Santa Barbara is a city and metropolitan area less than 100 miles (160 km) from Los Angeles but vastly different in pace from its huge neighbor to the south. With a temperate climate and lush natural environs, the "Riviera of the West" is a pleasant day or weekend trip from L.A. Its wide beaches, highly rated wineries, and a large variety of shopping and dining choices enable the town of just 90,000 residents to enjoy the sort of cultural and social amenities which are usually found only in much larger cities.
Although the common perception of Santa Barbara is as a playground for the rich and famous, the reality is that the average income within city limits is only slightly higher than California as a whole. Notable for its California Mission-style architecture (a long-standing local ordinance ensures that all commercial construction follows the Mission theme, which results in a plethora of red-tiled roofs and faux adobe supermarkets), local residents are intensely proud of their city's roots and traditions, and a number of hugely popular festivals throughout the year celebrate the many cultures found in the city.
In addition, the city's large Latino population, concentrated in the east side of the city around Milpas Street, means there are a great many tacquerias and Mexican restaurants to be found. Santa Barbara has also been influenced by Los Angeles' food-truck scene.
The city of Santa Barbara is part of what's known as the South Coast, so named because the coastline between Point Conception and the city of Ventura faces more south than west. The road that serves as the city's nexus is State Street, which runs northwest-southeast in and near downtown and east-west in the uptown area. It continues west as Hollister Avenue through Goleta. The area immediately to the east of lower State Street, between the waterfront and Highway 101, is known as the Funk Zone and has become one of the premier tourist areas of Santa Barbara, and is home to wineries, breweries, art galleries and restaurants, as well as a more youthful and trendier atmosphere. Just a few blocks above the Funk Zone, State Street becomes pedestrian only for eight blocks before opening up to traffic again. The eight blocks closed to cars, called the State Street Promenade are the core of Santa Barbara's downtown. The Latino part of town is on the east side of the city and has its own main street, Milpas Street, which is almost a mile away from, but parallel to, State Street in and near downtown. Upper State Street connects to Highway 154, a state highway that connects Santa Barbara with Los Olivos and wine country.
The orientation can be confusing to visitors, especially since locals often give directions as though the mountains were east, rather than north, and the ocean west, rather than south. "Go north on the 101" means literally "go west"; and if someone says "south of town" they don't mean in the ocean, but down the coast in the direction of Carpinteria and Ventura.
Santa Barbara's downtown neighborhoods are generally working, middle- and upper-middle-class areas, while Montecito to the east of the city and Hope Ranch to the west are two of the city's wealthy enclaves, known as part-time hideouts for Hollywood celebrities and rich retirees.
1 Santa Barbara Visitors Center, 1 Garden Street, downtown, ☏ . 9AM (10AM on Su) - 5PM (4PM Nov-Jan). Has information about Santa Barbara, including maps, pricing and hours of attractions, restaurant guides, bus and waterfront shuttle schedules.
Santa Barbara has slightly different climate than the rest of the area. It maintains idyllic temperatures for most of the year and it is rare to go a week during any season without at least one day reaching 70 °F (21 °C). There are occasional temperature extremes: heat waves are common in the late summer and early fall, and night time temperatures can reach down into the thirties during the winter. The best times to travel are not always what travelers expect. Spring and early summer are cool and cloudy through the mornings and often into the afternoons, with temperatures in the 60s and low 70s in what the locals call "May Gray" and "June Gloom". During August and early September temperatures get into the 80s and cloudy days are rare. In mid to late September and October daytime temperatures stay mostly in the 70s. The rainy season typically lasts from November through March, but even during the rainy season more days are sunny than not.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
- 1 Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA IATA) (near the neighboring town of Goleta). The local airport for the area, 7 miles west of downtown. There is service from Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Seattle. Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District's Route 11 bus links the airport with downtown Santa Barbara.
