Posted August 17, 2009 by Jamie Moore
Add an educational element to your Santa Barbara vacation. Behind the doors of this seaside town's funky boutiques and upscale restaurants is a bevy of fun and affordable classes. Check out a tea-sipping knitter's circle, educate your palate at an award-winning restaurant, and unwind at a cozy inn by the water.
Loop & Leaf: Knit, purl, and sip the afternoon away at the Loop & Leaf. At this yarn and tea shop, knitting and crocheting workshops are accompanied by cups of delicately blended loose-leaf teas. Choose from 50 colors of novelty and mill yarns, grab a mug of harmony herb tea, then head to Knit 101 to make a set of handwarmers (or whatever's on the schedule when you visit.) For something more in-depth, pour a cup of marvelous mango black tea and pop into the Advanced Sock Series or another of the more challenging classes. Of course, you can also always just bring yourself and your knitting project to a Tuesday evening knitters' circle.
Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant: This Zagat-rated restaurant serves up artisan cheese plates, house-made spinach gnocchi, chocolate pizza, and popular weekly wine workshops. For example, at Understanding Your Palate, wine specialists teach your taste buds to distinguish between cherries and spice in Pinot Noir and tropical fruit flavors in Chardonnay. Every Wednesday evening a different local winemaker opens five different vintages for a one-of-a-kind tasting. Both workshops are paired with discounts on featured wines and hors d'oeuvres, all for $15 per person.
Inn by the Harbor: After all that learning, rejuvenate at this cozy inn with all the ingredients for a relaxing stay. Tastefully decorated rooms are a short stroll from beaches and restaurants. Or stay in, meandering through the hotel's tropical gardens, swimming in the heated pool, and indulging in afternoon wine and cheese or evening milk and cookies. Rates start at $133 per night and depend on the season.
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(Photo: Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau & Film Commission)