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Stay close and stay classy this spring break

by Kristen MacBride

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California’s world-famous beaches annually play host to spring break partiers looking for fun in the sun. MCT Campus

California’s world-famous beaches annually play host to spring break partiers looking for fun in the sun. MCT Campus

Springtime welcomes longer and sunnier days, afternoons by the beach, jean shorts, budding flowers and of course, spring break. For many students, spring break plans are hatched before Christmas.

As many students anticipate with delight their weeklong vacation and travel plans, there are those who find themselves with nothing more than blank space on the calendar. Students lacking plans, funds or time can still experience the excitement of a spring break getaway with these unique, California cities that can be reached by car in a matter of hours.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara’s long, spacious beaches and eclectic downtown are the perfect places to relax and enjoy the city’s refreshing atmosphere. Undeclared freshman and former Santa Barbara resident Bryce Belinski shared her tips on the best and local favorite spots.

At the top of her list is Hendry’s Beach, “really the best beach for just about anything,” Belinski said. “People walk their dogs, surf and there are nice spots to lay or play in the waves.”

Visitors who grow restless of laying on the sand can explore the trail right off the beach, which leads to a scenic nature hike, or climb on the small cliffs nearby. Vacationers can stay for dinner on the beach and watch the sunset as they dine on an assortment of fresh seafood and drinks from the patio at the Boathouse, located at 2981 Cliff Dr.

Another local favorite is Campus Point Beach near the UC Santa Barbara campus.

“That’s where all the students hang out, and it’s a really good place to surf, but there are also nature hikes there where people like to run and walk,” Belinski said.

Santa Barbara is also home to mountain terrain and lush foliage for those looking for views, adventure and more than simply baking on the beach. Take a 20-minute drive into the Santa Ynez mountains to Red Rock for a weekend camping trip, or escape for a day of picnicking, wading in the ponds or hiking at this scenic retreat.

For another unique day excursion, Belinski recommended a trip off the beaten path to Cold Spring Tavern.

“It is another really cool place hidden in the mountains where small bands perform,” Belinski said.

This old stagecoach stop is nestled among the trees off a winding mountainous road and offers guests home-style cooking and drinks to enjoy inside the 1860s bungalows or around the fire pits accompanied by live music.

Santa Barbara’s bustling downtown streets are filled with an eclectic array of boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and bars that also deserve exploring. One thing visitors must include on their itinerary is a stop at the local, student-loved Freebirds World Burrito.

“I don’t know why it is so good, but it just is,” Belinski said. “It is just as crowded throughout the day as it is at 1 a.m. It’s just like Las Casitas here.”

The diverse restaurant scene gives visitors a chance to sample local fare but still take comfort in familiar, chain restaurants.

Palm Springs

Blessed with endless days of warm sun and desert beauty, Palm Springs is a sanctuary for those looking for pure relaxation during break. Visitors’ only concern is the desert sun as they lounge by the pools of the myriad of hotels, bed and breakfasts and spa resorts. With its bounty of accommodation choices, there are many options welcoming all budgets. Old Ranch Inn, Andreas Hotel & Spa and The Chase Hotel are just a few of the choices offering rooms less than $100 a night without sacrificing the lavish elements of the more expensive resorts.

For guests who wish to stray from the pool, Palm Springs has many outdoor activities to offer. Its desert trails allow visitors to enjoy hikes, explore the waterfalls and gaze at the winding, palm tree-dotted canyons. For a truly striking view, vacationers can take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for an 8,500-foot climb to the peaks of Mount San Jacinto.

Palm Springs downtown is strewn with a collection of boutiques, art galleries, upscale consignment shops, bars and night clubs. Cruise the streets every Thursday night from 6 – 10 p.m. to browse the art vendors, food, musicians and farmers market at Villagefest.

No longer a haven for octogenarians, this desert spot is a perfect place to come for undeniable relaxation.

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo’s old-world charm is best appreciated by wandering the streets of its historic, quaint downtown. San Luis Obispo’s downtown streets are centered around a creek where visitors and locals can sit on the bed rocks, wooden bridge or patios while enjoying lunch or basking in the sun. Across from the creek, guests can tour the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in the heart of downtown.

Although there is no mall, shoppers can indulge in San Luis Obispo’s abundant upscale and low-budget boutiques.

Stop at Linnea’s Café and enjoy coffee or lunch in the whimsical atmosphere and ivy-covered courtyard. Dine overlooking the creek and mission from the idyllic patio at Novo Restaurant and Lounge and choose from a unique, fresh menu.

Spend a casual night downtown at Mother’s Tavern or Native Lounge for a night of dancing, cocktails and appetizers.

San Luis Obispo’s small, picturesque downtown is set against towering mountains and a green backdrop. Bishop Peak and Madonna Mountain are the two most popular trails that reward hikers with a view of the entire city and vast wineries below.

It may be too late for an exotic beach vacation or Europe endeavor, but the essence of a spring break vacation can still be achieved with a car and a few days to spare.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Stay close and stay classy this spring break”

  1. Sue Smith on March 9th, 2011 5:12 pm

    Great recommendations! As a San Luis Obispo native I can confirm you covered all the dining hot spots in town. Really though, no trip to San Luis Obispo is complete without a trip to Novo Restaurant and Lounge. Eating on the picturesque patio overlooking the creek cannot be beat! I highly recommend the salmon soup or any of their specials.

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