The airport can be pricey, and flight schedules limited; flying to Los Angeles (LAX) or Burbank (BUR) and driving or taking public transportation to Santa Barbara may come out ahead on price, time, or both. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner (see below) stops at Burbank airport 5 times a day on its way to Santa Barbara. From LAX, take the Santa Barbara Airbus for a direct ride or the FlyAway to Union Station and Amtrak to Santa Barbara. Los Angeles is known for its wildly unpredictable traffic, and even the train sometimes experiences delays, so allow yourself extra time if you go this route.
- See also: Rail travel in the United States
Amtrak provides service to Santa Barbara on the Pacific Surfliner (San Luis Obispo to San Diego) and Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles) trains. The ride is beautiful on its legs that are near the coast, but delays do occur, especially on the Coast Starlight. The 2 Santa Barbara station is housed in a historical landmark, built in 1902 and located at 209 State St, an easy walk from the beaches and the commercial areas of State St.
The Greyhound station is downtown, at 224 Chapala, next to the Amtrak station.
The Santa Barbara Airbus operates eight times per day between Goleta, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and LAX.
Central Coast Shuttle also operates an airport shuttle between Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and LAX.
Flixbus serves Santa Barbara on its way to San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles.
VISTA Transit runs regional service from Ventura and Oxnard.
Santa Barbara MTD, the city bus, runs service from Goleta and Carpinteria if you're already in the metro area.
There is only one major highway in and out of Santa Barbara: US 101, which is coterminous with Highway 1 for over 30 miles (48 km) both north and south (well, east, but down the coast) of the city. From the 101, coming from the south, downtown Santa Barbara can be accessed via the Garden St. exit, while the beaches can be found off the Cabrillo Blvd. off ramp. From the north, get off the 101 at either the Mission or Carrillo St. off ramps. Traffic patterns are the opposite from the famous Los Angeles grid lock, as the southbound 101 can come to a grinding halt on Sunday afternoons.
State Route 154 is a secondary road that leads over the mountains to the Santa Ynez Valley, and to towns like Los Olivos and Solvang; it is accurately designated a "Scenic Highway" by the California Department of Transportation. However, it's probably less of a way to get into town and more of a road to take on a day trip from Santa Barbara.
The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (SBMTD) runs buses all over Santa Barbara proper, and neighboring Goleta, Montecito and Carpinteria. Routes and fares are on their website. It's a cheap and fairly comprehensive way to get around town, but not particularly fast.
The SBMTD also runs shuttle bus services along State St between downtown Sola St and the waterfront, and along the waterfront between the Zoo and the Harbor, leaving every 15 or 30 minutes between 9AM and 6PM (till 10PM F-Sa in summer). Fare is 25 to 50 cents; get a free shuttle transfer to switch between the two shuttles.
Bill's Bus specializes in transporting the student party crowd safely Downtown from Isla Vista and back again on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. $10 round trip, $7 one way.
Santa Barbara is fairly easy to drive around, and in most areas parking is rarely difficult to find, either in a municipal garage or on the street. One confusing wrinkle is the presence of 3 similarly named major streets, Carrillo St, Castillo St, and Cabrillo Blvd. Don't mix them up. As anywhere, you shouldn't drive under the influence of alcohol, but be aware that Santa Barbara police are particularly merciless about catching and prosecuting drunk drivers.
Budget and Hertz car rental outlets are present at the airport terminal, and several other rental agencies are located in Santa Barbara.
With a mild climate, walking is a great way to get around town, but might be inconvenient outside of downtown and the funk zone.
Taxis are plentiful but expensive, but given the relatively compact size of downtown Santa Barbara, they're viable if you don't need to go out too far into the suburbs.
By bike or inline skate
Along the waterfront, many businesses offer bicycle or inline skate rentals for exploring the beach areas, and "rickshaw" taxis are also common.
