Labor Day weekend is our weekend — it’s the weekend we got married and a three-day weekend, so it always means we get to take advantage of having that extra day off to explore and travel. We got married six years ago and our wedding was loosely based off of the Disney/Pixar movie UP — we love adventure and travel and have always vowed that we’d travel somewhere new each year whether it be near or far. This year it was near.
We stayed in California and drove down the beautiful 101 highway to good ol’ Santa Barbara. A new place for both of us — we had never stayed in town, and have always driven passed it on our way to LA. It was the perfect place for a getaway — it has beaches, great food and is not too far away. What we didn’t know, however, was that we were going to find more adventure than we bargained for. I’ll explain more later…
Saturday: Enjoying the Santa Barbara Sunshine
We actually decided that we were going to drive up to Santa Barbara on Saturday morning, rather than Friday night. There’s really no explanation other than Friday night Bay Area traffic sucks so it’s best to be avoided at all costs.
After four hours of driving (maybe more, we had Dahlia with us), we headed to the city of Goleta where our lovely and lively boutique hotel was, the Kimpton Goodland. This uber dog-friendly hotel (because we brought Bella & Tajia with us) was the perfect location for us, but we definitely needed our car because Santa Barbara was about 20 minutes away from the hotel. (Goleta is known for less expensive hotel options as most hotels in Santa Barbara are a bit more pricey.)
The Kimpton Goodland was the perfect fit for us — dogs stay free, they offer complimentary happy hour wine, yoga by the pool, vinyl records you can borrow because each room comes with a record player, and much more.After dropping off our bags, we thought we’d spend the afternoon at the zoo. We had heard so many great things about theSanta Barbara Zoo that we knew we couldn’t pass us the opportunity. So, off we went to explore.
With over 500 animals, the zoo was such a fun experience especially for Dahlia. It’s openness is unlike any zoo I’ve ever been to — and some exhibits felt a little less restrained, which is probably good for the animals. We also had lunch here while a wedding was being set up — looked like a really great space for a wedding! They also offer train rides (extra $) and a fun play area among other things.After a hot afternoon at the zoo, we jumped in the pool and grabbed our complimentary happy hour wine back at the hotel. A win-win for Dahlia and her parents 🙂 After fun at the pool, we headed out to a casual dinner at a local favorite, Los Agaves. There are many different locations spread throughout Santa Barbara county. You might see a line but don’t get discouraged, it’s worth the wait — the food is delicious and drinks are yummy too! Jason opted for the seafood fajitas while I got their Agaves Enchiladas which included fresh halibut, shrimp, red pepper and onions topped with chipotle sauce. Served with rice and salad with a delicious mango dressing. And Dahlia, she got the kids quesadilla, her fave.
Sunday: Beach Day Bonanza
Rise and shine!
While I enjoyed Yoga by the pool, Jason and Dahlia headed to a nearby Trader Joe’s to get our picnic goodies for our beach day. It was an hour of gentle yoga and just what I needed to get my day going.
After Yoga, we got delicious bowls from Backyard Bowls with locations in Santa Barbara County as well as Los Angeles. We got the Green Bowl (Base: Acai, Banana, Kale, Spinach, Lime, Ginger, Apple Juice; Topping: Strawberry, Blueberry, Granola, Honey) and Diego’s Power Bowl (Base: Acai, Banana, Strawberry, Hemp Protein, Peanut Butter Hemp Milk; Topping: Banana, Hemp Seeds, Granola, Honey).
After breakfast it was off to the beach for more fun in the sun. We chose to go to Arroyo Burro Beach because it has a reputation of being a ‘dog beach’ and it was perfect because they had a section specifically for owners who like their dogs off-leash and an area for those that like on-leash. We prefer on-leash and if you know about Shiba Inus, it’s best kept that way or we would never see our dogs again :).
After hours of fun, 80 degree weather, sunshine for days and even a picnic at the beach, I noticed the clouds getting darker. I told Jason we should pack up, because it looked like there could be rain even though no one else on the beach seemed at all worried. As we were packing up the last few things, droplets of rain started to drop and then within seconds, it started pouring.
Very, very hard.
