Five Things To Do In…Santa Barbara

Scenic Santa Barbara offers beautiful landscapes, magnificent sunsets and many great things to do while visiting the “American Riviera.”

Santa Barbara, California, is rich in history – from the Chumash Indians who inhabited this coastal area more than 6000 years ago, to the Spanish soldiers and missionaries who came in the 1700s, to the silent film industry that made Santa Barbara the hotspot for film production in the early 1900s. (Humble brag: many silent film stars frequented Rancho Oso, including Charlie Chaplin! Rancho Oso features teepees, safari tents, covered wagons, and cozy cabins.)

Today, Santa Barbara remains a hot spot – but now its about the beautiful landscape, the magnificent sunsets and all the great things to do here in the “American Riviera!” Here are just five don’t miss things to do in SB:

  1. Visit Chumash Painted Cave Historic Park: At this small park outside of Santa Barbara, visitors can view actual cave paintings created by the Chumash Indians thousands of years ago using a palette created from earth pigments including charcoal and limonite. Located inside a cave in the Santa Ynez Mountains, the drawings are protected by a grate so viewing may be during daylight hours.

    Chumash_PaintedCave
    Chumash Painted Cave Historic Park outside of Santa Barbara.
  2. The Old Mission in Santa Barbara was founded in 1786 and is one of the longest, continuously operating missions in California. The church that currently stands is actually the fourth built here and was constructed between 1815 to 1820. Its classic Greco-Roman design is said to be taken from the style of the architect Vitruvius, whose Roman structures date to 27 BC. Several different tours of the Mission can be taken that include both self-guided and docent-guided – check out santabarbaramission.org for details.
  3. Bask in the beauty of the gardens of Lotusland – a 37-acre estate of the late opera singer Madame Ganna Walska that contains 25 distinct gardens open to the public. The gardens were designed to always have something in bloom year-round, but if you’re specifically interested in the lotuses, visit in July and August. LotusFest! 2020 is currently planned for June 28.

    Water Garden at Lotusland
  4. Does anyone remember the 2004 Oscar-nominated film Sideways about a guys’ road trip to Santa Barbara wine country? If you’re a fan of the film, or a just a fan of the wine, you can follow the itinerary of the film’s main characters by downloading “Sideways-The Map” from santabarbara.com. Or, you can just choose to take one of many wine tours offered in Santa Barbara that include a Cupcake and Wine tour (our favorite!), a Wine and Bike Tour, or the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Tour. Visit www.winetours-santabarbara.com for all the fun details.

    Wine tours are a popular choice across Santa Barbara vineyards, along with hiking trails along the Santa Ynez mountains.
  5. Get Out and Hike: the weather is almost always accommodating for a lovely day hike in Santa Barbara and planetware.com has very nicely put together a quick list of 10 Top-Rated hikes (www.planetware.com/california/santa-barbara-hiking-trails-us-ca-72.htm) for some ideas. Inspiration Point, while rocky and steep, is considered a moderate hike, and hikers say is worth the view. If you want a glimpse of the harbor seals at the Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary, consider hiking the flat trail at the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve. A pup-friendly trail would be Rattlesnake Trail. Shaded, thanks to the oaks and sycamore trees, the trail provides great views and is also popular with birders!
Western cabins at Rancho Oso in Santa Barbara, CA.

While working your way through this list of things to do in Santa Barbara, be sure to double up on fun by staying in a teepee, covered wagon, safari tent, or cozy cabin at Rancho Oso! You’ll also have the opportunity to do some horseback riding, right onsite.

Forest Bathing – No Water Required!

Forest Bathing is the latest way to go off grid and absorb the benefits of nature.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a boom in technology that plunged the average, everyday person into the digital world, resulting in what could be called screen-time addiction. During that time, the use of home computers, hand-held video games, and portable pocket-sized devices for our viewing and listening pleasures became the norm rather than the exception.

So, it’s no wonder that in the early 1980s, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries began to promote the practice of shinrin-yoku to encourage people to spend time in nature. Shinrin-yoku translates to “forest bathing,” which is fast becoming a popular way to go off grid and absorb the benefits of nature.  ­

Studies have shown plenty of positive health benefits of forest bathing. It reduces levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. It also has been proven to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, boost energy levels, and provide more sound sleep.  Plus, you don’t necessarily need to do anything strenuous – simply bathe in the natural surroundings and be present in the very moment!

Come stay with us and enjoy the nearby forests and take the plunge (no bathtub necessary) to see why forest bathing is making such a big splash these days.

