Where we’re at: I’m recapping my summer of 2018, which included this trip to California in July.
I have a confession to make: after a few days in Santa Barbara, Ian and I had started musing that the dog friendly guide I was there to research would be the easiest post I’d ever had to write. How to travel with your dog in Santa Barbara? “Go to Santa Barbara,” would be the entirety of my first ever four word post, we joked.
Of course, I did decide to flesh things out a bit more. But it’s true that Santa Barbara is the most pet-friendly destination I’ve ever personally traveled to — when we’d stand in the doorway with world’s cutest cocker spaniel Tucker, asking if we could come in, people looked at us like we must be from out of town. Of course we could come in.
If you’re new around here and wondering, wait, where did that insanely adorable pup come from? Here’s the scoop — Tucker was my dog from high school (which means yes, ahem, he is getting up in years.) While my parents split custody of him for years so that I could spend time with him whenever I was in the USA, when my dad moved permanently out to LA, it was only right for his four legged best friend to go with. I of course get to LA whenever I can to see both dad and dog, and try to make it a point to dognap Tuck whenever possible to a little adventure.
Since moving out West, Tucker’s come with me to Palm Springs, San Diego, and now Santa Barbara — we also had a trip to Big Bear planned this past winter that we postponed, but I can’t wait to take him all over California eventually. Honestly though, it’s going to be hard for any destination to top Santa Barbara in terms of rolling out the rover red carpet.
From a bustling dog beach to wag-inducing wineries to hotels with dog beds on loan, Tucker gave Santa Barbara two paws up.
Dog Friendly Santa Barbara Hotels
The Kimpton Goodland
I’ve been dying to stay at the Kimpton Goodland since the first moment I laid eyes on its quirky California aesthetic. While it’s a short drive outside central Santa Barbara in neighboring Goleta, my dad had lent us a convertible and so suddenly a bit of drive became a perk.
With dog treats and a water bowl right from check-in, I knew this would be a breezy stay. Our room came stocked with a pet bed, pet bowls, and a welcome treat from the hotel. And we never once got side-eye while hanging in the communal spaces — the only place dogs aren’t allowed is the pool. Stay tuned for a full Hotel Crush feature on this beachy, laid back and charming hotel.
Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara
We also considered staying downtown at The Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara. I’m a huge fan of the brand and needless to say, love that they allow pets! If you want to ditch your car for the weekend, this is your best bet. There is a fee of $40 per stay and they do have a weight limit of fifty-five pounds, a two pet maximum per room and pets must not be left alone in guest rooms. I’d love to check it out on a return trip.
Dog Friendly Santa Barbara Activities
Douglas Family Preserve Walking Trail
The dog-friendly Douglas Family Preserve was our very first stop on our way into Santa Barbara, and it was so nice to get out and let Tucker run around a bit off-leash after the drive from Los Angeles (which is, in theory at least, ninety minutes — traffic may have other ideas). There are really nicely sign-posted trails indicating which bits of the preserve are off-leash, but please be careful — there are some super steep cliffs that you’ll need to keep a watchful eye around if your pup is the curious type.
We were there on a super foggy day, but on a clear one, the views to the beaches below would be breathtaking. If you’re lucky, you might see hang-gliders launching themselves below.
Arroyo Burro Dog Beach
Called Hendry’s Beach by locals, Arroyo Burro Dog Beach is hands down one of the coolest dog beaches we’ve been to. With the dramatic cliffs behind you and the salty ocean in front of you, it’s a beach paradise for active pups. Well sign-posted off-leash areas and self-serve dog wash stations near the parking lot were great perks, but really the sheer number of fellow dogs was what made it so fun. They were truly everywhere!
The only bummer? The cool waterfront restaurant there is essentially the only place we found in all of Santa Barbara that doesn’t allow dogs.
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
We were pleasantly surprised to learn that The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is open to leashed dogs. How cool and unexpected is that? The gardens were founded in 1926 and cover a whopping 78 acres. We did the full loop of over a mile, taking in various gardens dedicated to native California plants, and then finished with the Island View Trail, which boasted views sweeping all the way from the Santa Ynez Mountains to the Santa Barbara Channel Islands.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Santa Barbara in August, keep your eyes peeled for the annual Trails ‘n’ Tails event, in honor of National Dog Day.
Craving more? Here’s a full list of off leash area in country dog parks, beaches, and trails.
Dog Friendly Santa Barbara Wineries
When I fist imagined this trip in my mind, I pictured us frolicking through rural vineyards. Turns out, visiting those involves a lot of driving. Luckily, you really don’t need to go far — there are now twenty-eight wineries on the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. The tasting rooms in downtown Santa Barbara are convenient and unique to visit, each with their own flavor. And there’s nothing stuffy about it — these tasting rooms are modern, fun, and playful.
