Because we've featured plenty of rank amateurs talking about their favorite weekends, it seemed only right that we finally let a pro have a crack at it. With that in mind, we contacted the Travel Channel's own "Queen of the Road," Samantha Brown.
Samantha, who makes her home in Brooklyn with husband Kevin O'Leary, is hosting a new show on TC called "Great Weekends With Samantha Brown," which covers a lot of the same ground covered in this column, only with her own effervescent personality as the linchpin. OK, Samantha, show 'em how it's done.
Elite made easy
Growing up on the East Coast, I remember Santa Barbara having the title "The American Riviera," so it always seemed like an elite destination to me, a place where the upper echelon of society went to vacation. But after I finally traveled there, I found that it's so much more low-key than that, and not at all pretentious. It's very easy to relax there. You've got the mountains and the ocean, you can be in the middle of everything on State Street, or go just a few miles and feel like you're really away from it all.
Location is king
Hotel Santa Barbara on State Street is great because everything's right outside your door. You don't really need a car to get something to eat, to grab a paper, shop, whatever you want to do. And it's fairly inexpensive.
I like to just walk around in whatever city I'm in and see what I find. Kevin calls it "urban hiking." That would be my perfect Saturday morning. And the Natural Cafe is a great place to stop for lunch. Everything is organic and healthy, and whenever I'm in California, I want to eat right and take advantage of the embarrassment of riches you have here agriculturally and just the local good cooking. And the Natural Cafe definitely specializes in it.
A touch of class
For a real treat, the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, just the next town over, is unbelievable. Just the history of the place; I think it was built in the 1920s, and the Kennedys had their honeymoon there. It's like a little utopia. Of course, it's prohibitively expensive, but like I always say, if you can't afford a hotel, you can always date it, and that means just going up for a dinner or drinks, and that's what we did.
They've got a really fancy restaurant there, but a more casual place to eat is called the Plow & Angel, and it's just great. Boy, they've got good margaritas! They have one that costs $160, but they also have a $16 one that's wonderful too.
On Sunday, we'll spend an hour or two reading the paper and then we'll head down to the beach and go paddle boarding. You're standing on what's really a massive surfboard with a paddle, and it's so easy to do compared with something like surfing. And you get such a beautiful perspective of the city from the water.
In the afternoon, we'd head up to Cold Springs Tavern. It's up in the hills about 20 minutes from Santa Barbara. It looks like an old frontier town, and it was built in the 1860s as a stagecoach stop. It's been serving food since then, and it's like time has stood still up there. They have steaks and stuff, but they also serve wild game.
There's live entertainment, and it's a good place to talk with the locals too. And the bikers; it's very popular with Harley guys.