The Deschutes National Forest is just minutes from the yurts and cabins at Bend-Sunriver. Bask in the beauty of the soaring trees, which include Douglas firs, Ponderosa pines, Western larch, and White pines. There are roughly 76 moderate trails in the 1.8 million acres that comprise the forest. Waterfalls, wildlife, and mountain views add to your bathing pleasure!

Safari Tents at Rancho Oso in Santa Barbara, CA.

If you’re planning a trip to Santa Barbara to stay in a teepee, tent, covered wagon, or cabin at Rancho Oso, you’ll be happy to know California’s Los Padres National Forest is conveniently less than 10 miles away and provides the perfect forest bathing venue. Coming in at approximately 1.9 million acres, Los Padres has over 1000 miles of trails and is home to magnificent coastal redwoods, pine and fir trees as well a variety of oak tree species, including Blue Oak and California Black Oak. Oh, and Pfeiffer Beach is also located within the forest so you can actually get wet while forest bathing here!

The Tuxbury Tiny House Village

The Tuxbury Tiny House Village in South Hampton, New Hampshire, has two nearby options for forest bathing: Cowden State Forest and Powwow River State Forest. While a short drive away, about an hour and a half to be exact, this puts you smack dab in the middle of the White Mountain Forest with plenty of hemlock, pines, and spruce trees to bathe in. Fun fact, the state of New Hampshire is the second most forested state in the US with roughly 81 percent of forest land, so everywhere you look, there’s an option to forest bathe!

Cabins at Tranquil Timbers in Sturgeon Bay, WI.

Take a trip to Wisconsin’s Door County and you’ll find yourself surrounded by forest lands, including Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands. A stay at Tranquil Timbers is a great way to get your daily dose of forest bathing. Baileys is home to spruce, cedar, birch, and hemlock trees as well as a bevy of birds including warblers and merlins who can add the soundtrack to bath time.

A Sunny Southern Cali Kind of Stay

A cozy cabin at Pio Pico, near San Diego.
A cozy cabin at Pio Pico, near San Diego.

Make your winter months as sunny as possible and head to southern California to explore the area. Daytime temperatures tend to hover around 68 degrees and the sun is out more than it’s not! There are places to make a home base while you visit the known and lesser known attractions in the Golden State.

Los Angeles: First, book a stay in a cozy cabin at Soledad Canyon and then get ready to check out the area that draws more than 48 million visitors each year.

Of course, many people flock to LA to see the stars of the human variety rather than the celestial kind. You may want to combine a hike in Runyon Canyon with your star-search efforts as this a is favorite spot for the exercise-minded celebrity. Another spot to see stars in their everyday life is The Grove, an LA shopping mecca and the adjacent Original Farmers Market. Whether you see the stars or not, these are all worthy expeditions while in Tinseltown.

Cabin interior at Soledad Canyon, near Los Angeles.
Cabin interior at Soledad Canyon, near Los Angeles.

Other LA attractions include the Griffith Observatory for celestial stargazing, the Santa Monica Pier, and Huntingon Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. And, if you want to feel like it’s winter in all the sunshine, visit Pershing Square’s Holiday Ice Rink, located in the Financial District of the city. The Square will also host a Winter Holiday Festival on December 7, complete with LA’s version of snow!

San Diego: Start by making a reservation to stay in a cabin or cottage at Pio Pico, which is a perfect location thanks to its proximity to San Diego proper. San Diego has beaches, the Pacific Ocean, museums, galleries, a world-class zoo, lots of history, and a boatload of outdoor fun to be had.

The San Diego Zoo consistently ranks as one of the top zoos in the world. With more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals, including gorillas, polar bears, and koala bears, this is definitely not your basic zoo. Visitors can enjoy a guided bus tour through the zoo or see it from above on the zoo’s Skyfari Aerial Tram.

Make a stop at the zoo as part of your San Diego Hop-on Hop-off Trolley tour which also makes stops at Old Town State Historic Park, which is considered the Jamestown of the Pacific; the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter and Balboa Park.

Santa Barbara: Choose from a cozy cabin, teepee, or covered wagon at Rancho Oso and then head out to explore this charming California town known for its architecture and history.

A safari tent at Rancho Oso, near Santa Barbara.
A safari tent at Rancho Oso, near Santa Barbara.

One of the neat things about Santa Barbara is its proximity to the Channel Islands National Park, an archipelago of five islands. A great way to explore the Park and the islands is through the Santa Barbara Adventure Company (www.sbadventureco.com). There are all kinds of adventures waiting on the Channel Islands including snorkeling, sea cave exploration, hiking and whale watching.

