Sunny Santa Barbara beckoned at a most inopportune time. No way could I get away. And then … serendipity.
My Santa Barbara Getaway
The last thing I was thinking about this summer was a side trip down the coast (wishing maybe). Troy and I were both crazy-busy with work, selling our house, buying another, and moving between the two in our own coastal California town many miles north. But I had this opportunity to go, and how could I not? Tell me you wouldn’t have done the same.
First, the fine folks at InterContinental Hotels Group invited me to experience their Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara, on them, during this year’s massive CJU affiliate event.
Second, our quick move across town had me struggling to fit our modern beach house decor into a remodeled 1930’s Spanish Mediterranean. Santa Barbara, a popular city on the central California coast, is known for its iconic Mediterranean architecture — just the inspiration I needed.
Downtown Santa Barbara has a certain historic look by design, with restrained architectural guidelines for following the Spanish Mediterranean tradition: red tile roofs, white stucco walls, “Santa Barbara blue” trim. I’d been reading about how certain local architects have tempered tradition with a more modern and playful sensibility. I wanted to know more.
The Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara fit perfectly with my plan. Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara is an upscale boutique hotel in the heart of Santa Barbara. It sits in the artsy Funk Zone, the sweet spot between the beach and the trendy shops, galleries, restaurants, tasting rooms, museums and attractions.
Things to do in Downtown Santa Barbara
There’s so much to do without even leaving downtown Santa Barbara, you won’t even need a car. If you’re like me, you’ll spend lots of time walking all over town shopping, tasting, dining. Walk down to Stearns Wharf for a beer and fish tacos. Watch the sunset over the water. Cruise along the waterfront on bikes.
Head down the Urban Wine Trail, or simply stop into one of the many wineries in the area. I highly recommend a visit to Au Bon Climat on Anacapa Street for amazing wine, cheese, and friendly service.
We skipped the zoo but spent a fun afternoon at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. The museum packs a lot of history and adventure into a small two story building (a sure hit with both children and adults).
If you like architecture with a sense of humor — like I do — take the self-guided Jeff Shelton architecture tour. I found it an easy walk around town from the hotel on State Street (here’s a map).
What I loved most about this tour is seeing the classic Mediterranean look both honored and tweaked at the same time. Think Doctor Seuss does Santa Barbara, only better.
This tour was not only a hoot, it helped me lighten up about my new Spanish Mediterranean home and sparked some fun modern ideas for setting it up just the way I want.
Time for Drinks
Having spent a fun day in downtown Santa Barbara, I wandered back to the Hotel Indigo. I stopped at Santo Mezcal, the bar and restaurant just outside the hotel lobby, for cocktails with the IHG team and some fellow bloggers. Santo Mezcal means “sacred elixir of the god,” and you just might find that hidden among the sangrias and tequilas. (I didn’t but tell me if you do.)
Restaurant owner Carlos Luna’s gourmet Mexican dinner menu is unique and well presented. Happy Hour isn’t too shabby either: Crab Quesadilla, Sopecitos Yucatecos, Tostaditas Ahi Tuna. Lucky locals could probably sample a different taco every night. I decided to come back for a full dinner with Troy on day three.
My Savvy Stay at Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara
Enter the lobby and you’re in a newer, hipper Santa Barbara. The front desk staff checked me in with a warm welcome, giving me all the info I needed to get comfortable at the hotel. They also shared some savvy local advice for exploring the city. Each Hotel Indigo has a unique way of honoring a city’s culture and they strive to reflect the local community. This one was no exception.
Parked inside the front door you’ll notice colorful beach cruisers, complete with baskets, cushy seats and suspension, just the thing for cruising the beach or cycling the downtown streets. I asked about taking one out on day two and was pleased to hear that bikes are complementary for all hotel guests. A handy sunscreen dispenser is available at the front door.
Also notable on entry is the luggage lift (no elevator for guests). As part of the space-saving boutique hotel experience, second story guests pop their luggage into the lift, push a button, then head up the bright wooden staircase to collect their suitcases at the top. Because the hotel is small, you won’t need to carry your bags far. Savvy tip: if someone in your party doesn’t do stairs, ask for a first floor room when you make your reservation.
The small two-story hotel’s cozy and contemporary flair flows from the lobby to the living spaces, fitness studio, terraces, art library, and even the restaurant. Some of the first floor rooms have small private patios. My room was on the second floor, which has access to slightly larger public terraces — less private, more social.
On day two of my visit, Troy (my airline pilot husband) finished his last work flight early, so he grabbed a jump seat to Santa Barbara to join me for a couple days. One of these bright and breezy outdoor terraces was the perfect place for the two of us to chill for an afternoon, browsing through books on Santa Barbara’s history from the hotel’s second story art library.
A walk through the halls before dinner was like entering a trendy gallery, with amazing museum-quality modern art and murals — not at all what you find in most hotels. Turns out the hotel is a satellite location for the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara. I love it when companies help support local artists by putting their work on display.
How to Book a Savvy Stay at Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara
Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara
121 State Street, Santa Barbara, California 93101
Go Here for more info and reservations
The Boutique Hotel Experience
A boutique hotel is typically a small stylish hotel in a fashionable urban location. Depending on where you’re from, you’ll focus first on the “small” or the “stylish.” A friend from New York, for example, dotes on the Euro chic design, while a new acquaintance from Houston can’t stop talking about the teeny tiny rooms. Both are right, of course.
As a boutique line of hotels run by the trusted InterContinental Hotels Group, every Hotel Indigo boasts a unique, space-saving layout that offers just what you need and nothing more.
On my first night at the Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara, it took me a few minutes to adjust to the room’s efficiencies: combo closet/coffee bar, convertible shower/European style wet bathroom (read small, modern, efficient). The king bed took up most of the space. Still, the room included a small desk with IHOME workstation, flat screen HD LCD TV with premium channels, ironing board, and luggage rack (which I almost missed as it was tucked into the foot off the bed).
I came to respect the clever use of space and the eco features, loved the comfortable bed, clean hardwood floors, free WIFI, cozy bathrobes, and Aveda toiletries. Although savvy dog did not come on this trip, I was happy to see the hotel is pet friendly, with free dog treats in the lobby.
My only concern during my stay at Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara was the threat of the train whistle. Having the AMTRAK station nearby can be quite convenient if you’re traveling to Santa Barbara by train, but not so great if your room is on that side of the hotel. Fortunately I did not hear the train at night, only during the day. The hotel does provide earplugs in every room. And one of the locals tells me the train sounds almost as loud from all over the downtown area. Just part of the ambiance.
- Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara is a partner of the Santa Barbara Car Free Project, so ask about their special discount for car-free hotel guests.
- Every time you stay at a Hotel Indigo, you can earn points or rewards that could get you a free night.
- If you’re a daytime napper, you might want to request a room facing away from the railroad tracks (and give the complementary earplugs a try).
- If walking up a flight of stairs isn’t for you, ask for a first floor room.
- Wondering about the hotels right across from the ocean? Those book up fast and are often overpriced for what you get. If you’re not planning to spend every minute on the beach, why join the lemmings. Be savvy and stay somewhere fairly priced and centrally located.
- To get around town easily from the hotel: pack your walking shoes, grab a free cruiser bike, and take advantage of Santa Barbara’s Downtown Waterfront Shuttle.
For more savvy things to do in Santa Barbara: Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll elaborate on every fun thing we did and then some, including tips for seeing famous Santa Barbara attractions by car.