December 10-17, 2001

Don't Tell the Tourists

Santa Barbara’s Best Kept Secrets
Edited by Joshua Brayer and Assia Mortensen

All right, we're giving it up, throwing caution to the wind, telling our secrets—devil may care! What follows is a list of some of our favorite places to eat, getaways, make-out spots, and locales to appreciate the natural beauty of Santa Barbara.

Spilling the (Cheap and Tasty) Beans

Dining Secrets Around S.B. -- by Ted Mills With one editor twisting my arm behind my back (ow!) and the other guy holding a delicious Anderson’s Bakery cream-and-jam French waffle just out of reach (mmmm!), I have been convinced to give up the goods on my favorite dining hangouts in town. And as they say, good publicity never hurt anyone, though it may stop me from getting my favorite table. Below is a choice selection of the cafés, bakeries, holes-in-the-wall, and what-have-you where my wife and I like to drop our hard-earned cash. Some of these places haven’t won awards, and you won’t read about them in glossy magazines, but I can guarantee your gullet won’t be disappointed.
There’s only so much spreading the good word can achieve. I loved the sandwiches and pastries as the recently departed Napoleon Patisserie on State St., but despite its constantly packed status, the space stands empty. Never again will I taste their crème brûlée! Sigh . . . But anyway, onward!
Now, I lived in Japan for two and a half years, and they certainly don’t eat sushi every night. But what they do eat you will probably find at Itsuki (4020 Calle Real, 687-3838), one of the most authentic little Japanese places around. They serve everything from donburi (deep fried pork cutlet, eggs, and caramelized onions on a bed of rice) to nabemono (a hotpot of broth, vegetables, and seafood, perfect for the winter months). Oh yes, they serve sushi too, but I’ve never gotten ’round to ordering any.
Right across the freeway from Itsuki is Eller’s Donuts (4317 State St., 683-0838), and before you think that I consider a hearty meal to be a maple log and a crueller, did you know that Eller’s makes Thai food? And that it’s pretty good? It’s no strange coincidence, because the owners ran Thai Orchid, on De la Vina St. Eller’s noodle and rice dishes are fine, but I would first recommend their soups, especially the Tom Yum (not co-named Yum for nothing), a spicy blend of meat, mushrooms, onions, carrots, and the unmistakable taste of lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves. You can get enough for three people for only $7.95. The only thing is, they don’t do dinner. (The donuts are great, too—order some to go.)
Continuing in the Asian theme, one of our favorite stops on Hollister Ave. is the New China (5764 Hollister Ave., 683-3611). While 75 percent of their menu is indeed Chinese, the rest is devoted to Vietnamese food—a cuisine I suspect few of us in our city have tasted. They make a pho soup loaded with all sorts of seafood and noodles for only $4.95 but I usually order a lunch plate of sliced, barbecued pork ($4.50) as it comes with a sampling of other Vietnamese foods, all on a bed of short grain rice. Don’t forget to cover it with the fish sauce provided—you absolutely can’t mistake it for Chinese cooking.
Being a good son, I always try to have lunch once a week with my mom (awwww!). Just a short walk from her office, but certainly worth the drive for the rest of you, Shalhoob’s Deli (632 Santa Barbara St., 963-0378) always seems to bring us back week after week, like a mythological siren crossed with a short-order cook. Yes, they make the best beef jerky in town, but their lunch menu also has nothing on it that isn’t a delicious winner. We’re partial to their crab melt, $5.95, their grilled Southwestern chicken sandwich (chicken breast, grilled green peppers, and their secret spicy mayo sauce), $5.95 and, recently, their simple-but-effective BLT, $4.75. Can they do no wrong? They’re always packed with the office lunch crowd.
Mom lives in Carpinteria, and it’s through her that I’ve discovered The Palms (701 Linden Ave., 684-3811) along with hundreds of others, as the place is always full, so come early. The Palms’ “gimmick” is that this steak ’n’ seafood restaurant lets you take the meat into your own hands, shall we say, and cook it right there on the grill in the center of the establishment. Men can dispense with their encounter group/drum circle and get empowered right here, cutting out the middle man and slapping down slabs of beef, chicken, fish, or shrimp and cooking it how they want. Everybody can cook, of course, but if you don’t want to, the kitchen can make it to order.
A buffet at the Biltmore Hotel (969-2261) may not sound like a deal, but every Thursday, they offer an inexpensive “locals” dinner buffet, as long as you tell them you’re from S.B., at a not too shabby $23 per person (reservations are a must). That means as many trips as you want to take to their cold cuts table, the meat and fish carving table, and the main course table. And if you’re still in doubt, let me mention this: All-you-can-eat tiramisu! It’s a delicious limbo between being cheap and splurging.
What Am I Forgetting?
Oh, there’s loads more. I recommend anything at Zal’s Museum Café, including their desserts, which seem to be made daily—
in heaven. The turkey Reuben at Bitterman’s . . . fresh ciabatta rolls and butter at Our Daily Bread . . . the two slices of pizza and salad lunch deal at Deano’s Pizza (check the phone book for coupons) . . . eel hand rolls at Edomasa, the best in town . . . salmon fried rice and the “drunk duck” at Mandarin Palace (and can I mention that they haven’t raised their prices in six years?) and so much more, but I have to keep some things to myself.

