MAMA DUX-Santa Barbara, CA

Welcoming, Warm, and Womblike–Just Like Mama’s!

By Deborah S. Nelson, Author/Publisher VRTG


It’s no wonder why the owner decided to call it Mama Dux! Unassuming and small from the outside, the inside of Mama’s offers a world of unexpected spaciousness blended with coziness. All of this is wrapped up into a large well-appointed one bedroom studio apartment. The décor colors of warm wines, mahogany woods, and deep greens set a tone of the ultimate in cave-like luxury.

Inside, the first thing that struck me, were two gas fireplaces-both turned on low to provide a warm and welcoming ambience. Although I was visiting Santa Barbara in warm weather, I left the fireplaces going in order to keep that visual, warm glow. Keeping warm in Mama Dux presents no challenge during cool, crisp fall or rainy winter days. Immediately upon arrival, I found the property just off Gutierrez Street presenting a dramatic flair, with its high gate separating Mama Dux from the hustle and bustle of downtown Santa Barbara.

As the days flew by, I savored the opening and closing of the gate, while I imagined living behind the gates of a resplendent ancient village with cobblestone paths. The over-sized thick, wooden gate is reminiscent of the Renaissance days when walls were built around cities, kingdoms, or compounds. Here the heavy gate promotes a sense of privacy and safety for the home situated inside. Behind this gate are three parking places, one for each unit in this classically crafted home.

Location and Luxury

With downtown parking so expensive (a ticket is $48 after 90 minutes), a spot with parking included is highly convenient. You’ll be able to walk to many hot-spots in Santa Barbara, most within 5-15 minutes which is about the same time it would take to walk there from a parking spot! U.S. News Travel ranks the three top spots to visit in Santa Barbara as State Street, East Beach, and the Santa Barbara Courthouse. The Santa Barbara Art Walks, Santa Barbara Zoo, and Santa Barbara Art Museum are ranked five, six and seven, respectively. All these attractions are within a short walking distance of Mama Dux. Additionally, the bicycles parked at Mama Dux are included with your stay. You need only sign a liability release. So, if you wish to venture even further and faster, use the bikes.

The nearby nightlife within walking distance is top-notch. Eeos, a high-end disco is within a couple of blocks. If you enjoy the nightlife, Mama Dux is a super-located spot with endless choices of bars, pubs, discos and no worries about parking or calling a cab. Downtown Santa Barbara on State Street rates as one of the stars of this show. One block from Mama Dux, puts you on Lower State Street, where all the action is. You can find a multitude of restaurants, shops, pubs, and entertainment. Just walk about three blocks north on State Street to the Paso Nuevo Mall, where you will find a movie theatre as well as Italian, Mexican, Indian, Irish, and many other ethnic food restaurants. One of the three Starbucks in Santa Barbara is on State Street, not far away. I attended a two-day conference, the last-minute decision, at Lobero Theatre. I walked to Starbucks for coffee in the morning, then over to Lobero Theatre — no parking expenses or challenges!

To walk, or ride your bike over to the nearest beach, you will want to head south on State Street, then East onto East Cabrillo Blvd. This is the main boulevard tracking the beach in Santa Barbara. As for East beach, one reviewer says “The beach itself is really clean and open. If it gets too hot, you can always walk up towards the grassy area and lay under the palm trees.” East Beach is situated along East Cabrillo Boulevard, near the Santa Barbara Zoo and east of State Street. It’s open from sunrise to 10 pm each day. Picnic facilities, showers, lockers, beach wheelchairs, and volleyballs are available to rent at the Cabrillo Pavilion Bathhouse. You will have plenty of space for sunbathing swimming, walking, and skateboarding.

The Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show is on Sunday, starting at 10 am and going until dusk. This is a free event. With blocks and blocks of art vendors presenting their pieces for sale, this event provides endless hours of entertainment. It’s a great place to shop if you love the arts. Plus it is conveniently located for sunbathing on the beach, when you need a break.

The Food Situationimage_thumb.png

When talking about Mama’s, we must not leave out food! Right off the bat, I went to Trader Joe’s and bought a selection of produce, wine, cheeses, and other goodies. In the front yard of Mama’s is a quaint area with a fountain plus a barbecue for grilling. I invited a small group of travel writers for dinner one night at Mama Dux. It was an ample setting to entertain a small group and everyone enjoyed a wonderful dinner.

As for restaurants, my favorite is Esau’s Café for breakfast at 721 Chapala Street — a bit of a walk, but well worth it! A walk in downtown Santa Barbara is a treat. For a nice, quiet dinner I recommend the Blue Agave, just two blocks over on Cota Street. This is a classy, elegant place for drinks and/or dinner. The bartenders are some of the best in town. If you want a less expensive dinner, walk over to Joe’s — one of the oldest, most established restaurants in Santa Barbara. The coffee and latte shops are many and varied. I recommend trying a different one each morning. You can easily walk to the Santa Barbara Roasting Company, at the corner of Gutierrez and State Street.

The French Press is also a wonderful place for a latte or cappuccino. The highest rated Starbucks is at Victoria and State Street. All the locals rave about it. If you like Yoga, there’s a studio called Yoga Soup in the same shopping group as the Santa Barbara Roasting Company at 321 Motor Way, two blocks from Mama’s.

Walking is Refreshing, But the Feet . . .

Your feet may get a little weary after doing all that walking. Here’s a local tip. A little-known spa, The Little Rainbow Foot Spa is just a couple blocks away from Mama Dux. For only $25 you can get a one-hour foot massage. During that last half hour, they work on your legs, shoulders, and neck also. The Chinese owners do not speak much English. Get a menu and point to one of the foot massages. After a few days of walking around Santa Barbara, pop in here for an adventure, and a bargain. I love this place.

At Mama’s everything you need is nearby; you want for nothing. Spend another day walking to Sterns Wharf. Take a lunch or buy some fresh seafood at the wharf to take home to Mama Dux’s for cooking or grilling on the barbecue. When you get tired, just zip home in minutes to once again enjoy the womb-like atmosphere at your home away from home. Use the reliable Internet connection when catching up with work or checking your e-mail. Watch the flat screen TV in the kitchen or bedroom. The property manager/owner has provided easy to understand instructions in your check-in e-mail. If you need anything, just call her. She is just minutes away!

You will get to know Santa Barbara like it is your own hometown by staying at Mama Dux. You will want to come back to visit Mama’s! With everything in walking distance, places and events are simple and fast to find. When you stay at Mama’s, you’ll still have time to curl up in one of the big, round, soft chairs to feel relaxed and rejuvenated, just like home. You may check for availability by calling Inga, the owner, at 202-302-7998.

Category Placement

We chose to categorize this as an Outstandingly Located Vacation Rental because its location is remarkable. Mind you, the amenities (stainless steel kitchen, flat screen TV’s, tasteful décor, sound system, washer/dryer, soft, extra-large round chairs, high-end glass shower, king-sized bed) all qualify as luxurious. But as for locations, there are precious few spots in Santa Barbara that place you right in the heart of all that this special town has to offer.

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