Friday, November 28, 2008

Warm Spots in Santa Barbara

Coming from Hawaii, I had the idea when I moved to Santa Barbara that the place to go to warm up on a cold day is the beach. One can lay in the sun’s rays, feel the warm temperate ocean breeze tickle one’s skin, and forget about the rain clouds a mile away gathering over the mountains. It took me a while to realize that in Santa Barbara the reverse is true! The chilliest place to be is the coast and nothing could be less inviting than the ocean breeze on a winter day (or a foggy summer day for that matter)! So, I searched and searched for warm, balmy spots in Santa Barbara and here is what I found:

Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens

When everywhere else is covered in a thick blanket of fog, the meadows here are bathed in sun. Go for a short walk, or choose a long hike. There is a stream, an oak-sycamore woodland, a redwood forest, and meadows filled with flowers. It’s a pity that the garden costs $8 to enter.

Stow Grove Park
The grassy lawn here is often covered in sun even while the rest of Goleta is foggy. When a cold wind is blowing, one can lay on a blanket in the lee of a little hill and warm up. The grove of redwoods is a pretty place to take photos. Children will enjoy the playground, which has a good selection of things on which to hang, climb, and swing.

Santa Claus Lane Beach

This is one of the warmest beaches in the Santa Barbara area. The opposite could be said for pretty, yet chilly, Goleta Beach Park. On mid-winter days, my husband and I dig a slight dent in the sand, lay in it, and put a blanket over us. We listen to the roar of the sea from our warm cocoon. This is as close to a day at the beach in Hawaii as you’ll get during winter in Santa Barbara- treat yourself to it!

East Beach Near Milpas Street

While most of East Beach has a chilly breeze on winter days, one little pocket is quite warm- the beach near the parking lot across from where Milpas Street begins. This beach has clean golden sand with no oily patches. The open, sunny feel to this beach cheers the spirit. Parking is $2 by the honor system, or you can park a little closer to the pier on Cabrillo Street for free.

Alice Keck Park
This park is a tropical wonderland. There is a large pond full of waterlilies and ducks, and people gather for picnics on the lush grassy hills next to it. One can meander past trees and flowers of every kind. For some reason, this little spot is very sheltered and warm. In summer it can be too hot. But in winter it’s a delight!

Santa Ynez River

If you want a great swim, avoid the frosty coastline and head for the mountains on Highway 154. Just over the top of the mountains, to your right you’ll find Paradise Road. Take it and there are a number of parks on the left where one can gain access to the Santa Ynez river. The water itself is cold but the air is so warm and lovely that you’ll be up for a dip. If you wimp out, you’ll still enjoy the tranquility of the river. Here you can hear the birds and the quiet bubble of the river as it flows downstream. My son loves to skip rocks across the surface. People gather here in the summer and spring with blow-up rafts and floats to enjoy a family swim.

Red Rock

You’re in for a treat if you make the effort to go to Red Rock. Driving the road is not possible after a rain so make sure to go when the waters aren’t high. Once you get to the end, there is still a walk to the large lagoon. In the summer, the water is warm enough- and the air very hot- for a long swim. Sometimes it’s too crowded, with students performing horribly hair-raising jumps from the rocks, but other times I’ve been there with my husband and we’ve had it to ourselves. Then it feels like you are far, far away from civilization at a “blue lagoon.”

Lizard’s Mouth
Anytime you head up the mountains, you can usually head out of the cold fog- no money-back guarantees on that though! Lizards’s mouth is a sunny spot on top of the world, with large boulders, and views from Santa Barbara to Goleta! Little “caves” make nice places for children to play imaginative games. We have brought a picnic up here many times and had a great afternoon- my husband even proposed to me here!

Steven’s Park

Warm and sheltered, this small park has a grassy lawn, a playground for toddlers, a bridge, and a hiking path. What I love about it is that one can lay on the lawn, and be surrounded by slopes covered in trees on all sides. It is a secluded little spot without the slightest sound of cars. Because it is tucked back towards thw mountains, it is sunny, and offers a peaceful, bright Sunday afternoon.

Manning Park

Gorgeously lush, Manning Park is set in a neighborhood in Montecito, surrounded by mansions. It is a large park with several different sections to discover. At the end of the road, past one parking lot, there is a second parking lot. The playground adjacent to it is old, but the sloping lawn is a great place to set out a big comforter and lay in the sun guessing shapes in the clouds. Though the trees above may show signs of a windy day, on the grass it is perfectly still and warm, because one is surrounded by trees and hedges. On the other side of the parking lot is a valley of grassy lawns and pine trees. It’s like a setting for a fairytale!

Wishing you a warm and balmy winter’s day!!!

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