Hidden Happy Hours

Nothing caps off an eight-hour workday like a trip to a nearby tavern for happy hour, that coveted handful of afternoon hours when bars slash prices, serve up tasty treats, and function as meeting places for the South Coast workforce. Whether it be a margarita and free food fest at El Paseo or a Bocce ball bonanza at Arnoldi’s on Cota Street happy hours have a happy home in Santa Barbara, and everybody’s got a favorite.
My top spot is Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens on Canon Perdido St., where the coldest beers in town are just a buck and Willy the bartender pours the city’s stiffest well drinks from 4:30 to 6 p.m. every day. Grub some inexpensive Chinese eats as well, but be prepared to be standing, since happy hour at Jimmy’s isn’t any secret these days.
If the stomach’s grumbling after the workday, there are two spots just off State Street where the food attracts as much as the drinks. Upstairs in Victoria Court, SOhO drops the beer, wine, and well drink prices while also serving tasty appetizers at nearly half-price. For about five bucks—including tax and tip—drinkers can enjoy garlic fries, crab cakes, mussels, or chicken taquitos, among other special appetizers. Just downstairs on Victoria Street is Kevin Costner’s adventure in dining, Epiphany. The draft beers are cheap during happy hour, the drinks are always poured with the best spirits, and the food’s fancy, but fairly priced.
Happy hours fuel the lower State Street scene, and almost every spot’s got something going on in the afternoon. For the best drinking and eating deal, though, check out Madison’s for the 2-for-1 steaks and appetizers from 4 to 7 p.m. Chomp on some steak and swill from huge Schooner glasses while viewing a televised ball game or people-watching from the street-side patio.
But as the masses pack downtown’s tourist friendly bars, more and more folks are realizing that upper State Street’s got its own scene. From 4 to 6 p.m. daily, the Crocodile Bar—beneath the Lemon Tree Inn—features the half-price drinks and food that happy hours were made for. The bartenders there won’t even pour a happy hour drink without premium liquor, so get comfortable while ordering a special shrimp appetizer. The Croc’ boasts a lively music scene as well, from the Delta swing sounds of Stiff Pickle Orchestra to Paraguayan harp and classical guitar.
—Matt Kettmann

Get Away for a Night
Vacation at Home

Glenborough Inn 1327 Bath St.; 966-0589
A quaint Santa Barbara inn offering special weeknight (Sun.-Thu.) packages for couples for either one or two nights. The one-night deal includes whale-watching on the Double Dolphin; a $40 dinner voucher to Louie’s (at The Upham Hotel); a free gift at their store; room service breakfast; and a room with a Jacuzzi bathtub, fireplace, and outdoor patio: $252. The two-night deal includes all the same benefits and throws in a voucher for two half-hour massages in their spa for $460. Visit for more info.

Circle Bar B Ranch 1800 Refugio Rd.; 968-1113
Circle Bar B, near Gaviota owned and operated by the same family for three generations, offers plush rooms overlooking the ocean. Ranch rooms and private cabins both cost $225 per night (that includes all meals, and is based on two guests per room). For guests and non-guests alike, the ranch offers horseback trail rides for individuals (1 1/2 hours for $30) and groups: including half-day ($65 per person), sunrise, and sunset rides.They also hosts a dinner theater, with barbecue tri-tip, on Friday and Saturday nights during the summer: $11 guests, $32 general, $28 seniors. Visit

Prufrock’s Garden Inn by the Beach
600 Linden Ave., Carpinteria; 566-9696

A totally renovated and lovely historic home turned bread and breakfast opened seven years ago. Spend a weeknight at this inn and enjoy a home-cooked breakfast in the morning for a minimum of $85. Visit for more details.

