24 Hours in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, just an hour and a half drive north of Los Angeles, is a picturesque beach town with incredible character, history, and old-world charm.  It is glamorous, quaint, classic, quirky, and everything in between…and did I mention beautiful?  Even though the city is just a few hours away from home, it took me twenty-five years to really experience it, and I am so glad that I did!

Getting There

Our weekend started with an easy train ride from San Diego to Santa Barbara – a 4-hour journey.  It was a stress-free way of traveling without worrying about traffic or weather.

Santa Barbara Train

Where to Stay

We stayed at The Four Seasons Resort at the Biltmore and loved it.  It is beautiful, grand, luxurious, and has an air of old-Hollywood charm about it.  It is across the street from Butterfly beach, and as such has incredible ocean views, with beautifully landscaped grounds.

Four Seasons Santa Barbara

If we were to do it over again, we would have preferred to stay at the Belmond El Encanto.  The Four Seasons is located on the south side of town, about a 15 minute drive away from the shopping streets, great restaurants, and main activities that Santa Barbara has to offer.  It is relaxing and pleasant in part because it feels a bit more isolated – but it is not quite as convenient when you don’t have a car!  Belmond El Encanto is a short walk away from shopping, restaurants, and the Santa Barbara Mission – but interesting enough feels much more remote given its location on the hill overlooking the city.  The hotel itself is “Spanish Colonial Revival meets Craftsman” – and is absolutely breathtaking.

Where to Eat

For breakfast, a trip to Backyard Bowls is a must.  Backyard Bowls is a healthy breakfast chain serving a variety of Acai and Pitaya bowls, and they do not disappoint!  The restaurant itself does not have the best ambiance – it reminds me of a Jamba Juice – but it is just a short walk away from the beach (and Stearns Wharf), a great place to take your food to go with a blanket for a picnic!  Another great breakfast spot is Belmond El Encanto.  Eat on the outdoor patio overlooking the coast for one of the most beautiful breakfasts in the city (photo below)!

El Encanto

For lunch, we thoroughly enjoyed Bella Vista at the Four Seasons.  It’s pricey – but a beautiful venue overlooking Butterfly Beach with a fantastic appetizer menu.  A must-try is the sweet potato fries – they were incredible!  C’est Cheese is another great lunch option.  Part cheese shop, part restaurant, you will find every type of comfort food here!  Be wary of the cheese and charcuterie platter though – we were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t pick which cheeses we wanted to try (their board is a pre-set board) when there were so many that looked delicious!

For dinner, we highly recommend Bouchon on West Victoria Street.  It’s a cozy, cute restaurant – and has been voted one of the most romantic restaurants in the country!  There are plenty of great menu options – from fish to steak to yummy salads.

No vacation review would be complete without a thorough directory of the city’s best sweets and treats!  If you are a coffee lover, then Handlebar Coffee is a must try.

McConnell’s Ice Cream is headquartered in Santa Barbara – and their ice cream shop on State Street does not disappoint!

McConnells

Ice Cream

Lastly, the Patisserie, also on State Street, is a gluten-free treat sanctuary.  I was overwhelmed by the amount of delicious options on display here – from gluten free cookie dough cheesecake to lemon bars and more!

Patisserie

What to Do

During our short time in Santa Barbara, we loved exploring the great shops and restaurants on State Street.  It’s a high-end shopping area with GREAT window shopping and is incredibly pedestrian-friendly!  We also loved the “Red Tile Walking Tour” (link here) as it gave us the opportunity to see some of Santa Barbara’s historically significant sites.  The Santa Barbara Mission is a must-see – and in large part because of the incredible views, walking paths, and trails surrounding it!  We enjoyed walking from State Street to the Mission and to Belmond El Encanto.  It was a challenging hike (largely uphill) but with gorgeous views and quiet streets.

Red Tile Walking Tour

If you are looking for souvenirs, check out the Santa Barbara Souvenir Company!  It’s a little way off the beaten path from the center of town – but well worth it for unique gifts, cards, ornaments, etc.

And last but not least, you cannot miss Butterfly Beach.  It is a beautiful snapshot of the California coast – and was the perfect way of ending our weekend trip in Santa Barbara.

