Gated entrance to an estate in Santa Barbara.

Sunshine spills on an estate in Santa Barbara. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

The Ultimate Luxury Getaway Is a Breezy Weekend in Santa Barbara, California

If it’s the good life you’re after, Santa Barbara, California, is the spot. There’s a reason why the rich and über-famous (think Oprah, Gwyenth and Ellen) have made this coastal enclave their second-house escape or forever home.

Admire the palatial mansions hidden behind ivy-covered gates as you enjoy easy access to beautiful beaches, world-class golf and exceptional California wine. Luxury lines every experience, from celebrity home tours and next-level spa treatments to inventive cocktail bars and simple strolls down the beach.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Enjoy Art and Wine

Courtyard garden at the Santa Barbara Courthouse
A view of the courtyard garden at the Santa Barbara Courthouse. (Photo: Getty Images)

When you think picturesque, a public courthouse might not be the first image to spring to mind. The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is one of the area’s architectural wonders — and a great place to get a lay of the land. Start your day with a self-led tour. A short elevator ride will take you to the top of the four-sided clock tower, with an unbeatable view. Take a deep breath of fresh coastal air and remember all of this is yours — at least for the weekend.

Before you leave downtown, swing in for a visit to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (only a few blocks away), where you can spend an hour or two exploring a fascinating array of paintings, sculptures, artifacts and photographs from all over the world. Don’t miss the 17th-century Japanese hand scrolls, painted with rare minerals and real gold.

Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, the city’s trendiest neighborhood, the Funk Zone, is calling your name. Grab a bite at Helena Avenue Bakery — the burrata BLT is not to be missed — and browse independent shops before embarking on your journey along the Urban Wine Trail. Cradled by the Los Alamos, Santa Maria and Santa Ynez valleys, Santa Barbara offers some serious options.

Sip on effervescent bubbles at Riverbench, enjoy a lesson in fantastic pinots and syrahs at the Valley Project while marveling at the massive chalk mural of the local AVAs and pull the hidden rope doorbell to access VIP treatment at appointment-only Sanguis.

Round out the day with a wonderful meal at the Lark, applauded by Michelin for its seasonal small plates. (The dining chairs are fashioned from antique church pews!)

Saturday: Hit the Links and Set Sail

You don’t have to be a champion golfer to relish a day on the links at the city known as the American Riviera. Feel thoroughly European with a breakfast of buttery croissants and homemade jam at Renaud’s Patisserie on State Street before tee time at Sandpiper Golf Club, just north of Santa Barbara in the pretty city of Goleta.

Rated by Golf Digest as one of the country’s top 25 public courses, Sandpiper offers a dramatic view from every hole with verdant mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean a mere a line drive (or two) away.

While in Goleta, visit one of the county’s natural wonders: The Monarch Butterfly Grove welcomes 10,000 orange-and-black winged visitors each year. High season is October through February, when butterflies pass through the area in droves, resting their wings on the trunks and branches of eucalyptus trees.

Back in Santa Barbara proper, grab a table at Lucky Penny. This laid-back pizzeria serves artisanal pies from its wood-fired oven alongside salads featuring local ingredients. Ask to sit on the patio so you can watch 150,000 pennies shimmer against exposed brick walls.

Pier at Stearns Wharf on a sunny day.
A sunny day at Stearns Wharf. (Photo: Getty Images)

One of Santa Barbara’s most popular spots is Stearns Wharf, California’s oldest working pier. Skip the kitschy shops and instead enjoy the sea all to yourself with a sunset sailing trip. Go big aboard the Azure Seas, a 70-foot multilevel yacht run by Celebration Cruises, or relax in a more low-key vessel from one of the area’s many operators. Back on land, cap the night off right with a farm-to-bar cocktail at the luxurious (and green-certified) Good Lion.

Sunday: Taste the A-List Life in Montecito

Why not start the day in the largest underground salt cave in North America? You are on vacation, after all. Visit Salt to soak in the MicroSalt-filled air during a 45-minute halotherapy session. If that doesn’t put you in the mood to spend a day in the footsteps of Hollywood celebrities, we’re not sure what will.

Next up, hop in the car and head for the celebrity hot spot of Montecito, where the average home price is a cool $4.3 million. Your first stop should be Lotusland. Purchased by opera singer and socialite Madame Ganna Walska in 1941, Lotusland covers 37 acres with fanciful gardens. Stop to smell the hundreds of roses and snap an obligatory selfie with one of the verdant beasts in the topiary garden.

Salad and wine set for dinner.
There’s fine dining around every corner in Santa Barbara. (Photo: Getty Images)

Nourish your inner A-lister with a brightly colored vegan meal at the posh, plant-based Oliver’s before taking a sandy stroll along Butterfly Beach, where pods of dolphins often play. For a thoroughly sophisticated shopping experience, visit Coast Village Road.

Find high-end sundries, home goods, jewelry, fashion and more in the upscale boutiques that line the neighborhood’s streets. For dinner, make like Meghan and Harry at one of their favorite spots, Lucky’s Steakhouse.