Stroll Through the Bright Side of Isla Vista
A few years ago, a bluff-top park even nearer to
campus—Pelican Park at 6543 Del Playa, a 7-minute walk from Storke
Tower —opened with four artful, stone benches. This created an even
more convenient place for harried UCSB workers to recharge their
batteries during a quiet lunch while relishing a million-dollar
Both parks are extremely well maintained. (A map
of the Isla Vista park system is available in the Internet at <www.ivparks.org/map/map.html
At this time of year the view from the I.V. bluffs
is particularly interesting. The migration of the gray whale from
Baja to Alaska takes place between January and May. Mother-calf
pairs hug the coast at peak migration, usually in mid-March, as
many as 20 whales parade by I.V. in the daylight hours.
The viewing is so good that the American Cetacean
Society has a permanent whale census station at Coal Oil Point,
at the western tip of Isla Vista. (The whale conservation group’s
local Web site is <www.acschannelislands.org/graycensus.htm
Isla Vista also has some terrific places to grab
a quick lunch before heading to the bluffS. My favorite, which is
in the heart of I.V., is Freebird’s, operated by Mark Orfalea at
879 Embarcadero Del Norte. Recently described in the New York Times
as the best fast food in Santa Barbara, Freebird’s servers will
roll a burrito to your specifications while you watch.
Mark is obsessive about the quality of his ingredients,
and he frequently experiments with new items. Freebird’s is also
a 7-minute walk from Storke Tower; an additional five minutes and
you are at Pelican Park.
Two other standouts among I.V.’s many lunch places
are the I.V. Deli Mart at 6549 Pardall and Little Asia at 6527 Madrid.
The Deli Mart serves mid-eastern shawarma (marinated lamb or chicken)
and falafel in pita bread that some call the best west of the West
While Little Asia serves a variety of Asian food,
the Korean dishes really stand out, attracting Korean food lovers
from all over the South Coast.
After finishing lunch and watching the whales,
sometimes I drop by the Isla Vista Food Co-op, at 6575 Seville,
to pick up a few groceries. The co-op is a lot like Lazy Acres in
Santa Barbara, only more economical.
But my favorite route back is down the coastal
access stairs at the foot of Embarcadero in I.V., a short way west
from Pelican Park. Then I walk along the beach to the UCSB Lagoon,
and up the path to the UCen.
I’ve made a complete circuit from my office in
Broida Hall in less than an hour, although the food, views, fresh
air, and whales are so exceptional that it is tempting to linger.
Surprisingly, few UCSB staff and faculty get out and savor these
next-door delights, even though you don’t have to give up your parking
spot to enjoy them.
Harry Nelson lives on West Campus
and teaches particle physics when
he is not whale-watching.