Beach



Spaces We Love: TapHunter’s Swoon-Worthy San Diego HQ

taphunter-san-diego-office-headquarters

It is only fitting that TapHunter, one of San Diego’s most notable tech companies, has one of the coolest offices in the mecca for live-work-play, Downtown San Diego. TapHunter’s office is a modern, lofty, bright and creative collaboration hub for the company’s growing team of craft beer and coding enthusiasts. In the words of their leaders, “Our team is part hardworking beer connoisseurs, part innovative technologists and hard-core hunters that support local businesses and don’t settle for supporting common denominators and crappy ingredients.” Does it get much better than that?

Read more at hughesmarino.com!



Spaces We Love: Quicken Loans

quicken-loans-detroit-headquarters

When most people think of Quicken Loans, they think finance, mortgages, and credit scores. And if they tried to picture what Quicken Loans’ office space should look like, they probably think of traditional private offices, dropped ceilings, and building standard carpet.

Read more at hughesmarino.com!



Family Feud No More

star-hughes-gorup-tips-on-joining-family-business

Making Your Family Business Into a Competitive Advantage

I was a pretty good girl from the start. I got straight A’s in school. I went to bed early. I never went to a party or had a sip of alcohol. I refused to wear make-up until I was sixteen. My best friends were and still are my family, and there was no one else I would have rather spent time with growing up (that hasn’t changed either!)

Read more at hughesmarino.com!



At Work for the Holidays: A Guide to Holiday Décor in the Office

office-guide-to-holiday-decor

It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is just around the corner! Sometimes it can be hard to get into the festive spirit during what many working professionals find to be their busiest time of year. Instead of spending your days by the fireplace admiring your beautiful decor, you’re facing a computer and maybe a holiday themed screensaver if you’re lucky! I like to be reminded of just how special this time of year is, even when I’m at work, and fortunately my employer agrees! Here is every company’s guide to holiday décor in the workplace.

Read more at hughesmarino.com!



24 Hours on Catalina Island

Catalina is the ultimate getaway for anyone who lives in Southern California.  A quick ferry ride away, Catalina is an enchanting retreat with amazing outdoor activities, the best candy shop in the world, and a whole lot of charm.

Catalina - Avalon Harbor

When to Go

My husband and I visited Catalina in the off-season – in January – and weren’t quite sure what to expect.  Like most California winters, we were met with 70 degree and sunny weather – the perfect hiking weather.  The warmer months of the year are great for water activities (snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, etc.) – though we were told to expect bigger crowds during the summer season.

How to Get There

The Catalina Express ferry leaves out of Long Beach, San Padre, and Dana Point.  For those who experience sea sickness like I do, or are afraid of deep water like I am, fear not!  It is a short and painless ride.  If I can do it, so can you!

Where to Stay

Snug Harbor Inn is the best bed and breakfast on the island.  It’s in the heart of Avalon with the picturesque view of Avalon Harbor that all Catalina goers hope for – and it’s as high-end of a bed and breakfast as any five-star hotel.  We stayed in the San Nicholas room which overlooked the harbor.  It was beautiful, cozy, and had a fireplace – what more could we hope for?  The inn’s staff brought breakfast to our bedroom, and we also enjoyed afternoon snacks (complimentary).

What to Do

The Hermit Gulch hike is a must.  The hike itself is about 4 miles long – but if you walk to the trailhead from Avalon (and back), it ends up being a total of about 7 ½ miles.  Walk from Avalon to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, and you’ll see the trailhead from there!  It’s a tough hike with a lot of uphill climbing, but the views are breathtaking and absolutely worth it.

Hermit Gulch

Hermit Gulch View

The Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour is also a must-do for those adventure lovers!  It’s extremely safe, gets your heart racing, and allows you to experience some of the best views on the island.  There are five zip lines on the tour, for a total of about ¾ mile of travel, reaching speeds up to 40 miles per hour!

Zip Line

Where to Eat

Our favorite restaurants on the island are Steve’s Steakhouse and Bluewater Grill.  Steve’s Steakhouse is known for, well, great steaks.   It has a diverse menu and an old-world charm with its arched windows and romantic ambiance.  Bluewater Grill has some of the highest quality seafood I’ve tasted – and it’s setting is as classic Catalina as you could imagine!  The pastel blue-painted wood building sits over the water in the town’s historic “waterfront terminal building.”