Meadowlark Inn 2644 Mission Dr., Solvang; 688-4631
Dive into wine country bliss at this rustic and comfy North County getaway with a garden and gazebo, as well as a body therapy spa, without the pretentiousness usually associated with such lavish services. Regular rates range from $75/night during the week to $90-$170/night on the weekend, for up to two adults and two children. The inn, owned and operated by the founder of Brigitte’s restaurant in Santa Barbara, offers a one-night stay for two people, with complimentary wine and fruit in the room, wine tasting at Sunstone Winery, a dinner certificate to Trattoria Grappolo (a nearby Italian bistro), and a massage for two, for $265-$300 during the week, and $285-$340 on weekends and holidays. Visit

Inn of the Spanish Garden 915 Garden St.; 564-4700
Spoil yourself and your sweetheart at this 23-room inn smack in the middle of downtown S.B. Although you may feel like you stepped into an 18th-century Spanish family compound, the Spanish Garden offers modern amenities: Deep water soaking tubs, massages, and large private balconies or gardens. Rooms have an introductory rate of $179 per night, but S.B. residents get a 15 percent discount! The inn is also offering a romance package for the month of February: A two-night stay in one of their best rooms, with a bottle of wine, a rose-scented wrapped candle, heart-shaped bath confetti, and breakfast served to your room, starting at $625. Visit for further info.
More discount deals can be found at under “Hot Rates & Dates.” Romantic inns and sunset horseback rides await you.
—Joshua Brayer

Spiritual Retreats

Vedanta Temple 901 Ladera Lane in Montecito; 969-2903
Find inner peace at this idyllic spot in the Montecito foothills. Nestled in a natural chaparral landscape interspersed with humongous eucalyptus trees, this South Indian-style temple made of hand-hewn timber and carpeted in soft pastel is lovingly cared for by the Vedanta nuns. Talking is not permitted in the temple and shoes are left outside. The physical beauty of the place is matched by the welcoming-ness of its spirit. One doesn’t need to know or follow the Vedanta to enjoy the peacefulness of praying, meditating, or even just being in the temple. Their bookstore has an eclectic selection of books on spiritual practices of every stripe and has a special section for children. Votives, cards, incense, jewelry, and more are available. Bring your lunch and eat under giant trees on wooden furniture. The only noise you’ll hear will be the distant rooster crow up the canyon or the occasional bird call from the private estuary.
The temple is always open to the public. Winter hours, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; spring, 7 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Vespers: winter, 6 p.m.; spring, 6:30 p.m. Sun. lecture, 11 p.m. The bookstore is open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sun., 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

La Casa de Maria 800 El Bosque Rd., 969-5031; 801 Ladera Ln., 565-9062
The public is invited to sign the guest books and walk the trails at either site, free of charge—a great restorative. Lunch and tours are also available. Financially independent until 1997, the organization needs to raise $4.5 million to pay for the recently acquired property on Ladera Ln. Their mission is to allow workshop participants to emerge renewed, “to participate more responsibly in the creation of a just and peaceful world, and a more whole and healthful earth.”

Immaculate Heart Center for Spiritual Renewal
800 El Bosque Ln., Montecito; 969-2903

The center is an interfaith retreat center. It is located in the middle of La Casa de Maria at its El Bosque location. Built of stone carved out of rocks from the nearby creek bed, it was part of the original 26-acre estate of John de Blois Wack, who sold it to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart in 1943 to serve as a novitiate for the next 30 years. No longer run by Catholic clergy, it now provides private retreats for individuals or couples seeking quiet, meditation, and worship. Retreats are available Wednesday through Sunday and start at $75 a night per person, including meals.
The concept of sustainable agriculture is steadily being incorporated into the maintenance of the organic vegetable gardens and orchards. The gardens are currently in a transitional-organic phase and are providing vegetables and fruits abundantly to all the El Bosque kitchens. The food here is plentiful and tastefully prepared. Vegan, vegetarian, or any special diets are honored with advanced notice. Beverages include herbal teas, milk, and rice and soy drinks. Each guest or couple has their own private room with a private bath. This bucolic setting includes plenty of oak trees, orchards, views of the islands, a few paddocked horses to visit, and a tennis court and swimming pool for guest use.
—Gayle Freitag

Free For All

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
2559 Puesta del Sol Rd. (behind the Old Mission); 682-4711. Admission: $4-$6.

