I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need to get away for the weekend. I don’t want to deal with the hassle of airports, so I just hop in the car and go. One of my favorite destinations (leaving from the San Francisco Bay Area) is Santa Barbara. In a matter of hours, I feel transported to a land far, far away.

Of course, food is always in the forefront of my mind, so planning lunch spots for the trip is high priority. Leaving the Bay Area around 9 in the morning, I can make it to Big Sky Cafe in San Luis Obispo by lunch time. I absolutely love this restaurant, for it’s diverse menu featuring lots of local, organic fare. I’ve got a special bent towards the Italian white bean and tuna salad, but I’ve also savored many of the daily fish specials.

Hopping back in the car, it’s about and hour and 40 minutes to Santa Barbara. Sometimes I drive straight through. Other times, I’ve stopped off for a little visit to the quaint town of Los Olivos. If I were a wine girl (damn allergies!), I’m sure I’d make this a regular stop.

You know you’ve hit Santa Barbara when you can smell the sea and revel in the prolific flowers seen in every color, no matter where you look. I’ve stayed in many different hotels over the years, and find the Oceana, the Harbor View Inn and Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort all very comfortable and centrally located. I usually time my visits off-season, as this town is pricy during peak times (aka: summer!).

The days can be spent doing everything from shopping, to outdoor sports (hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc.) to just lounging by the sea.

I, personally, love to visit all the local boutiques on State Street and in the neighboring town of Montecito. If there’s time, I also love to poke around the antique shops in Carpinteria and Summerland, which are just a few miles south.

When 5 o’clock rolls around, it’s definitely time for a cocktail, don’t you agree? One of my fave places to head is Brophy Brothers. This is a definitely a locals place (which I love), and NOT fancy at all. But the vibe is cool and the view is even better. With the harbor in front of you and the mountains as the backdrop, what’s not to love?!

Certain times of the year, you can also see sea urchins being harvested. My mom and I went down to talk to the dock workers one time, and they cracked open one for us to taste right on the spot!

I always hate when it’s time to hit the road and return to reality, but I know I still have one tasty treat waiting for me on the drive home. If I time it right, I can hit Paso Robles for lunch, and enjoy the offerings at Berry Hill Bistro right on the main square. And the perfect dessert is stopping by a very hip art gallery just a few doors down, Studios on the Park. (though be forewarned that they’re only open Thursday-Sunday)

While driving away from Paso Robles, I know the weekend is about over, but it’s been amazing. I come home feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the week ahead of me…and I didn’t even have to go through airport security!