Where to Indulge

Lloyd’s of Avalon is arguably the best candy shop…ever.  Their homemade fudge and saltwater taffy are to die for.  We frequented Lloyd’s about ten times during our short weekend stay in Catalina – so for anyone with a sweet tooth, you’re in for a treat (literally)!

Catalina

Enjoy!



Spaces We Love: Funny or Die’s Fabulous and FUN Headquarters

Funny-or-Die-west-hollywood-california-office-conference-table

It’s no surprise that a company co-founded by some of Hollywood’s brightest (and funniest) creative minds has one of its most fun and creative office spaces too! Described by Fast Company as “funhouse chic,” Funny or Die’s West Hollywood office is a start-up’s dream office.

Read more at hughesmarino.com!

 



Holidays on a Budget: The Working Woman’s Guide to Gifting, Dining and Memory-Making without Over-Spending

Holidays-on-a-Budget

The holidays are already just around the corner: parties, gift exchanges, and dinners with friends you’ve been meaning to see all year mark your calendar, making for a busy — and fulfilling — time!  But it can wreak havoc on your finances if you’re on a budget (or like me, in the throes of a home remodel!).  However, regardless of how lean your disposable income may be during this time of year, you can still have a great time – so here’s how to survive the coming holiday weeks, without breaking the bank.

Continue reading at SharpHeels.com!

 



Three Books Every Woman Must Read This Month

As the temperature cools down and the days get shorter, there are few things that sound more appealing to me than curling up by the fire in my comfiest sweat pants with a good book in hand. Fortunately, there has been a surplus of fun, interesting, and inspiring books to satisfy my cozy dreams! This month’s must-read books are:

Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me?

I love Mindy Kaling. I love her style, her sense of humor, her sass, and everything that she’s created. Her newest book, Why Not Me?, is as hilarious as her hit TV show, The Mindy Project, and as inspiring as her incredible rise to success in one of the toughest industries out there. Mindy shares her life with the readers through a series of short stories, funny experiences that you can only classify as “learning moments,” and great life lessons presented in a relatable, heartfelt, and honest tone. It couldn’t be more refreshing. Be prepared to hear about her dating history, tips for confidence, and the day-to-day life of one of Hollywood’s funniest ladies!

Note: If you listen to the audio book, you’re in for a treat! Mindy herself narrates it.

The Confidence Code By Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Confidence Code

The Confidence Code is what I would describe as the scientific version of Mindy Kaling’s Why Note Me?. It takes confidence a step further by analyzing why women think the way they do – and how to change patterns in the brain that inhibit confidence. There are a few parts of the book that involve technical neuroscience, which I’ll admit didn’t particularly speak to me. My favorite parts of the book were the wonderful interviews with highly respected women in all different industries, from professional basketball players to scientists.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing By Marie Kondo

Magic of Tidying Up

I’ll admit, I first bought this book after seeing it on Jessica Alba’s Instagram account. A passionate organizer myself, I was immediately drawn to the title. Magic? Decluttering? Organizing? Sign me up. I have always been a fan of simplifying and tidying my life – but this book was more than I could have hoped for in terms of step-by-step instructions for doing so. This book describes the process of decluttering and organizing, and Marie offers her tips for letting go of items that either do not bring joy to your life or are not functional. My favorite part of the book involves detailed instructions for organizing the closet – sorting clothes by type, by occasion, by color, etc. It is a must-read!

Enjoy the cooler weather – and these fun reads!



Spaces We Love: Onefootball’s Berlin HQ

onefootball-berlin-headquarters-reception-area

It’s not every day that you see an AstroTurf track lining the halls of an office, but that’s the first thing you’ll notice when visiting Onefootball’s new headquarters in Berlin. (That’s football in the European sense – otherwise known as soccer to those of us in the U.S.) Given that Onefootball is “the best mobile football platform for fans around the world,” it’s only fitting that their space reflects the enthusiasm of the sporting world, in conjunction with clean lines and modern finishes fitting for a tech company.

Read more at hughesmarino.com!



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