Opposite Left: Courtesy General Store Paso Robles; Opposite Right: Courtesy Visit SLO Cal. This page Left: Linda Chaja; Right: Joshua Curry Photography.
Santa Barbara To get to Santa Barbara itself, choose between driving the 101 along the coast while enjoying the sparkling Pacific, or head over the winding 154 so you descend from the Santa Ynez Mountains into what looks like a postcard. There’s a happy, healthy clump of tasting rooms and shopping sites in what’s called the Presidio District, which is right along the middle of the major thoroughfare, State Street. After tasting at Au Bon Climat or enjoying Grassini Family Vineyards’ hearty Cabernets, stop at C’est Cheese for a selection of cheeses and house-made charcuterie and their gift shop La Maison Rouge. Not far is locals’ favorite Plum Goods, with everything from jewelry to T-shirts with Godzilla threatening the Santa Barbara Mission. If art’s your thing, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art not only has work from the likes of Monet and the only intact mural in the United States by David Alfaro Siqueiros but also an irresistible gift shop. Nearby is Lewis & Clark, chockful of antique and antique-inspired whimsy that’s especially delightful during the holidays. The latest hip neighborhood in town is the Funk Zone, which has lost most of its former “funk” to a sheen of tasting rooms, restaurants, and stores. That might mean you hang in an “adaptive reuse project,” as they refer to The Waterline. It used to be an industrial warehouse but now is home to two beer bars (Topa Topa and Lama Dog), wine tasting (Fox Wines), and a café (The Nook, which boasts two of the best burgers in town) and a series of shops featuring the wide-ranging wares of local artisans selling everything from ceramics to bikinis. Elsewhere in the compact Funk Zone there are the trendy offerings of The Shopkeepers, including designer clothes, a rock and roll vibe, and three stories of mid-century collectibles at The Blue Door. Funk Zone–adjacent and in the same commercial strip are two more essential finds. At Folio Press & Paperie you can letterpress your own designs or buy any of their artful cards. At Chocolate Maya there’s sure to be a truffle to tickle your fancy. Gourmets in the know can even purchase a private tasting. —George Yatchisin
Los Alamos & Los Olivos Continuing south on the 101 gets you to Santa Barbara County. Be sure to jump off the freeway at Los Alamos, a two-block town filled with culinary superstars. Allow time to enjoy breakfast or lunch at Bob’s Well Bread, which even offers culinary gifts like local honey. But what you will most remember is the food, from sticky, flaky morning buns to avocado toast. Next, get lost in the warrenlike Los Alamos Depot Mall across Bell Street, an antiquers’ dream. If you prefer something less overwhelming, Sisters Gifts & Home may be more your speed. A mere 15-minute drive and you will arrive in Los Olivos, where more than 30 tasting rooms await. You’ll have to shop, just to pace your drinking. Or you can do both at once at the charming and homey Liquid Farm Tasting Room, which not only offers Burgundian-style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but also one-of-akind home furnishings. Right across Alamo Pintado you will find R&D Los Olivos, not nearly as technical as it sounds. Instead, find curated jewelry and art, often nature-inspired. If you’d prefer some actual nature, explore J. Woeste Home & Garden Treasures. You practically grow a green thumb just wandering through their restful outdoor displays, but there are still rooms of unique gifts and home accessories inside too. If you prefer something with a bit of je nais sais quois, there’s Avec Moi Décor, with everything from finely milled soaps to hotel silver. Of course, Los Olivos is a dream of an Old West hamlet, right down to its flagpole in the town’s crossroads, so you must mosey into Jedlicka’s Saddlery but be ready to exit in new goatskin boots or a Stetson. Make time to dine at Bear and Star while in Los Olivos—much of the exquisite food (even the Wagyu beef ) comes from the nearby Parker Ranch. On the way out of town, stop in at Global Gardens where owner Theo Stephan will regale you with stories of growing olives as you taste her oils and vinegars.
ABOVE: A chocolate tasting at Santa Barbara’s Chocolate Maya is the perfect culinary adventure for the cocoa-curious; LEFT: Wander through the gardens at J. Woeste Home & Garden Treasures in Los Olivos