A great way to get to see the beautiful architecture of the city is to take one of the weekend walking tours, offered Saturday and Sunday, through the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (afsb.org) Tours begin at 10 a.m. and last approximately two hours.

And again, if you want to experience a bit more of a winter feeling in this sunny climate, don’t miss the “snow” events at the town’s Paseo Nuevo outdoor shopping center where “snow” fills the evening skies through December 31. There is also holiday entertainment including carolers, choirs, and Santa himself!

Spirits in the Night, or Day if you prefer!

If you’re looking for a spirited adventure this fall but haunted houses and ghost tours aren’t really your thing, consider seeking spirits of a different kind. We’re talking about the kind of spirits you can drink, and you don’t need complicated equipment to find them. Simply check out these distilleries below to find the kinds of spirits that will keep you in good spirits!

Trinity River Distillery, Fort Worth TX:  Housed in an historic landmark dating back to 1913, this distillery uses natural rainwater in their distilling process. Tours are just $10 per person and include samples of the distillery’s products which include Silver Star Vodka, Silver Star Whiskey and Silver Star Texas Honey Liquor. After the tour, enjoy some specialty drinks at the bar like the Silver Stargarita, the Texas Honey Mule, or the Toxic Whiskey. www.trinityriverdistillery.com

(Cozy cabins at Bay Landing are less than 50 miles from the distillery)

Cannon Beach Distillery, Cannon Beach, OR:  The spirits produced here are about as homegrown as you can get. Every liquor produced is done so on site – from fermentation to bottling. Considered an artisanal distillery, the batches are small and not mass produced so a trip to the tasting room is the only way you are likely to taste what they have to offer. Sadly, they are closing up shop within the year, but they are still open and plan to release four whiskeys before year-end. www.cannonbeachdistillery.com

(Cabins and yurts at Pacific City are about an hour from Cannon Beach)

Sound Spirits Distillery, Seattle, WA: Located under the Ballard Bridge in Seattle, Sound Spirits offers tours of the distillery which produces some unique liquor varieties including aquavit and herbal liqueurs, as well as gin and whiskey. www.drinksoundspirits.com

(Cabins and yurts at Tall Chief is about 35 minutes from the distillery)

Lost Spirits Distillery, Los Angeles, CA:  According to reviews, this is more than just a tour and tasting, and is instead akin to an adult version of the tour portrayed in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tours are $37 per person and reservations are required, but the experience is well worth it. A mix of science and spirits with a special “ride” to reach the tour are all part of the fun, not to mention the whiskey and rum tastings. www.lostspirits.net

Palm Springs Oasis
Colorful cottages at Palm Springs, less than two hours from Lost Spirits Distillery.

Goleta Red Distilling Company, Goleta, CA:  Rum is the spirit of choice here with three different varieties as well as a rum liqueur, but they also have gin and a “Fiesta” Agave Spirit, too! The tasting room is open Wednesdays through Sundays and you can also enjoy cocktails on the patio at this very welcome addition to the fun found in Santa Barbara. www.goletared.com

Rancho Oso
Cozy cabins, teepees, and covered wagons at Rancho Oso are less than 30 miles from Goleta Red Distilling Company.

Florida Distillery Trail, Various Locations:  Follow the Florida Distillery Trail which runs across and around the state offering roughly 15 distilleries to visit. These distilleries offer everything from rum to whiskey to moonshine. Florida Cane Distillery, in Tampa, offers not only tours, but also a Distillery After Dark option where you can mix your own signature cocktail or a 3-day Whiskey Workshop that offers insight to whiskey making (www.floridacane.com). In Sarasota, award-winning Siesta Key rum flows at the Drum Circle Distillery where tours are free and the tasting room is open seven days a week (www.siestakeyrum.com). Down in the Keys, enjoy a free tour at Key West First Legal Rum Distillery (keywestlegalrum.com) or visit (by appointment only) Key West Distilling which offers craft distilled rum, vodka, gin, and whiskey (www.keywestdistilling.com).

Tropical Palms
Colorful cottages from Tropical Palms, about one hour from Loggerhead Distillery along the Florida Distillery Trail near Orlando.