The museum has a free day the last Sunday of the month. Bring friends and family to enjoy great interactive exhibits and beautiful dioramas. The insect wing (no pun intended) has a live hive encased in glass to keep observers safe and an exit for them to come and go. The museum offers a Star Party the second Saturday of the month (weather permitting) from 8:30-10 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for those 12 and under. Members of SBMNH’s Astronomical Unit loan their telescopes for viewing and are on hand to answer questions. The first time I viewed Saturn it took my breath away. Membership at the museum allows you free admission to the museum and Sea Center, as well as to more than 130 other science centers and museums throughout the country.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State St.; 963-4364. Admission: $3-$6, members and children 5 and under, free.

Our art museum has a plethora of deals to encourage residents to observe the art that graces its walls and display cases. Admission is free every Thursday, and the Children’s Gallery is always free. A special event for kids, Treasures & Tales, takes place the second Saturday of each month from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Folk tales from around the world are presented using gallery art to illustrate the stories, and refreshments are included. The first Sunday of selected months is Free Family Sunday, which includes music and entertainment. Daily tours of the permanent collection are at 1 p.m. Gallery hours are Tue.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m.; and Fri., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Visit for more info.
—Gayle Freitag

Consume with a View
Picnic Vistas and Romantic Spots

by Duncan Wright
Starting with the obvious, we all know that the Wilcox property—sorry Kirk, the “Douglas Family Preserve”—offers spectacular views of the ocean. Those in the know might walk to the far north/western corner of the bluffs and sit on the one log that has been secured there for breath-takers and lunch-breakers. And for a nocturnal scene, if you can get past your nerves, it’s an incredible place to go on a moonlit night. (Who said anything about a hip-flask?)
But there are so many other places to take in the majesty that reminds us why we live here. Near the top of the Mesa Lane steps, are a couple of benches where you can get out your sandwich and feel gratefully awed by the sea. In a sparkling blue-green carpet before you, is the vast span of the ocean to the islands, usually speckled with a few surfers, and often, in this stretch of the shore, dolphins. The walk at the bottom, a mile or two to the left as far as 1,000 steps, is a section of some of the best beach in town, but you will need to know your tides to get all the way through.
Check out the San Marcos Foothills, currently the site of a preservation battle, and a wild patch of surprisingly uncharted terrain. Once you have parked at the top of Gaitero Street (near the Cathedral Oaks and Foothill intersection) which ends where the land begins, hop the gate into the large, sparsely populated cow pasture. From here, roam where you will—there is a lot of acreage and the further in you go, the more remote and topographically higher you will be. Throw the blanket down at a sweet spot, and do what you will—the only thing to disturb you is the cry of the hawks above, the occasional lumbering bovine and, if you are fairly discrete, a range of wild creatures from foxes and rabbits to wild owls.
More Mesa is not just a nudie beach, it is a rugged cliff crowned with a sweeping heath-land that restores the soul. This lush, rolling meadow provides a mind-cleansing walk which, like many of our mesa-like vistas, looks from one high plateau to another. You can get a little lost up here, wandering off the path and getting misty eyed at the beauty of it all.
Just a half-mile northwest of Knapp’s Castle, Camino Cielo is a small dirt parking spot (under a largish tree), which is the gateway to another scenic paradise. Hop the boulders and drop down to a secret back road that walks, away to your left, through some wild land of untamed rugged beauty. Views of the back-country mountains, of the Santa Ynez Valley, and even of the ocean and the islands are offered all the way along this road, which gives you about half an hour’s walk till it drops into the valley below.
Overlooking the city, there is none to beat the view from Franceschi Park up above Alameda Padre Serra (APS). Best just before sunset, when this small lookout point closes, there are picnic tables for you to settle at, and not only is the town spread out before you (look, there’s the Granada Theatre, and over there, that’s where I work . . .), but you can also see the ocean and the harbor from a different angle than the Mesa (although the view from the City College West Campus is worthy of a prolonged meditation). This view is especially sweet during sailing season.
If you are downtown and need your view-fix, or you have a rendezvous to attend, you must take the elevator up the Courthouse Tower. The views of the city are very satisfying. Sit down on the Eastside with your back to the wall, and take out your book of poems by Rumi or E.E. Cummings. Your sense of romance will be renewed.

