Hotel Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California, USA
I used to live in Santa Barbara. We won’t get into why I was stupid enough to leave, but the point is, I used to walk or ride my beach cruiser past the green awning and tiled entryway of the Hotel Santa Barbara every day. Every single day. I always admired the hotel for its airy, elegant lobby, Mediterranean-design touches, and its incomparable downtown location, right in the thick of things on State Street. But it was hard to justify a stay when I lived a ten-minute walk away.
Fast-forward seven years, and I found myself back in Santa Barbara for a visit, along with my boyfriend. And this time, I had the added bonus of being able to stay at the Hotel. It was worth the wait. After an extensive remodel in 1996, the 30-plus year old hotel is now one of the city’s most charming, affordable accommodation options. With 75 rooms to choose from, the multi-story hotel still retains its original architectural design (the structure, which has survived several hotel reincarnations, has been there since 1925, when it was rebuilt after an earthquake).
Our room was sunny and comfortable, and overlooked the shops, museums, galleries, coffee houses, bars, and restaurants of State Street. The open lobby was spacious and bright, and had the added benefit of a free Continental breakfast each morning that was far beyond the standard plastic-wrapped Danishes and watery coffee. Instead, we were able to avail ourselves of fresh fruit, doughnuts, and a selection of baked goods and hot beverages. Valet parking is only five dollars a day – the best deal in town, and the valets, like every other staff member we encountered, were unfailingly gracious, generous, and good-humored. In fact, that’s the thing that impressed us most during our stay. It’s one thing to have a sweet, stylish little boutique hotel in a perfect location several blocks from the beach, but to have an entire staff- from housekeepers to concierge – be genuinely friendly and helpful – well, that’s worth repeat visits.
As if it weren’t torment enough to know I had to leave the cloudless skies and beach temperatures of Santa Barbara to go back to the terminal rain of January in the Bay Area, here are a few other reasons why you should consider a stay at the Hotel: its a few minutes walk to the beach, boardwalk, and historic Stearn’s Wharf, with it’s shops and restaurants. Joe’s, a great SB watering hole, is across the street. The fabulous Tuesday farmers market, in which part of State Street is blocked to motor traffic, runs right past the hotel. If shopping is your thing, the Paseo Nuevo mall and a staggering array of boutiques are out the door and a block up the street. If you’re looking for a longer stroll, the historic Santa Barbara Mission is about 20 minutes away, as are hiking trails and riding stables. And be sure to have dinner at Bouchon, an adorable little restaurant a ten minute walk up State Street from the Hotel, which specializes in Santa Barbara wine country cuisine and local, sustainably-grown ingredients. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to checking out the city’s real estate listings. I can dream, can’t I?