The city's working-class heart has rewards of its own
Literally and figuratively, Milpas Street is on the far side of town from Santa Barbara's upscale State Street shopping neighborhood. On Milpas, you'll find useful things for everyday people ― from the famed fresh tamales at La Super-Rica to old vinyl records.
The street runs from the Santa Barbara Bowl amphitheater through a largely Latino neighborhood and ends at a wide, white beach bordered by swaying palms.
Milpas Street is on Santa Barbara's east side. From U.S. 101, take the Milpas Street exit.
What to do
East Beach: Winter temperatures in the mid-60s are perfect for biking along the beach's paved path. Milpas Street at Cabrillo Boulevard; parking is adjacent.
American Pie Records: A "Vast Vault o' Vinyl" with 60,000 records, mainly '50s and '60s LPs, including a rare $1,250 Platters original. Info: Mon-Sat; 614 N. Milpas; 805/965-2161.
Centro Musical de Santa Barbara: Warmhearted Maria Perez has served the neighborhood for 25 years with "a little of everything," from cowboy hats to comic books to saints holy cards for Sunday Mass. Info: 514 N. Milpas; 805/962-2785.
Steven Handelman Studios: Ornamental iron lighting, fireplace screens, and home accessories. Info: Mon-Sat; 716 N. Milpas; 805/962-5119.
Tri-County Produce: Open-front warehouse offering local produce and staples (including more than 20 types of granola). Info: 335 S. Milpas; 805/965-4558.
The Habit Burger Grill: Hit this popular joint and indulge in its addicting Charburger ― along with a milkshake and onion rings. Info: 216 S. Milpas; 805/962-7472.
La Super-Rica Taquería: The taco shack usually has a line outside, so come early. Maria Perez of Centro Musical recommends number 16: the Super-Rica Especial, with poblano chiles, cheese, and marinated pork, chicken, or beef, served on corn tortillas. Info: $; Thu-Tue; 622 N. Milpas; 805/963-4940.
Well located directly across from East Beach, Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort (360 rooms from $225; 805/564-4333) is a large Mediterranean-style hotel set among the palm trees. The red tile roof, gushing fountains, and arched walkways are all very Santa Barbara. There are also tennis courts and a heated pool.
For families planning to stretch out a vacation in Santa Barbara to a week or more, Villa Elegante Vacation Rentals (from $1,600 per week; 805/565-4459) are a great bet. Spotless 2- and 3-bedroom apartments are in a quiet location just off Milpas, one block from the beach. Built in 1997, the apartments are in a classic Mediterranean style and boast full kitchens and fireplaces.