A Tavern in the Woods
Cold Spring Tavern (5995 Stagecoach Rd.; 967-0066) has been operating for decades tucked in the Santa Barbara County backcountry. The rustic décor and isolation from tourists has made it a refuge for Harley riders and tree-huggers alike. Hang out on the weekends for finger-snappin’ tunes from local musicians. The Sunday afternoon tri-tip barbecue may be the best in town.

Video on the Cheap
For movie-holics, there’s plenty of secret deals around town, and far too many video stores to mention, but here’s a few of our favorites:
Video Shmideo (11 W. Victoria St., 564-4999 ) has the best selection in town, bar none, and on Wednesdays they offer a two-for-one deal. Their flat rental rate ($2.75) is better than certain world-wide conglomerate chains we could mention.
Video Premiere (965-8808) in the Carrow’s parking lot offers a nice little package deal of five videos, five days, five bucks ($5.98 with tax). Perfect if you’re in bed with the flu, lazy, under house arrest, or all three!
The Santa Barbara Central Library (962-7653) has videos and—shock! horror!—they’re free for you to borrow for a whole week, just like those weird rectangular things with paper and words inside. You won’t find your usual blockbusters here, but there are not many places where you can rent the complete I Claudius or all the major PBS documentary series of the last 10 years.
Lastly, the “Goleta Repeata” aka the Cinema Twin (6050 Hollister Ave.) has been showing $2.50 bargain shows for about a year now and shows no sign of stopping. Check this very paper for what’s on this week and experience movie-going like your parents did more than 15 years ago, before the advent of stadium seating and super quadraphonic, Dolby stereo!
—Ted Mills

If you feel the need to shower yourself with relaxation but are a little light in the wallet after the holidays, we have found a couple of deals to take you away.
The Santa Barbara Night and Day Spa, (568-3766) located at 32 E. Micheltorena St., is having a January special on their salt glows—a one-hour full body exfoliation with salt and essential oils for $50. A free self-tanner is included in the cost.
They also offer a hot stone massage—heated stones rest on your tightest muscles, while a masseuse works out the rest of the kinks.
Acupuncture facelifts are offered by Night and Day Spa. This includes facial and tightens the muscles without being invasive. Each facelift is $130. Open daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., by appointment. Call 568-3766.
If you can’t afford the $200-$500 for decadent-sounding facial and body treatment packages at the gorgeous Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, you can still visit their beautiful facilities. For $35, from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. every day except Saturday, you can get a day pass to visit everything, from the Jacuzzi and pool, to the steamrooms and fitness center. You can also take classes in t’ai chi, yoga, stretching, Pilates, you name it. Better yet, sign up for just one treatment, like a facial or a massage, and the fee is reduced to $20. Call 646-1111 to make a reservation.
—Gayle Freitag and Olivia Kienzel

Out in the Wild Adventures in the Outdoors

Batty’s Batting Cages 226 S. Milpas St.; 962-6666
Ever get the urge to hit something really hard? Head down to the batting cages and try your luck in the batter’s box against a variety of mechanical pitchers from slow-pitch softball to 80 mph fastballs. Each token gets you 14 pitches and costs $1.50. Buy four tokens for $5, or 20 for $23. Cages can also be rented for a specific amount of time, with teams getting discounts. Winter hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; spring and summer hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Call and find out about their special coupon books.

Glen Annie Golf Course 405 N. Glen Annie Rd.; 968-6400
This is the golf course for die-hards. The cost for 18 holes of championship caliber golf on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays is regularly $59, but is only $39 for tri-county (S.B., Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties) residents. Weekend and holiday fees are discounted from $74 to $49. But you can find the best deal Tuesdays and Thursdays, when Santa Barbarans get a full round of golf with a cart for only $35. All prices are per person.

Sandpiper Golf Course 7925 Hollister Ave.; 968-1541
The picturesque Sandpiper Golf Course is now offering a discount to Santa Barbara County residents through the end of January: 18 holes of golf that would normally set you back $118 is $50 Monday through Thursday and $65 Friday through Sunday. Tee it up and enjoy the ocean views.

Twin Lakes 6034 Hollister Ave.; 964-1414
This short, 29-par course offers a great environment for S.B. residents who want to work on their driving as well as their short-distance game. Open a $50 debit account in their Practice Club and get 20 percent off driving range balls (normally 34 for $3.50), weekday golf rates (normally $10), and weekday senior rates (normally $7).

