15 different purveyors, including restaurants, cafes, bakeries, butcheries, seafood counters, and wine bars. Indulge in highlights like the Pasta Shoppe’s handmade wild mushroom tagliatelle, the Foragers Pantry’s small-batch preserved foods (sourced from nearby farms), and enjoy Cupcakes’s wine country-inspired flavors like chardonnay-blueberry (but try the churro cupcake, too—it’s one of the best). Plus, a commissary kitchen hosts cooking classes and pop-up winemaker dinners. 

New restaurants and bars have sprouted in the neighborhood surrounding the upper stretch of State and Victoria Streets, quickly becoming local favorites. Restaurants tend to close on the early side in Santa Barbara, but after 10 p.m., the Arlington Tavern serves a satisfying late night snack menu featuring dishes like short ribs and grilled cheese. Around the corner, on State Street, an upscale-casual Indonesian restaurant called Sama Sama Kitchen whips up Balinese duck confit and pork belly porridge. Next door, the brand new Good Lion bar feels like it’s made for real adults, with bookshelf walls, dark wood beams, and a craft cocktail menu (a rare commodity in these parts).  

Obviously, there is good surfing in Santa Barbara, but if you’re looking for activities away from the beach, try the the Goleta Butterfly Grove. Every year from November to February the beautiful eucalyptus grove is aflutter with orange and black monarchs. This month, there are an estimated 4,500 butterflies in the grove. Walking through is nothing short of a fairy tale, as dozens of butterflies flap around you like little colorful pixies. 

Not long ago, the Goodland hotel was a Holiday Inn on a stretch of upper upper State Street. The building is still in an unassuming area (read: There’s an Outback Steakhouse and a Best Western in the neighborhood), but the hotel has become a destination unto itself, a little oasis on a stripmall stretch. The interior courtyard structure of its past life as a classic California motel still stands, but it’s been dressed up with mint-green and sky-blue checkered doors, succulents dripping from planters, semi-private first-floor patios, day beds circling the pool, and two always-raging fire pits. Filling a long-standing gap between uber-budget and uber-luxury, The Goodland is an affordable spot (the starting rate is $199) with a casual social atmosphere that even lures locals. Check out its indoor-outdoor restaurant Outpost featuring a wood herringbone bar, live music, long communal tables, and Mexi-Cali fare. A chalkboard in the lobby states the day’s surf conditions, and a patch of grass with a picnic table and cornhole almost makes it feel like a friend’s house. 

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