(Petite Retreats locations near the Tampa and Sarasota distilleries include Tropical Palms, Orlando, and Peace River while Sunshine Key is near the Key West locations)

Cider Sippin’ Spots

Cider Sippin’ Spots

When they say everything old is new again, they may very well be talking about cider. Did you know cider was America’s beverage of choice during Colonial times? In fact, the Mayflower possibly carried the first cider press to be used in America aboard the ship that also brought the Pilgrims to our shores. Of course, they couldn’t do anything with it until the apples were harvested from the first apple trees planted here after they first landed. Fast forward some 500 years, and cider is again very popular. To clarify, that’s hard cider versus soft cider. The difference here being that hard cider has an alcohol content while soft cider can be enjoyed by all ages! And, while Americans may not be drinking the 35 gallons of hard cider they apparently averaged annually during Colonial days, they are certainly taking it up once again, as evidenced by the popularity of cideries sprouting up across the country. To produce cider, according to ciderscene.com, there are four steps. Pick, press, punish, and produce. Again, a differentiation is required. The apples used for cider are typically not the same apples that you would eat or cook with. Cider apples tend to be dryer and less sweet. The four-step result is a crisp, refreshing alternative to other spirits, including beer and wine. Here are some cideries to check out this fall season:

Bishop Cider (Dallas, Texas):  Gluten-free and vegan friendly, the people behind Bishop Cider began making their own cider at home because they felt the commercially available cider in Texas was “trash” because it was too sweet. Started in 2014, Bishop Cider Co. now offers a variety of ciders and has a tasting room that typically offers six different ciders on tap. For more information, and to check out the unique Cidercade, visit www.bishopcider.com.

Bay Landing • Bridgeport, TX
Bay Landing • Bridgeport, TX

(Nearest Petite Retreat option is Bay Landing in Bridgeport, about 80 miles away)

Cider Bite (Portland, Oregon): Another cidery that grew from the idea that there was just no place to get good cider, the Cider Bite bills itself as a Cider House and focuses not only on making exceptional cider, but also on the history and production of cider. In fact, founder Jeff Hanneson’s great-grandfather was a cider-maker. Offering 32 ciders on tap, cider flights, and nibbles, the Cider Bite is the place to get your cider cravings satisfied. Visit www.ciderbite.com for more information.

Mt Hood • Welches, OR
Mt Hood • Welches, OR

 (Nearest Petite Retreat option is Mt. Hood in Welches, about 36 miles away)

Santa Barbara Cider Company (Santa Barbara, California): Come visit and see what’s on tap for the day as they offer 12 rotating taps of their delicious cider varieties which may include a coffee-based cider, a tea-infused cider, or one of several fruit ciders. All ciders are gluten-free and the cider makers say the majority of the ingredients they use can be found in your own kitchen cabinets, like cinnamon and brown sugar. They do have a tasting room and food trucks and other food providers are on hand during the weekends for nourishment while enjoying the cider offerings. For more information, visit www.sbcider.com.

Rancho Oso • Santa Barbara, CA
Rancho Oso • Santa Barbara, CA

 (Nearest Petite Retreat option is Rancho Oso, about 30 miles away)

Island Orchard Cider (Ellison Bay, Wisconsin): Visit the Tasting Room and Cider Pub in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin, where you can see the cider making process as well as enjoy the flavors of Island Orchard. Visit www.islandorchardcider.com for more information.

(Nearest Petite Retreat option is Tranquil Timbers in Sturgeon Bay, about 36 miles away)

Oh, Hello, Ojai!

Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara County, CAIf someone was tasked with writing about the Top Ten things to do in Ojai, California, let’s hope they have a diligent (or understanding) editor….because you can’t stop at 10. This beautiful valley city, located about 90 miles north of LA and just 30 miles from Santa Barbara, is a bundle of charm, rolled up in a mix of culture and arts and displayed in a setting so scenic and serene, your Instagram posts will be nonstop!

So, we won’t stop at 10 or 15, but just show you some highlights to send you on your way to discover all there is to see and do in Ojai.

The first thing you will notice is the surrounding countryside. There are citrus groves, vineyards, and the Los Padres National Forest. Filled with wildflowers, wildlife, hiking and biking trails and beaches, Los Padres is a wonderland for wanderers. You can also choose to fish, horseback ride or enjoy a lazy picnic with nature as a side dish!

Enjoy a tour of an olive grove at the Ojai Olive Oil Company (www.ojaioliveoil.com) or sample some of the wines at the various wineries located in and around Ojai (visit www.ojaivisitors.com for a listing of wineries). If your visit to Ojai begins after June 1, definitely stop by Frog Creek Farm (www.frogcreekfarmojai.com) to enjoy the lavender and also mark your calendar for the Ojai Valley Lavender Festival, scheduled for Saturday, June 29, at Libbey Park.