S.B. Adventure Co. 452-1942, (888) 596-6687
Take a kayaking trip along the Gaviota Coast, or a wine country adventure by van or bike. The Adventure Co. also offers mountain biking, rock climbing, hikes, and surfing lessons. All outings run from about 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and SBAC provides all necessary equipment and safety instructions. The big bonus: 10-15 percent for locals. Visit for more details.

Adventours Outdoor Inc. 899-2929
Through March, Adventours offers a 20 percent discount on corporate team-building getaways and will design a retreat catered specifically to your needs. Options include beach Olympics, ropes courses, and a variety of outdoor activities. Prices vary. Visit or call the above phone number for further details.

Arriba Horse Adventures 551-8567
This stable hosts scenic beach and mountain horseback rides, and offers a variety of discounts for groups and special occasions. Call for specific rates.
—Joshua Brayer

Sandy Solitude

While the South Coast’s beaches steadily remain full of tanned bodies, surfing kids, and Frisbee-throwing tourists, a pristinely private place of sand and surf, an hour’s drive to the north, is positively the most peaceful place in the county. Known by many but visited by few, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex features 18,000 acres of super sandhills and 18 miles of lonely shoreline where 320 species of wildlife thrive year-round. With official entrances at both Oso Flaco Lake and Guadalupe Dunes County Park—both just minutes from the quaint town of Guadalupe—a visit to the dunes blends natural wonders with utmost solitude, a calming experience that will cleanse any stressed-out soul.
—Matt Kettmann

Dancing Feet

Santa Barbara has a surprisingly wide array of choices if you want to go dancing, though they all have their drawbacks. If you’re in the over-40 set, you’ll feel most comfortable at SOhO, where the crowd tends to be professional and live bands like Area 51 regularly blast ‘70s hits and soul on the weekends. If you’re 18-21, your only choice, unfortunately, is to head to Zelo’s. Wouldn’t advise it if you’re not in this age group, though-long lines, iffy music, and do you really want to hit on someone who’s so young they don’t remember Velcro sneakers or Teen Wolf?
Though Velvet Jones used to be The Place for the under-30, over-21 set, and their music is more reliable, I would suggest you avoid it. Unless, that is, you are part of the contingents of loud, drunk, predatory college boys and spandex-clad girls who have completely overrun the place in the last half year. For those who can’t bear another minute of electro-pop, there is Kennedy’s: also inevitably college-y, but at least more diverse, with pretty good hip-hop and house. If you’re in the mood for salsa, Ruby’s usually has a band playing on weekend nights.
To escape the meat-market atmosphere, you might consider the occasional trip over to Hades, Santa Barbara’s only gay bar. Be prepared for a real crapshoot with the DJ and be respectful about being in a gay space, but the dance floor is big, the crowd is fun, and if you get bored, you can go in the back and play pool. If you want to escape the whole drinking/smoking/drug thing altogether, and you identified heavily with the mortally shy kids in high school, take a trip over to Dance-Away (but prepare for sweat, bare feet, and a totally anything-goes atmosphere).
—Olivia Kienzel

Trickling Treasure

While a love of the majesty of nature transcends all ages, the ability to experience can be hampered by age, as both the elderly and the kids aren’t always able—or willing—to brave a strenuous hiking trail. Not so at Nojoqui Falls County Park, just off of Highway 101 past Gaviota, where a well-maintained and slightly sloped trail is accessible to all ages, no matter if a cane or a stroller is required. The trail ends at the enchanting Nojoqui Falls, a trickling treasure of colorful algae and wickedly ragged rock formations that can be observed from the stone benches at trail’s end. The 10-minute stroll is simply one of the park’s many perks, as picnic tables, playgrounds, and grass fields abound, offering the perfect place for a daytime retreat.
—Matt Kettmann

S.B.'s Central Park

Nestled in the deep valley between T.V. Hill’s sprawling apartment complexes and the Mesa’s bustling neighborhoods, the largely untraveled Honda Valley Open Space off of Miramonte Drive affords a silence and tranquility unimaginable on the nearby streets of downtown Santa Barbara. With nearly 50 acres of lush creek banks and grassy meadowlands, the dog-friendly park features numerous trails that wind through the valley, up the adjacent hills, and through the eucalyptus groves that blanket the Arroyo Honda Creek’s watershed. Particularly at dawn and dusk, when the park’s birds engage in a seemingly endless chirping contest, the Honda Valley Open Space truly serves as this town’s central—but happily hidden—park.
—Matt Kettmann