Brit’s Summer Travel Series: Santa Barbara

Brit’s Summer Travel Series: Santa Barbara

This week we are heading to the west coast for Brit’s Summer Travel Series! Known as the American Riviera for its nearly perfect climate and resemblance to the famed French Riviera, Santa Barbara is the ultimate summer vacation destination.

The Marina at Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara has a special place in my heart not only because I got married there, but also because I’ve been going for so many years, it feels like a second home to me. My father-in-law used to live in Santa Barbara so I was lucky enough to have a locals guide to this iconic coastal California town. But Santa Barbara is not your typical California beach town filled with surfer dudes and laid-back attitudes, it is incredibly chic and oozing with European charm. Situated between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, this quiet town is just 80 miles north of Los Angeles, and is packed with museums, vineyards, restaurants and some of the top-rated hotels in the world.

In addition to learning about the area from my father-in-law, I also spent two years planning my wedding in Santa Barbara. During that time, I researched and toured venues, resorts, restaurants and attractions extensively to determine where our dream wedding would take place. Because of this, I have compiled a tried-and-true list of where to stay, play, eat and drink along the American Riviera.

The hotels in Santa Barbara are some of the best in the world. I’m slightly biased, but my personal favorite is the Four Seasons. It is set on the most beautiful property over looking the Pacific Ocean and the gardens are truly stunning. As a guest of the hotel, you have access to the Coral Casino, which is a private social club across the street that has the most adorable pool and beach club. The level of service at the Four Seasons is unlike anything I have ever experienced at a hotel. Whether you’re hanging out at the Jungle Pool or the Coral Casino, lush chair coverings and towels are laid out for each guest and attendants bring around fun snacks like frozen grapes and peppermint patties throughout the day. The Spa and accommodations at the hotel are amazing and worth every penny of the hefty price tag.

If you’re interested in other high-end hotels in the area, the San Ysidro Ranch is an incredible choice (JFK and Jackie Kennedy Onassis honeymooned there) and offers a unique luxurious garden experience for their guests. I also love the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Santa Barbara although it is located quite a ways from the town of Santa Barbara. My dad and I stayed at the Bacara the week before my wedding and we had the best time. The resort is stunning and there is SO much to do–hiking, biking, golf, restaurants, several pools and an amazing spa.

While in Santa Barbara, there is no shortage of activities to do for people of all ages. My favorite place to go when I’m in town is Ganna Walska’s Lotusland. The story behind this stunning property is so fascinating and the grounds have been maintained to perfection since Ms. Walska’s death in 1984. Reservations are required for a visit so make sure to do that well in advance. With Lotusland’s proximity to San Ysidro Ranch, I would suggest a 10 a.m. reservation at Lotusland and brunch at the ranch after.

During the summer months and when COVID isn’t an issue, taking in a polo match is always a great experience or a hike to Cold Springs Tavern will make for a great day. If you prefer to stay in Santa Barbara proper, there are a number of wonderful wine tasting rooms, shopping and restaurants to enjoy. Two of my favorite tasting rooms in the downtown area are Au Bon Climat and Happy Canyon and The Funk Zone is a must-do for wine-lovers.

When you’re in Santa Barbara, Brophy Bros. is a must. I know, I know. It’s on the marina and looks like a tourist trap, but I promise you it is not. Locals love it and they have delicious oysters and clam chowder with one of the best views in the city. There are several fabulous Italian restaurants in the area as well. Our favorites are Ca’Dario and Olio e Limone and Lucky Penny for pizza.

If you’re looking for a casual vibe, Hillstone’s Honor Bar in Montecito is always a favorite as well as the Paradise Cafe and the Public Market in Santa Barbara…the Hangover Noodles at the Empty Bowl cannot be missed. If you’re looking for something fancier, the Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch and Lucky’s Steakhouse in Montecito are fabulous options.

For breakfast and brunch, Jeannine’s in Montecito is divine and McConnell’s Ice Cream is always a great way to end the night.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip to Santa Barbara with me and I hope we can all visit this beautiful city in person again soon. No matter where you go in Santa Barbara, you will not be disappointed. Come back next Tuesday to see where we will be traveling to next for Brit’s Summer Travel Series!



Second Wedding Anniversary

Second Wedding Anniversary

Hello, friends! I know I haven’t posted in a while, but the past couple of weeks have weighed heavy on my heart and I decided to take the last week to listen and learn as much as I can about the Black Lives Matter movement instead of speaking and sharing about the trivial things in my life.

In a bit of happy news, today is my second wedding anniversary. I’d like to share with you a bit about my wedding as it was one of the happiest days of my life.

