📅 2022-Apr-22 ⬩ ✍️ Ashwin Nanjappa ⬩ 🏷️ travel, usa ⬩ 📚 Archive
We spent a few days visiting some places in the Santa Barbara County in Southern California during our kid’s school spring break vacation.
The drive from Fremont in the SF Bay Area to Carpinteria is mostly along the 101 freeway. It passes through Gilroy, Salinas, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach.
Unlike the gridlocked 101 freeway in the Bay Area, the drive is mostly on a 2-lane highway that was fast, smooth and with none of the crazy drivers of the Bay Area. (This is something I have noted even in my Paso Robles trip too.)
On the drive to Santa Barbara, we took a break at Salinas and later stopped at Pismo Beach for lunch. Finding parking near the restaurants of Pismo Beach was quite difficult. We had lunch at the Cool Cat Cafe which was good.
On the drive back we decided to spend some time at Solvang (see below).
On the first day, we had an early sunset dinner at the nearby Padaro Beach Grill. They have outdoor picnic tables among the grass for seating that overlooks the beach and has the fresh breeze from the ocean. It turned out to be a great pick since there were so many families with kids there. Watch out for the birds here, I spotted at least 5 different types of them eyeing food crumbs that drop to the grass.
After dinner, we walked to the Santa Claus Beach which is next door by crossing the train tracks. While the beach was great, it got terribly windy and chilly, so we had to beat a hasty retreat.
The second day we drove to Stearn’s Wharf in Santa Barbara city. The walk along this wharf is recommended, with great views of the surrounding mountains, the coastline, and boats. There are all sorts of quaint touristy stores and restaurants on the wharf.
For lunch we headed to the nearby Shoreline Beach Cafe. Again, it was good to have food overlooking the beach and the fresh ocean air.
After lunch, we tried to spend some time at the Shoreline Beach but it again got terribly windy. In fact, it was so bad that sand was getting blown into our eyes and we left that place.
To pacify our kid, we drove him to the Moxi Museum. This is a children’s interactive museum full of explorative activities covering all areas of science. There are 2 floors of exhibits and our kid loved many of them: lab with the glue gun, motion sensing walk and the race cars. This is highly recommended if you are in Santa Barbara with kids.
In the evening, we drove to the Arroyo Burro Beach where our kid finally got his sand-castle building time. This seems to be a local beach, lots of locals with their dogs. It was great to see the sun go down here.
For the third day, we first drove to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, which was up in the hills among mansions of rich folks. Totally nestled among trees, its exhibits are in old Spanish-style buildings with major terracotta and British colonial vibes. Looking at these settings and its cozy tropical ambiance, I fell in love instantly. There are gorgeous dioramas of the Chumash Indians and stuffed exhibits of birds, insects, animals and sealife of the Santa Barbara region and of the US. There is also an outdoor exhibit of animatronic dinosaurs. Again, this was a total hit with our kid and highly recommended.
We had a late lunch at the quaint Summerland Beach Cafe, just before their closing time of 2PM. This old place has wooden tables outside in its many small balconies. Though it now overlooks a busy freeway, it must have overlooked the beach in its heyday.
After lunch we headed to the Carpinteria State Beach for a super-long beach time. The sun was perfect with a slight breeze and we relaxed there until sunset.
The final day, we checked out and drove to Solvang where you can experience visiting Denmark right here in California. The drive was up through the mountains, with great vistas and valleys along the way. Called the Danish capital of America, this small city is fully Danish - all buildings and establishments look like being in Denmark. We had breakfast at the beautiful Dansk Bageri Conditori og Kafe and checked out the rest of the streets by walk. The small city grid is full of Danish and European oddities, gift shops and a couple of small museums.
Santa Barbara county is full of such nice places to see, great beaches to unwind at and the weather is warmer than in the Bay Area. Totally worth the 4.5 hours drive to be here.