Then the wind started to kick in. Funneling winds. Umbrellas started flying all over the place and not just regular umbrellas, the outdoor patio umbrellas from the one restaurant that overlooked the beach. It was a very surreal and frightening moment, especially because kids were running everywhere.
The ocean looked like a million ice cubes were being thrown in it. So, we decided to shelter-in-place with our beach tent that we had literally just taken down. The winds were so strong that Jason had to use his whole body to hold it down and later we would find that the winds were upwards of 80 miles an hour. Yes. 80 miles an hour.
We felt like we were being hit with a hurricane or tornado and we were completely unprepared for it. Because we were. We were still in our bathing suits. We didn’t know this microburst was going to hit us and neither did the locals.
I covered Dahlia with a dress I found in my backpack because she was shivering and grabbed the dogs to stay close as they easily wanted to run away. I told Jason I was going to take Dahlia and the dogs and make a run for it to the restaurant where most of the beachgoers had taken shelter. We made it up safely after slipping and almost losing a flip flop while Jason gathered our things out in the elements.
And then just as easily as the storm came, it went. Those seven minutes were over. Everyone at the restaurant looked stunned. There were kids, pets, babies, and everyone in-between soaking wet and fearful that something else may occur, but it didn’t. Thank goodness.
What just happened?
I would later come to find that it was microburst, a perfect storm that hit Santa Barbara fast and without warning. All across the town trees had fallen, there were power outages and flooding, injuries and even boats turned over. Everyone was unprepared and that is the worst kind of storm.
We are okay though, we survived. And though we got to go home the next day, there were others that had to fix a lot of the damage that occurred. This sort of thing seems to be happening more nowadays with the occurrences like Texas and Florida. You honestly never know until you go through something like this and it just changes you.
The link below is a video of the microburst on the very same beach we were enjoying. If you slow or still the video around 45 seconds, you can see our little blue tent to the left with Tajia just outside as if she was figuring out the storm to protect us.
Below is a photo of the beach after the storm. It looks as if nothing ever happened. Nature is mysterious in all its beauty!
After the storm, we actually gave the doggies a bath at their self service wash stations, a blessing in disguise after all the sand and water hit us pretty good and then it was back to the hotel to clean up and recollect our thoughts.
After cleaning up, we headed down to the famed State Street, where a lot of shops and restaurants are looked different. We noticed a lot of street closures because of fallen trees and it was very interesting to see.
On our walk, we found the Palace Grill, a recommendation of a friend of ours who had gone to UCSB. Though a little hot indoors, it was the perfect place to find comfort in food with their cajun/creole-inspired food.
Once we finished having dinner, we decided to drive around ended up at the pier, Stearn’s Wharf. Here, we found so many seafood restaurants and though we were stuffed, we stopped by the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company for some famous Santa Barbara Uni (sea urchin) that we couldn’t pass up. Though we wanted to try more, we opted for the uni shooters which were outstanding. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! (Tip: They have a take out window if you don’t want to eat inside the restaurant and eat outside on the picnic tables while you enjoy the view of the ocean.
After the interesting Sunday we had, we decided to pack up and head out. I had mentioned to Jason on our way up that I wanted to stop in Solvang on our way back, because who wouldn’t want to see this cute little Danish town.
Located about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara, Solvang is known for its Danish-style architecture and homage to the culture all throughout the town. There is also a lot of wineries and though we wish we could’ve gone wine-tasting, we knew we had a long drive ahead of us.
Here, we stopped by the Jule Hus where you can Christmas shop all year round, snapped photos of the Little Mermaid replica statue, as well as a statue of Hans Christen Andersen, ate aebleskivers from the Solvang Restaurant, had brunch at the Belgian Cafe, and popped into a few more stores that caught our eye.
This was a delightful little town and one that I wish I could spend more time in to explore. Overall, I’m glad we made the stop to at least check out what they’ve got. At the Jule Hus Christmas store, I bought an anchor ornament as it represents hope and safety after our wild incident on the beach. This year, when I look at that ornament on the tree, I’ll look back at this trip and remember how fortunate we are each and everyday.
On to the next adventure! Happy traveling!