My husband and I actually met seven years ago today and that is how we chose our wedding date. I’m so glad we met in June because since I was a little girl, I have always dreamed of being a “June Bride.” When I was four-years-old, my dad got a job transfer from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Salt Lake City, Utah, and for a few months, he lived alone in Salt Lake until me, my mom and sister joined him. During this time, he often stayed at this little Bed and Breakfast called the Armstrong Mansion. It was a 12-bedroom mansion in the foothills of Salt Lake and each room was dedicated to a different month, my favorite room was called the June Bride suite and all of the furniture was white and dreamy. Ever since we stayed there, I always wanted to be a June Bride.

Our save the date! I had this water color made to send out to our guests–it highlights the main attractions for the weekend.

We got married in Santa Barbara, California at the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara. We decided on Santa Barbara because I moved around so much growing up and have family all over and my husband is from New Orleans and has a lot of family in California so there wasn’t really one place that would work well for our family and friends. Because of that, we chose a place that we loved and that our family and friends would love visiting. We also knew we wanted an outdoor wedding and since Santa Barbara has a nearly perfect climate and very low chances of rain, we thought it would be the perfect spot. The hotel is also one of the most beautiful properties I’ve ever been to in my life.

But nothing is ever that easy or perfect. About six months before our wedding, major wildfires caused severe damage throughout Santa Barbara and after the fires, a devastating mudslide wreaked havoc on the area and killed 15 people. Because of the damage caused by the mudslide, our venue closed. We were told they would reopen after Easter, but April came and went and the hotel did not open. As our June wedding date creeped closer and closer, I was a nervous wreck. I had spent a year-and-a-half planning my dream wedding and it started to hit me that it might not happen. But five days before our wedding date, the hotel reopened and looked incredible.

Since we knew most of our guests were traveling a long way to attend our wedding, we wanted to make the weekend as special as possible. To kick off the celebration, my parents hosted the most incredible rehearsal dinner that also doubled as a welcome party for all wedding guests. Traditionally, rehearsal dinners are just for the wedding party and family, but since this was kind of a destination wedding, we invited all of our guests.

The party was held on the rooftop of the Canary Hotel in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. We chose this location for a few reasons… first of all, the view. This hotel has 360 degree views of Santa Barbara, the ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains and we were there for sunset so it was absolutely incredible. Our goal was to give our guests a taste of the best parts of Santa Barbara so we had events at our favorite spots around town throughout the weekend.

I chose a fiesta theme for this party because I love margaritas and Mexican food. It was also the perfect set-up for guests to meet each other in an elegant-casual setting and just enjoy themselves.

The day of the wedding was amazing. We got our hair and makeup done at the Jose Eber Salon on the Four Seasons Property and it is one of the most beautiful salons I’ve ever been to.

I chose to get ready in this Patricia’s Couture Caftan with photos of my beloved dog Emma on it! Emma was 15 at the time and the flight to California would have been too much for her so this caftan was my way of having her at the wedding with us and it was honestly one of my favorite things from the whole weekend! For my bridesmaids, I chose blue cotton robes from J.crew for them to get ready in. On my wedding day, I also wore my Grandma Bea’s topaz earrings and I cut a swatch of fabric from her bridesmaid’s dress and put in in my dress as my something blue. My grandma Bea passed away in 2016 and I wanted to honor her at my wedding. She and my two grandfathers who passed away in 2014 and 2015 were all Irish so as a nod to them, I had Belles of Ireland in the floral arrangements on the aisle and at our reception.

The wedding itself was truly a dream. Set in the resort’s Jungle Garden, we overlooked the Pacific Ocean as we took our vows. I stuck to very simple, white and green flowers for the ceremony to accentuate the stunning venue and views. We also had a string quartet playing music for the ceremony and our family friend, Marty, officiated the wedding.

Will and I are both foodies so a main focus of the reception was on the food. I’m kind of sad because our photographers didn’t capture any of the food, but it was amazing. We had a four-course meal starting with salad, then lobster bisque, a sorbet-course to cleanse the pallet and then entrees of filet mignon, halibut or a vegan bolognese. My parents, sister, grandma, Will and I hand-picked the menu because it was so important to us. We finished off the evening with a wedding cake for dessert. The cake was three layers, the bottom layer was a white almond chiffon cake and the top two were carrot cake, our favorite!

To cap off the weekend of celebrations, my mother-in-law hosted a party for us at the Santa Barbara Wine Collective in the Funk Zone–a must visit if you are in Santa Barbara. We tried wines from vineyards in the area, had pizza from Lucky Penny and had fun with our guests!

My wedding was an absolute dream and I’m happy to say, married life has been just as amazing! Our second year of marriage was packed with quite a bit–we both turned 30, we moved to Austin, TX and survived a pandemic…Lets see what year three has in store for us!

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me.