In town, you want to make sure you visit the Ojai Certified Farmers Market for locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as meats and seafood, honey, jams, soaps, and candles. The Market is open every Sunday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For a list of fruits and veggies in season, visit www.ojaicertifiedfarmersmarket.com.

Also, you can’t miss Libbey Park, which is located in the center of the town and contains walking paths, a fountain, a bandstand, Libbey Bowl, a renowned concert venue, and of course tennis courts as it plays host annually to the oldest amateur tennis tournament in the US, “the Ojai,” in late April. The park will also host Art in the Park, an annual event since 1977, allowing local artists the opportunity to showcase and sell their work. This year’s event is scheduled for May 25.  Just one week later on June 1, the park hosts the 2019 Ojai Blues Fest, followed by the Ojai Musical Festival, a four-day event featuring classical music that will run June 6-9.

Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort, Santa Barbara, CA

There are also plenty of dining options from gourmet to farm-to-table and shopping possibilities include clothing boutiques, antiques, jewelry stores, and trinket shops, art galleries and of course Bart’s Books. Bart’s is the largest independently owned and operated indoor/outdoor bookstore in the US. The store’s collection of more than 1 million books overflows to freestanding bookcases outside the store, which are paid for by customers on the honor system! Inside, visitors will also find rare, first editions and specialty art books.

And, when your perfect day, or days, in Ojai are coming to a close, don’t miss the “pink” sunset where, thanks to a combination of the mountains, the valley, the sun’s location, etc., the sky takes on a pink glow at dusk that can only be described as indescribable!

Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort, Santa Barbara, CA

If you want to make your own To-Do in Ojai list, consider a stay at Rancho Oso, in Santa Barbara and book one our unique Petite Retreats. Check out www.PetiteRetreats.com to see what options are available to make your home base while exploring nearby Ojai.

Fall for Santa Barbara

There’s no doubt about it – any time of year is a great time to visit Santa Barbara. Thanks to its mild climate that boasts a steady mid-70s year-round and the constants of the Santa Ynez Mountains as a backdrop, stunning Pacific Ocean views, and the rich history of this charming town, a visit to Santa Barbara is always a good choice.
But come fall, when the summer crowds have gone, Santa Barbara is still a classic beach town with plenty of events dotting the calendar. Book a stay with us at Rancho Oso RV Resort and mark your calendar for these fun-filled fall events.

Rancho Oso RV Resort | Santa Barbara, CA
Rancho Oso RV Resort | Santa Barbara, CA

On Saturday, September 29, Santa Barbara hosts the second annual California Brew & BBQ Festival! This event features over 50 breweries, cideries, and wineries at an oceanfront venue complete with live music and delicious food. BBQ highlights include a BBQ competition and an appearance by World Champion Pitmaster, Doug Scheiding. Admission includes unlimited tastings and a souvenir tasting glass. Designated drivers can obtain reduced admission tickets. Admission is restricted to those 21 years and older. For more information visit californiabrewfestival.com.

Learn all about the history and architecture of Santa Barbara with an easy walking tour. Every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., you can enjoy a guided tour of the city led by docents of Santa Barbara’s Architectural Foundation. Learn all about the rich architectural history of Santa Barbara and all its amazing architectural detail (think wrought iron, stonework, arched entries and more). Visit afsb.org for more information.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse in Downtown Santa Barbara. Photo courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara by Blake Bronstad.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse in Downtown Santa Barbara. Photo courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara by Blake Bronstad.

Foodies should make note of two major events happening this fall in Santa Barbara – the Harbor & Seafood Festival, scheduled for October 13, and the Santa Barbara Chowder Festival, set for October 21. The Harbor and Seafood Festival is all things seafood including lobster, oysters, crab, and albacore with a nod to sustainable harvest. Admission is free and in addition to the seafood, there are a variety of entertaining activities for both adults and children. The Chowder Festival is a friendly competition for the bragging rights of the best chowder. Proceeds benefit the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara and event-goers can also enjoy tastings from area wineries, live music, and of course, chowder!

Rancho Oso RV Resort | Santa Barbara, CA
Rancho Oso RV Resort | Santa Barbara, CA

Make Rancho Oso RV Resort your home base as you enjoy America’s Riviera, aka Santa Barbara, and take it one step further by booking one of the resort’s cozy cabins or one-of-a-kind covered wagon. The resort’s location is another plus to a Santa Barbara stay – Rancho Oso is bordered by the Los Padres National Forest and the Santa Ynez River and offers guided horseback riding and hiking adventures onsite.