A Revitalized Santa Barbara Gets Down, Gets Funky
Santa Barbara life is geared outdoors—and with good reason, as witnessed at the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club.(Garrick Ramirez)

A Revitalized Santa Barbara Gets Down, Gets Funky


If you treat the winter blahs with weekend jaunts to Palm Springs and Ojai, add Santa Barbara to your list.

Situated between the cactus-strewn foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the glimmering Pacific, the easy-on-the-eyes destination has long served as a nearby, Mediterranean-inspired escape thanks to its tiled courtyards, year-round al fresco dining, and gloriously balmy climate. Now, an upwelling of stylish new restaurants, shops, and hotels are perking up the forgotten getaway and lending it a welcome, modern refresh.


Waterline is one of many gathering spots housed in the converted warehouses of Santa Barbara's Funk Zone.

(Courtesy of Blake Bronstad)

Much of Santa Barbara's recent revitalization is centered around the Funk Zone, a former industrial and seafood-processing district whose transformed warehouses now house buzzy new bars, shops, and eateries. At Waterline, a young crowd packs the airy space each night for IPAs at Topa Topa Brewery, flights of local wine at Fox Wine Co., and a marketplace of locally made home goods and clothing at The Guilded Table. // 120 Santa Barbara St., waterlinesb.com

The Blue Door

Browse an eclectic mix of vintage furnishings and decor at The Blue Door.

(Courtesy of The Blue Door)

With three floors of living spaces decked in stylish vintage goods, the Blue Door is like the hip, bohemian Ikea of your dreams. With a keen eye for interiors, the owners outfitted the former fish plant—which retains its large metal weigh scale and boiler room—with a curated mix of midcentury furnishings, industrial pieces, and irresistible vintage cocktail wares. // 4 E Yanonali St., thebluedoorsb.com

Make Smith Leather Co.

Make Smith Leather Co.'s Presidio neighborhood storefront is filled with leather goods made in-house.

(Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez)

After working alongside his pop and late grandfather in their successful saddle-making and leather-restoration shop, Steven Soria opened his own retail space, and filled it with the buttery leather bags, wallets, and home goods he makes in his adjacent studio. Belly up to the Belt Bar where you can customize a leather strap and enjoy tequila in the process. // 135 E De La Guerra St., makesmith.com


The dazzling Aloe Garden at Ganna Walska Lotusland.

(Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez)

Little can prepare you for the wondrous gardens of the late Madam Ganna Walska, a wealthy doyenne who pursued an opera career and six husbands. Fashioned over four decades, her 37-acre estate features a seemingly endless succession of mesmerizing, exotic gardens including a virtual forest of cacti, trellised walkways strung with fragrant citrus, and an abalone shell-lined pool that could double as the set for an Ethel Merman musical. While it pains us that Ganna didn't live to have her own Instagram account, you can fill your feed on a guided tour that's offered from February through November. // Cold Spring Rd. (Montecito), lotusland.org

​Helena Avenue Bakery

Nab homemade pastries and breakfast sandwiches at Helena Avenue Bakery.

(Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez)

Mornings in the Funk Zone begin at this industrial bakery that features roll-up garage doors, long communal tables, and a countertop full of homemade pastries including surprisingly good bagels. Try one in a breakfast sandwich such as the Green Eggs & Ham made with green harissa, Fra'mani ham, egg, and jack cheese. The bakery shares space with the Santa Barbara Wine Collective, so you can return later to sample local independent labels such as the Paring and Brewer-Clifton. // 131 Anacapa St, helenaavenuebakery.com

The Mill

Potek is one of the stylish local producers housed inside The Mill.

(Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez)

Although just a few blocks outside the Funk Zone, this hip new marketplace is causing developers to scramble for a clever name for the newly gentrifying hood. Centered around a light-strung courtyard, the refurbished 1904 feed mill features southern-style BBQ at Wildwood Kitchen, Belgian-inspired beers at Third Window Brewing, and single-vineyard wines and enviable branding at Potek. The exceptional winery is one of over 220 within the county and is part of Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail, a walkable collection of roughly two dozen tasting rooms clustered primarily within downtown and the Funk Zone. // 410 E. Haley St., themillsb.com

The Lark

Enjoy craft cocktails and seasonal fare on the atmospheric patio at The Lark.

(Photo Credit Rob Stark)

An early arrival to the Funk Zone, the Lark did for the then-burgeoning neighborhood what Nopa did for the SF neighborhood surrounding Alamo Square. Owner Sherry Villanueva has gone on to open other hotspots—her latest is the Spanish-influenced Loquita—but her seasonal ingredient-driven, first eatery remains the neighborhood's heart and soul. The Lark owes its lasting appeal to a lively, fire-pit warmed patio, bowls of garum-splashed Brussels sprouts, and exceptional cocktails such as the bright, rose-colored California negroni made with St. George terroir gin, Aperol maraschino, and Cocchi Americano. // 131 Anacapa St., thelarksb.com

Scratch Restaurants

Monarch bucks the avo toast trend with an open-faced braised pork sandwich on a thick slab of house-made brioche.

(Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez)

Known for decades as the hotel that Charlie Chaplin founded, the historic Montecito Inn is shedding its old-school image with four contemporary restaurant concepts by Scratch Restaurants, the LA-based restaurant group helmed by husband-wife chef duo Phillip Frankland Lee, a Top Chef season 13 participant, and Margarita Kalas-Lee. Up first is Frankland's Crab & Co., a mini New England-style eatery with plump lobster rolls and tin trays piled high with peel-and-eat, local ridgeback shrimp. Soon to follow are pastry-influenced frozen treats at Margarita's Homemade Ice Cream, high-end tasting menus and theatrics at Silver Bough, and seasonal fare at all-day Monarch restaurant and bar. // scratchrestaurants.com

Sama Sama

Indonesian-meets-Californian cuisine at Sama Sama

(Courtesy of Sama Sama)

Opened by Chris Sewell and Kenny Osehan of Shelter Social Club (Ojai Rancho Inn, The Alamo Motel), Sama Sama presents Indonesian fare with locally-sourced ingredients; lending itself to small, tasty dishes. With a menu put together by Chef Ryan Simorangkir, who spent three years cooking Bali, expect a blend of traditional eats tailored towards California palates. Be sure to try the Mie Goreng (egg noodles), smoke octopus ceviche, and signature wings with a sweet and spicy tamarind glaze. // 1208 State St., samasamakitchen.com

Hotel Californian

Moroccan elements inform bold, contemporary design at Hotel Californian.

(Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez)

This luxe Moorish-inspired property reinvents a landmark 1928 hotel situated one block from palm tree-lined East Beach. Designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard fashioned the open-air grounds with glowing lanterns, potted citrus trees, and two million pieces of hand-cut Moroccan tiles. In addition to six guest room designs, the property features an eye-candy Moroccan-themed spa, a stylish Maris Collective boutique, and dazzling views of the waterfront and Santa Ynez Mountains from a rooftop pool and sun deck. Don't miss a meal at Blackbird where former French Laundry chef de partie, Alexander La Motte, incorporates Moroccan spices in vibrant, composed plates such as rabbit confit bastillas and a sea bream escabeche that features the region's famous uni. // 36 State St., thehotelcalifornian.com

The Goodland

The Goodland exudes slow living and surf life culture

(Courtesy of The Goodland Hotel)

Walking into the retro-chic Goodland feels like you've stumbled into a modern Joshua Tree casa. In Outer Sunset-meets-Mission style, the hotel is brimming with Instagram feature potential including surfboards on the ceiling, colorful tiles, macrame wall hangings, and woven textiles galore. The once, not so stylish Holiday Inn is now a design haven with beach cottage vibes. Peruse the vinyl library in the lobby to listen to your favorite tracks on the record player in your room; take a dip in the orbicular pool, or practice your down dog in one of the weekly yoga classes. // 5650 Calle Real, thegoodland.com

Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara

Lush, palm tree filled grounds hide bungalows at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

(Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez)

Celebrating its 90th year, this enchanting Spanish-style property enjoys a loyal following of regulars—including more than a few privacy-seeking celebs—who hideaway in one of the 207 rooms and bungalows spread throughout lush, tropical grounds. Originally built in 1927 by Reginald Johnson, the architect who gave Santa Barbara its magnificent Spanish courthouse, the property sits across from Butterfly Beach, a local's fave with a long stretch of sand and razor sharp views of the Channel Islands' rugged silhouette. A leisurely brunch on the sunny waterfront patio of Bella Vista is a must, as is a private Moroccan-themed dinner with pals on the cozy lantern-strung terrace at Ty's, named for owner and Beanie Babies magnate Ty Warner. // 1260 Channel Dr., fourseasons.com

Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club

The Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club is a glamorous touch of Old Hollywood in Santa Barbara.

(Courtesy of Garrick Ramirez)

Drool all you want at the retro-fabulousness of the adjacent Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club—built in 1937 by SF architect Gardner Dailey and lovingly restored by architect Peter Marino—but you're only getting in by dropping a cool, quarter-million for membership or staying at the Four Seasons. Guests who spring for a third-tier guest room or a $200 day pass can luxuriate on teak loungers under coral-colored umbrellas, perfect the backstroke in the nearly Olympic-sized pool—purposely designed one foot too long to disqualify it from bothersome Olympic fanfare—and sip mojitos on the ocean liner-like deck of Tydes restaurant and lounge. // 1281 Channel Dr., coralcasinoclub.com

Belmond El Encanto

source (origin)

Perched in the Santa Barbara hills, modern-luxe Belmond is the perfect hideaway for some serious R&R. The open deck provides expansive panoramic views of Santa Barbara and the ocean; as well as a glorious place to sip on a glass of wine or enjoy a meal created with locally-sourced, seasonal produce. The rooms (suite or private bungalow) include little indulgences like heated stone floors, private garden seating, and open-hearth fireplaces; while the spa is replete with good-for-you options from a massage to hair treatment. // 800 Alvarado Pl., belmond.com

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