Bikes, beaches and brunch: 48 hours in Santa Barbara

Allison Fong/Staff
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One of the best things about being on the semester system is that you get a head start on your summer while the rest of your quarter system friends are studying for midterms. #GoBears! There are many things in life that I will never understand, and the quarter system is one of them. While many semester system students spend the first week of summer bingeing all of their favorite TV shows and movies on Netflix, some of us go and visit our quarter system friends. Last summer, I made this exact trip down to Santa Barbara to visit my best friend, who goes to UC Santa Barbara. It’s pretty exciting to see where our friends have ended up and how their schools and college experiences compare to our own. So here’s a look on a weekend in Santa Barbara/Isla Vista!


3:00 p.m.: So what’s been new?

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After a lengthy drive, about five hours, I finally arrived in Isla Vista, or IV, a small college town located right next to UC Santa Barbara. I remember driving through the streets of IV for the first time and being surprised at the lack of sidewalks and the bountiful herds of students walking, biking or skateboarding through the streets. Although I was in a car and they were on foot or on a bike, they could care less that they were blocking the entire road. Even though this was a familiar sight, I still could not get over how many bikes there were, as well as shoeless people roaming around. Shortly after arriving to my friend’s house, she gave me a mini house tour, and we began our five-hour catch-up session on the couch while enjoying an apple crisp that I made and brought all the way from the Bay Area so she could enjoy it. During this catch-up session, I also got to say hello to some of her housemates, who are actually the sweetest people ever.

7:00 p.m.: Au naturel at The Natural Cafe

We honestly didn’t even realize that five hours flew by. One of us looked down at the time and were surprised to see that it was already 7:00 p.m.! For dinner, we ended up going to The Natural Cafe, which is apparently a popular place in the area, not to mention that it was super vegetarian-friendly, which is a bonus for me. I had the S.B. Veggie Grill with sauteed tofu, which was a generous serving of seasonal veggies and tofu on a bed of brown rice. 

10:00 p.m.: Netflix and chill

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I was pretty pooped from driving from the Bay Area, so we took things easy and just watched Netflix for the remainder of the night. I’ve never seen “Queer Eye” before, so we enjoyed a couple episodes as we planned out the rest of my stay in Santa Barbara. Side note: If you haven’t seen “Queer Eye” yet, go and do it right now. You won’t regret it.


8:00 a.m.: But first, coffee

Knowing that I need to consume many cups of coffee to feel like myself, we started the day early by heading over to Cajé, an IV staple that serves coffees and smoothies. Biking is the primary mode of transportation in these streets, so my friend suggested that we bike over there. Little did she know, I haven’t ridden a bike since I was in elementary school, so I was a bit rusty (this is an understatement because I was very rusty). It took me so long before I could gain the confidence to ride the bike a couple blocks to the coffee shop. TL;DR: I relearned how to ride a bike and am happy to say that I made it there and back in one piece.

12:00 pm: Vegan food (and more coffee)

For brunch, we headed over to downtown Santa Barbara to The Honey B, a rooftop vegan cafe. My friend has been raving about this place, especially its bowls. So we headed to the top floor of the Antioch University building and enjoyed our delicious bowls. One cup of coffee is never enough, so when we finished our bowls at The Honey B, we made our way over to Handlebar Coffee. I had a dirty charcoal latte with oat milk (are we even surprised at this point?). So with two cups of coffee in my system, I was finally able to take on the rest of the day. We spent the next couple of hours roaming around downtown and exploring all of the shops in the area.

3:00 p.m.: Sunset at Sands

The beach is a necessity when visiting a place as beautiful as Santa Barbara. My friend conveniently lives just a couple blocks from the beach, so we packed a towel and headed to the shore. Walking over the bluffs, we made our way to Sands Beach and actually walked all the way down to the other end of the beach. The weather was beautiful, and the colors were so vibrant. Just walking down the beach and feeling the warm sand between my toes combined with the gentle ocean breeze against my skin, it was as if I were in a completely different world. We stayed for the sunset, which was actually kind of magical. All of the different colors in the sky were so vibrant and blended all together. I wish I could just sit there and enjoy that scenery forever. As the sun set, it also got a lot darker and colder, which is something that we didn’t put together until we were shivering. We slowly made our way back to my friend’s house as we reflected on the day’s adventure.

10:00 p.m.: Tar, takeout and “Lady Bird”

Once we made our way back inside her house, we were relaxing on the couch until I noticed black splotches on the bottom of my feet. My heart started racing, and I thought I had contracted some odd skin disease and began looking for similar spots all over the rest of my body. After having my mini heart attack, I asked my friend what happened to my foot and she laughed and said it was tar. Apparently there’s a lot of tar in the wet sand, and when you walk along it, the tar sticks to the bottom of your foot. She brought over a bottle of baby oil and a brush for me to take the tar off, which led to us sitting outside in her backyard and having a tar-removing party. At this point it was pretty late, but we realized that we hadn’t really eaten anything, so we ordered takeout from HiWi Tropical Fusion. We picked up some vegan poke bowls and enjoyed them as we watched “Lady Bird” — it was the first time I had seen it.


8:00 a.m.: The best part of waking up is Handlebar Coffee in my cup

Today was my last day in Santa Barbara, and a part of me felt that it wouldn’t be complete without another final visit to Handlebar Coffee. So we made our way downtown to State Street once again for my last cup of coffee in Santa Barbara. I was surprised to see a long line running out of the front door. Apparently, this spot is usually pretty busy, so I was lucky enough to miss the line the other day. What can I say, I guess the residents of Santa Barbara really know their coffee. But to be completely honest with you all, I would wait forever for Handlebar Coffee. (And I’m not being dramatic when I say that. OK, maybe a little.) This time, I went for a dirty turmeric latte with oat milk, which was honestly the best way to start my morning. Light in turmeric flavor but full-bodied with the oat milk and shot of espresso, I finally had enough energy for my drive down to Los Angeles later that day.

12:00 p.m.: Brunchin’ in S.B.

Is it really Sunday if you didn’t have brunch? To end my stay in Santa Barbara on a tasty note, we made our way to Dawn Patrol. Besides the many items you can order from the menu, you can also build your own hash. You have the option of choosing a base (russet potatoes or sweet potatoes), protein, veggies, cheese and the sauce. I opted for russet potatoes, veggie sausage, spinach, corn, mushrooms, pepper jack cheese and an herb aioli to top it all off! It tasted just as it sounds, insanely delicious. If you’re ever in the area and are in dire need of a solid brunch, Dawn Patrol is where it’s at.

So here’s to the beginning of an amazing summer, Golden Bears! You have all worked so hard this semester so go and have some fun! Go on spontaneous adventures with friends! Bonus: To make your adventure truly an Allison experience, be sure to have at least three cups of coffee in your system!

Contact Allison Fong at [email protected].