This month Outside Magazine’s Best Towns 2015 competition kicks off, pitting 64 towns against each other in a bid for the Best Town in America title. We’re big fans of all the nominated towns, but there’s a special spot in our hearts for one town in particular: Santa Barbara, CA – our home sweet home!
Nestled amongst the hills where the Santa Ynez mountains kiss the Pacific, Santa Barbara is anything but a sleepy beach town: Artist colonies, renowned universities, international non-profits, muchas taquerias autenticos, loads of small businesses and a blossoming tech industry mean there’s something for everyone. And with more than 300 days of sunshine per year, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities – smell the roses at the Queen of the Missions, hike around the Lost Padres National Forest, kayak the sea caves of Channel Islands National Park, bike State Street or cruise along East Beach, hit the local wineries, splash around at Butterfly Beach or get barreled at Rincon Point. If you’ve still got energy after a day of activities, catch a show under the stars at the Santa Barbara Bowl, because where else can you dance the night away with a view of the ocean? So come check out our town and who knows, maybe you’ll think it’s the Best Town Ever too.
WHAT TO DO IN SANTA BARBARA
Channel Islands National Park: Close to the mainland but worlds away are five islands – Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara – that make up the Channel Island National Park. This relatively untouched archipelago is absolutely stunning and one of the richest marine biospheres in the world with many species that live nowhere else on earth. And getting there is half the fun. Head over to Channel Island Outfitters in the Santa Barbara Harbor and they’ll hook you up with everything you need for a day on the water – scuba or snorkel the great kelp forests, kayak through the sea caves (the Painted Cave is pretty spectacular) or leisurely take in the wildlife from your SUP. Hike around the islands for an afternoon or pack a tent and stay a while. Boats leave every morning from the harbor, so be sure to check in with CIO and set your alarm.
Tacos El Rey: One of the best parts of Santa Barbara is the mix of Native American/Spanish/Mexican heritage, and no where is this more evident than in the culinary traditions. You can’t throw a stone without hitting a killer Mexican cafe in this town, but we’re digging Tacos El Rey, a tiny hole-in-the-wall, cash only taqueria just off State Street. Served on handmade tortillas that are made daily, this might be one time when your eyes won’t be bigger than your appetites: The tacos al pastor come topped with grilled pineapple, catch of the day fish tacos mean you’ll always try something new, the portobello mushroom taco is seasoned to perfection and top it all off with the best salsa in town (spicy peanut salsa, anyone?). Grab a watermelon agua fresca to-go and a walk it off – it’s only 5 blocks to the beach!
Handlebar Coffee Roasters: Located just across the street from the historic Spanish Presidio, Handlebar Coffee Roasters is good coffee and good people. Started by a couple of local pro-cyclists who combined their love of biking and coffee, grab a great cup of joe for the road or linger at a sidewalk table and get wrapped up in good conversation. But be warned, their coffee packs a mean punch. It’s made from sustainable beans from three different continents and roasted and brewed to perfection on site. Go for a straight up shot of the best espresso you’ll ever try or a fancy macchiato. Bring your dog (they’ve got dog treats and water bowls), and there’s lots of bike parking for those who roll up on two wheels. Delicious coffee and nice folks, plain and simple.
Telegraph Brewing Company: A favorite of the Toads, you’re in good company when you’re at Telegraph Brewing. With the tapping of their first keg in 2006, Telegraph has steadily grown to be one of California’s best craft breweries and one that’s committed to using sustainable ingredients and brewing methods. They also happen to make excellent beer. Telegraph typically has 10 different beers on tap and they’re constantly rotating: Currently, the Cervza de Fiesta Pilsner lives up to its name as a party for your taste buds, while their award-winning flagship California Ale will have you savor every last drop. Family style tables, big open garage doors, pub games, food trucks and environmentally friendly oats – we’ll cheers to that.
Los Padres National Forest: Extending from Ventura to Monterey across roughly 2 million acres of varied wilderness, the Los Padres National Forest is nothing shy of stunning. From the beautiful Big Sur Coastline of the north to the Matilija Hot Springs of the south theres no limit to the breathtaking views, wonderful hiking trails, epic bird watching and overall good vibes. Our friends at the Los Padres ForestWatch can tell you all about it (they’re the non-profit tasked with keeping the forest thriving), but if you need a place to start then check out the Santa Ynez Mountain Range in Santa Barbara’s backyard. Pick up hiking trails to popular spots like Inspiration Point, Rattlesnake Trail and La Cumbre Peak (the highest peak in town!), or take scenic Highway 154 out of town about 30 minutes to scramble around the rocks at Lizard’s Mouth and take a dip in the pools at Red Rock. Sunscreen, water, sneakers, GO.
WHAT TO WEAR IN SANTA BARBARA
Rivulet Tee: Choose a more colorful path. That’s the spirit of Santa Barbarans and the art of our Rivulet Tee. Offered in three sunny colors, it’s miles beyond basic tees – with a flattering silhouette, wide scoop neck, cap sleeves, solid color front, and cool striping up the center back. It’s made from our Slubstripe fabric, a dream-weight knit of pure organic cotton with cool slubby texture so you’ll be cool as a cucumber as you cruise the beach.
Cetacean Trunk: Now you can surf, swim, sail, paddle, snorkel, spike and swig Mai-Tais with one pair of shorts. In fact, if there’s liquid and action verbs involved, our Cetacean Trunks are up to the task. They’re made of 4-Ply Supplex, our performance-proven nylon fabric that’s tightly woven for extreme durability, treated for quick-dry convenience, and wavy striped for aquatic vitality. Clean styling lets you wear them in town too, and handy zip side pocket mean you’ll never lose your keys (no matter how wet and wild you get).
Capellini Dress: The Capellini Dress dances and sways with a life all its own. No surprise, it’s made of our famous Samba fabric, a slub-textured jersey knit of silky Tencel®, oh-so-soft organic cotton, and a smudge of spandex for stretch. The cool slub texture looks like sun shimmers on water, giving the fabric a little motion even when you’re standing still. A simple A-line dress with a built-in shelf bra and stealth stash pocket let you can go from coffee shop to beach to date night and never miss a beat.
Fletch shirt: Stand out from the plaid. Street smart organic cotton with a cool crossfire of printed arrows and sharp details make you cool without being too trendy. Comfortably cut with just the right amount of room in the torso, this shirt hits the mark and looks awesome when paired with slacks or swim trunks.