- 1 Santa Barbara County Courthouse, 1100 Anacapa St. M-F 8AM-5PM, Sa Su 10AM-4:30PM, Guided tours, M-Sa 2PM and M, Tu, F 10:30AM. Built in 1929 and the grandest building in the town. A working courthouse, this Spanish-Moorish castle has frescoes, murals and Tunisian tilework. The El Mirador Bell Tower provides great views of the city and the bay. The grounds contain a collection of palms and specimen trees from more than 25 countries, and a printed guide to the plants is available. Free, but donation suggested.
- 2 Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna St (from downtown State St., turn east onto Mission St. and follow signs pointing toward the Mission; public transit: SBMTD bus #6 or #11 to State & Mission Sts.), ☏ . Self-guided tours daily 9AM-4:30PM. Known as "The Queen of the Missions," Santa Barbara's "Old Mission" is a superb example of California's Franciscan Spanish architecture. The tenth California Mission to be constructed, it was consecrated in 1786 as the first of Father Lasuen's nine missions. Today, Mission Santa Barbara is both a scenic wonder and a fine anthropological study of original native culture in the surrounding area. Santa Barbara is the only California mission with twin bell towers, owing to its status as a cathedral in the early days of California statehood. It also has had a longer continuous association with the Franciscans than any other mission, and a longer continuous history of choral music than any other mission. The headquarters of the mission system in the 1830s and 40s, it is where many of the archives of the California missions are held. Note the adjacent pottery kiln and tanning vat ruins. The mission also features a small but well-regarded rose garden. The mission continues to be used as an active church, with regular masses on Wednesdays, Sundays, and holy days. Admission to masses is free, but a small donation is customary. Adults $9; Children (5-17) $4; Seniors $7.
- 3 Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta Del Sol (follow signs from nearby Santa Barbara Mission), ☏ . Daily 10AM-5PM. This large, well-presented museum is - literally - a hidden treasure. Highlights in the eleven exhibit halls include regional natural history, a life-size Blue Whale skeleton, and a rare skeleton of a pony-sized "pygmy mammoth." $12 for adults; $8 for seniors and 13-17 years; $7 for 2-12 years; free on the last Sunday of every month except September.
- 4 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St, ☏ . Tu-Su 11AM-5PM. A remarkably well-provisioned museum considering the size of the town, Santa Barbara's main art museum features a strong collection of Roman antiquities, as well as an impressive lineup of classical European and modern art. Frequently rotated exhibitions are among the strongest in California. Adults: $9; suggested donation on Sunday.
- 5 Santa Barbara Historical Museum, 136 East De la Guerra St. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. $7 adults, $5 seniors/students, free to members and anyone under 18, free on first Thursdays of the month.
- 6 Presidio of Santa Barbara (El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park), 123 East Canon Perdido St (a block off State St, corner of East Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara Sts), ☏ . Every day except major holidays, 10:30AM–4:30PM. A military fortress founded in 1782, only parts of which remain. Some parts are gradually being rebuilt. Adults $5, seniors (62+) $4, children 16 & under free.
- 7 Stearns Wharf (End of State Street along the Waterfront). This picturesque 1872 wharf - the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco - has lots of history. It is named after its builder, local lumberman John P. Stearns. Badly damaged several times by fire, it has been repeatedly rebuilt and today features more than a dozen shops and restaurants, and one of the best views in California from the end of its pier. There's also a small public aquarium, the Sea Center, that's associated with the Museum of Natural History. You may see brown pelicans at the end of the wharf. There's a bait and tackle shop, and no fishing license is required to fish from the wharf. It was once owned by Hollywood legend James Cagney. Free.
- 8 Karpeles Museum, 21 West Anapamu St (half a block from State St), ☏ . W-Su noon-4PM. The Karpeles Library is the world's largest private holding of important original manuscripts & documents. Among the items on permanent display in the museum is an original Stone copy of the Declaration of Independence, a replica of the globe used by Columbus (sans the Western Hemisphere), handwritten scores by a dozen leading composers, and the computer guidance system used on the first Apollo lander flight to the moon. Free.