We mostly stuck to wineries in the entertainingly named “Funk Zone,” or nearby. Tastings were generally $10-20, and Ian and I split them since we were hitting so many (plus he’s more into reds, I’m more into whites, so it worked out.) Here were a few of our favorites, all of which welcomed dogs with open arms.
We popped into Carr Winery before dinner one night, and loved the ambiance of the hangar-like space, filled with wine barrels and wooden surfboards mounted on the walls. Dogs are warmly welcomed on the patio and in the tasting room alike.
For the clever bottle designs, the funky interiors, and the calendar bursting with arts and crafts events, I could tell Municipal Winemakers would be my local spot if I were a Santa Barbara resident. Grab a board game and settle in for an afternoon of sipping wine with your furry best friend at your feet.
The Valley Project
The epic hand-drawn map of the county’s wine regions is reason enough to stop at The Valley Project for a tasting. The design nerd in me swooned, while the wine lover sipped away, and the dog person glowed at having her pup nearby.
Ian generously humored me with a stop at Area 5.1 Winery, a theme I was absolutely tickled by (I definitely see a road trip out to the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada in my future someday.) They really went full force on the alien theme, and we all — Tucker included, as you can see — loved it.
Fox Wine Co.
Located inside Waterline, a funky warehouse space, Fox Wine Co. gets to call Topa Topa Brewery, The Guilded Table boutique, Lama Dog Tap Room and The Nook Eatery neighbors. I loved this setup, which allowed me to peruse some Santa Barbara souvenirs, wine glass in hand, while Ian and Tucker held down the fort at the bar.
Deep Sea Tasting Room
Certainly the most unique tasting room we visited was Deep Sea, located over the water on Stearns Wharf. I wasn’t sure which I loved more — the chic, recently renovated interiors or the views out on the deck.
Ian had actually packed a surprise for Tucker, a bottle of doggie champagne — Canine Pawrier, to be exact — that the staff at Deep Sea enthusiastically put in a bowl for us. Can’t leave all the wine tasting to the humans, right?
Our final winery of the trip was Potek, a sleek winery with a lovely outdoor deck, and a brewery and a restaurant in the same facility.
Need more ideas? Check out Visit Santa Barbara’s guide to even more wag friendly wineries!
Dog Friendly Santa Barbara Boutiques
Forget an essential? Santa Barbara’s got you covered. While we didn’t really need anything, I couldn’t resist popping into George, a cute little dog boutique on the outskirts of Santa Barbara. The wine bottle-shaped squeaky toys were really what left me swooning.
Dog Friendly Santa Barbara Restaurants
Ian’s one major Santa Barbara request was dinner at Bibi Ji, a modern and fun twist on typical Indian fare. At first glance, I didn’t expect it to be dog friendly, but they were more than thrilled to seat us on the patio with our four legged friend. I love that in Santa Barbara, we could have a really similar trip to the one we’d have anyway, but with Tucker along — which just makes anything better.
If you love Indian food, consider the chef’s tasting menu, which concludes with a rainbow of curries and allows you to sample much of the menu’s specialities. While you’re enjoying dessert, reflect on this sweetness — Bibi Ji, an Indian term of endearment for women, pays tribute to the formative women in the founder’s lives.
We stopped for a delicious lunch at Lucky Penny, conveniently located in the midst of the winery-heavy Funk Zone. With outdoor picnic-bench-style seating, dogs are a regular sight underfoot. They specialize in wood-fired pizza, salads and sandwiches, which we washed down with a frosé.
With a name like that, how could we resist bringing Tucker? Dogs are welcome on the patio at Lama Dog Tap Room +
Bottle Shop, where food is prepared in a converted shipping container. After so much wine, it was refreshing to switch gears for a meal and enjoy a beer and cider.
Once again, Convivo was a place I’d never expect to be able to bring a dog — fine California dining at its best. But the Golden State does things differently. Located at the Santa Barbara Inn, Convivo combines Italian and Mediterranean influences and local ingredients. We sat on the outdoor terrace, where gas lanterns and a fireplace kept us cozy against the Pacific Ocean breezes. This was absolutely a meal to remember — just check out that charred avocado-turned-sauce bowl!
We grabbed a quick breakfast one morning at Backyard Bowls, which has a few locations in Santa Barbara. Specializing in yummy acai creations, Tucker was happy to join us at the outdoor seating so we could all start our morning together.
These trips are just such precious memories for me. I can’t wait for my next dog friendly adventure.
Have you been to Santa Barbara? Any tips for my next trip — or ideas for future dog friendly destinations?