How To Spend One Day In Santa Barbara

The View

Driving Up The Coast

I turned off my fourth alarm of the morning with an aggravated groan.

Why do I do this to myself?

The sun was just beginning to rise as I flung the deep blue curtains in my hotel room open. I was crashing in a hotel in Santa Monica for the month with my new Alaskan friend. We’d met in a community living space when I first arrived in Los Angeles, and she was the manager for this house packed full of 20 strong-minded creatives. It went about as well as you’d think, but that’s another story. After a holiday more dramatic than A Christmas Story, we packed our bags and ran for the hills…or the beach, I should say. 

I flipped on the light, pulled an old tee over my head and shoved my camera equipment into a backpack. Today, I was headed to the only national park in California located on an island: Channel Islands. Fitting, right? Stopping only for a coffee on my way up to the harbor, I was ready for some adventure…but apparently, it wasn’t ready for me.

“Did you get my text?” my friend quizzed me over the phone, after interrupting a mighty jam session on the aux with Big Wild. 

“Uh…no? I’m driving– What is it?” 

“Sea’s too rough. Our reservation is cancelled. We can’t get to the island today.”

Disappointed, but not upset, I cranked my wheel to the right without hesitation.

If I can’t get to Channel Island, then I’m going to Santa Barbara. Simple as that.

I arrived in downtown Santa Barbara around 9:30AM. The locals were still waking up, but I didn’t mind. I strolled over to State Street and began to take in the scenery. 

Downtown Santa Barbara

Downtown Santa Barbara

Towering palm trees swayed in the breeze, lining the cobble stone streets. I could smell the pastries at Lilac Pâtisserie coming out of the oven and the coffee beans at CAJÉ being roasted for the fellow early risers. Cherry blossom trees were now in bloom and their petals slowly drifted to the pavement one by one, twinkling in the sun as if it was snowing, despite it being 70 degrees out. I could get used to this.

A cloud of patchouli surrounded me and I looked to my right. A bohemian store drew me inside its doors. Splashes of turquoise, maroon, scarlet and gold swirled around me as I located the source of the patchouli. An incense stick jabbed out of a potted plant on the window sill and a thin line of smoke added to the ambience. I walked further in through the sea of scarves, now spotting wooden instruments ready for me to play while lounging on the silky pillow cushions underneath the carpeted ceiling.

It was absolutely incredible, like I was in another country. Snapping back to reality, I checked the time and realized my parking was about to expire and, with my track record, an empty meter is not something I can ignore.

Shoreline Park

Shoreline Park

However, I wasn’t done with Santa Barbara yet. Eight minutes down the road, I mistakenly pulled into a free lot (thank you parking gods) at Shoreline Park. I could already hear the waves smashing against the sand as I stepped out of my car. Maybe these same waves were the reason I couldn’t go to Channel Islands, but looking at them now, I simply could not complain.

The white caps rolled in, one after another, making friends with the shore and then saying goodbye just as quickly. A few stray surfers rode the waves, joined by a lone sail boat and some parasailers enjoying the view as much as I. I began the walk along the shoreline from up above in the sea cliffs to down below on the beach. An Australian Shepard sprinted by me chasing after a ball, but was too distracted making new friends on the beach towels to actually retrieve his original goal. Relatable.

Shoreline Park

I sat down on a bench overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a lizard just about slithered right over my Nikes–Could’ve used that wake up call a few hours ago. I jumped and a nearby squirrel nibbling on an unidentifiable object glared at me, as if I was disturbing the peace of the park. Besides the waves and distant birds calling out to one another, this was a completely serene area. I could tell that spring was coming as the air was sweet with freshly blooming flowers, symbolizing a new beginning.

Isn’t that what we’ve all been waiting for?

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