After our recent trip to Lompoc, I was thinking about our vacation in Santa Barbara. We vacationed in Santa Barbara when the kids were young because we wanted to go somewhere close enough to drive to but not be in the car forever. Santa Barbara is about 3.5 hours north of San Diego without traffic. I'm so glad we picked it because it turned out to be a super fun destination to explore with the kiddos. In this post, you'll find out about our stop in Ventura as well as where we stayed, played and explored in Santa Barbara. We enjoyed delicious food and made a stop in Lompoc to visit a few spots. We also stopped in Solvang! Santa Barbara has so many fun spots to visit!
Stopping for Lunch in Ventura, CA
We did end up hitting a bit of traffic, but we made the best of it and stopped for lunch in Ventura. Ventura is a beautiful spot to stop along the coast. We found a really tasty taco spot right on the pier called Beach House Tacos. Their main restaurant is called Beach House Fish. We opted for the taco spot because it was more casual. They had super fresh ingredients. We had the shrimp and the ahi tacos with their house made chips and salsa. Everything was worth trying. After lunch, the little missy spotted the playground down on the beach so Mark took her down there for a little play time. I went around the top with the little guy and watched from there. Next time we will have to stay longer in Ventura. It seemed like another fun destination.
Where to Stay, Play and Explore in Santa Barbara, CA
We checked into the La Quinta Inn in Santa Barbara for four nights. It was a reasonable hotel for the location and hotel style. The rooms were spacious and clean. It was on State street which is where a lot of the restaurants and fun spots are located. It was in a pretty great location for us. We could walk a couple blocks and grab a bite to eat and there was a little market right across the street. They also had complementary breakfast which was perfect for our two hungry eaters, first thing in the morning.
Getting a Feel for the Area
After we checked in, we thought we would go for a walk down State Street to see what was nearby. We seem to do this on the first day of every trip - walk aimlessly unsure of what to do. We headed to the market by our hotel, grabbed some dinner and put the kids to bed. This is when I decided we needed to plan out our week better so we didn't miss anything. I already had a few ideas of what to see but this is when I made a better plan of what to do each day. I originally thought we might have more beach or pool time but it was a little cold while we were there so we only did the beach thing for one afternoon.
The streets and views in Santa Barbara are so pretty. We really did enjoy walking around checking everything out. Our first full day started at the Santa Barbara Zoo.
Exploring the Santa Barbara Zoo
I love their Zoo. It's the perfect size for a half day trip. You could easily spend a whole day there but we saw everything within a couple hours. When you visit the giraffes, you can also see a view of the ocean. Pretty sweet! The little missy loved feeding the goats. Also, apparently the Santa Barbara locals know to bring their own cardboard for the kids to slide down a big hill made of fake grass. The kids LOVED it. Thankfully someone shared their cardboard with us. Heading to the zoo on our first full day was a great idea because it really got us into the exploring mode. After the zoo we went to lunch at Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. I had the cioppino and it was delicious. I recommend trying this place if you visit Santa Barbara. It is right on the end of the wharf and has new seafood specials based on what they have fresh for the day.
An Afternoon With Kids in Santa Barbara
Visiting Lompoc, CA from Santa Barbara
On Wednesday, we headed to Lompoc, CA to visit with our family. We met up with my aunt and took a walk at La Purisima Mission. We had so much fun checking out all of the rooms and learning about our history. Then we went to lunch at Sissy's Uptown Cafe. It's a tasty spot serving up homestyle American food. Their soups and sandwiches were almost as good as the coconut pie.
La Purisima Mission in Lompoc, CA
I ended up bringing my new DSLR camera along with us on our vacation but only ended up using it while we were at the mission. So, I have a lot of photos from the mission. The little missy was so excited to see this place.
She just loved peaking inside each room and learning about the different parts of the mission. My favorite room was of course the kitchen. She loved the church and the candle making room.
Stopping in Solvang, CA
We headed to Solvang after our visit in Lompoc. Solvang is the cutest little Danish village filled with bakeries, wine tasting rooms and lots of windmills. We parked the car near Olsen's Bakery & Coffeeshop then we headed inside for a few afternoon desserts. We tried the mocha cookie, a caramel chocolate, the strawberry meringue and my favorite, the berry shortbread. After our treats, we walked around the town and window shopped. We weren't there very long but I wanted to show the kiddos this cute little town and visit for a bit.
Exploring the Santa Barbara Public Market
That night we wanted to enjoy dinner outside of our room so we headed to the public market. This was a great choice for bringing the kids. It is walking distance from La Quinta and had a variety of fun eateries. We started at the Fish Market & Cafe. Mark got a Sculpin and I had a glass of red wine. We each did an oyster shooter then ordered some of their fresh market ahi poke. It was just what we wanted. Then we picked up another drink (I had a wine sampler of 3 wines) from Wine + Beer. I highly recommend checking this place out. There were so many choices. One of my tastings even included a sparkling red wine. Fab! Then we ordered some soup from the Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar. There is a room at the public market with lots of large tables were you can eat after picking up whatever you like from the eateries. On our way out, we grabbed goodies from Enjoy Cupcakes and Rori's Artisanal Creamery. You must try the ice cream from Rori's! It was perfect.
The Best Breakfast in Santa Barbara
We skipped the hotel breakfast on our second day and tried Jeannine's Restaurant & Bakery. What an amazing choice! We ended up going there again Friday morning because it was that good! We shared the chilaquiles and the banana Kahlua french toast. On Friday, I had the eggs Norwegian and Mark had the biscuits and gravy. Their scones are also amazing.
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center
We checked out the Sea Center after breakfast and had a fun time checking everything out. It is sort of like a small aquarium. They had a room with all different kinds of jellyfish, an interactive tide pool and a wet deck for oceanography. It was really fun to see with the kids.
Santa Barbara Beach
We picked up lunch and headed to the beach for a little relaxation. This was the first time the little guy could play at the beach. We have taken him as a little baby but this was more fun. He kept wiping the sand off of his hands on his clothes. So cute!
Island Brewing in Carpinteria
Later that day we drove down the coast about 15 minutes to Carpinteria. Mark had found a beer at the market he liked and realized it was made right there. We enjoyed a fun afternoon at Island Brewing Co, especially after we found their kids play area. They have a huge chalkboard wall and tons of toys for the kidlets to play with. When we were done there we walked across the train tracks to a super cute playground called Tomol Interpretive Play Area that had sea animals, canoes and slides.
Vacationing With Young Kids in Santa Barbara
Our vacation was a total of 5 days. On the last day we went to Knotts Berry Farm on the way home. We spent 4 nights in Santa Barbara and it was a good amount of time. We were able to see a lot of Santa Barbara and take some time to explore areas nearby. It is such a great place to visit with so much to do. I absolutely loved it there and would go back anytime with or without the kiddos.
The best part of a vacation is being able to unwind. We were able to just go and do things we wanted to. We didn't have to do laundry, dishes (aside from bottles) or work. Mark and I both needed this time to spend away from home and also to reconnect with our kids in a way that is harder to do at home. Now that we are back it is good to be home but it also makes me want to explore our city even more!
Have you been to Santa Barbara? What do you love about it?