- 9 Santa Barbara Zoo, 500 Ninos Dr, ☏ . Every day 10AM-5PM, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and some private events. Small but well-represented with over 600 animals, the zoo has provided entertainment for all ages since 1963 and is the largest zoo between Los Angeles and San Francisco (unless you count the Monterey Aquarium). Adults 13-59 $14, children 2-13, seniors 60+ $10, children under 2 free.
- 10 Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, 1212 Mission Canyon Rd (Follow signs from Old Mission), ☏ . 9AM-5PM Nov-Feb, 9AM-6PM Mar-Oct. Located on 65 acres in the foothills just above the city, the Garden features exquisite exhibits of California native plants displayed in beautiful landscaped settings. Walk along a meadow, through a canyon and redwood forest, across a historic dam, and along ridge tops that offer sweeping views of the Channel Islands. Established in 1926 as an educational and scientific institution, it is the oldest botanic garden in California dedicated to the study, conservation, and display of native flora. $8 adults, $6 seniors/teens/military with id, $4 children 2-12, under 2 free.
- 11 Reagan Ranch Center Exhibit Gallery, 217 State Street (next to Amtrak Station), ☏ . Tu Th 11AM-4:30PM with extended summer hours. Features original Reagan Ranch artifacts matched with state-of-the-art, interactive, multimedia exhibits that highlight the history of Ronald Reagan's quarter-century at Rancho del Cielo and the accomplishments of his presidency. Over six hours of dynamic multimedia exhibits provide access to exclusive speeches, interviews, radio addresses, and original video presentations. The centerpiece is a 28-foot-long interactive "timeline" that gives users the ability to explore the "Western White House" during the 1980s. Free.
- Upper East Side. Roughly bounded by State St to the west, Micheltorena Street to the south, Olive and Laguna Streets to the east, and Constance Ave to the north, this area was where most well-to-do residents lived when Santa Barbara first started to attract that class. As a result you'll see large, impressive houses in a variety of architectural styles, including late Victorian, Craftsman, Mission Revival, Romanesque, and even including a couple of eye-catching Mid-Century Moderns. As anywhere if you're looking at residential architecture, please respect the residents' privacy.
Although Santa Barbara is an atypical coastal town, it offers the typical Southern California variety of outdoor activities, from surfing to whale-watching.
- Golf. Santa Barbara has numerous private and public golf courses located in and around the city. Hidden Oaks, Twin Lakes, and Ocean Meadows are nine-hole courses that provide budget prices for a round of golf. For those wishing to play 18 holes without spending a lot, the Santa Barbara Golf Club, located at 3500 McCaw, provides reasonably priced rounds. For those wishing to spend more, Sandpiper Golf Course, located north of Goleta on Hollister, or Rancho San Marcos, located about 15 miles up the 154, provide a world class golf experience.
- Hiking. From the Mesa to the Santa Ynez Mountains, the unique geography of Santa Barbara provides amazing opportunities to see panoramic views and abundant wildlife. Hiking guides and maps are easily obtained at any local bookstore, well-equipped newsstand, or selected stores in tourist-heavy locations such as downtown. Examples include the Douglas Family Preserve, a great off-leash open space that often serves as the backdrop for numerous weddings, and East Camino Cielo Road off of Highway 154, which has several spots one can park and find a little trail to hike on, or even just sit and enjoy the view.
- Eagle Paragliding, ☏ . Santa Barbara offers year-round flying, and some of the best flying in the United States. You can fly solo on your first day at Elings Park. Tandem Flights are also available from the Mountains, the Beach, or the Elings Park Training Hill.
- Skydive Santa Barbara are based at Lompoc City Airport.
- Surfing. There are numerous beaches in the area fit for surfing and several companies that rent surfboards. Although the surf tends to be much smaller in the summer, it is perfect for beginners. There are also several nice long board breaks that are suitable year round.
- 1 The Harbor, 132 Harbor Way (Between West Beach and Leadbetter Beach). Cruises, kayak and paddleboard rentals, learn to sail, you name it. Or just take a pleasant stroll along the breakwater. Lil' Toot, a bright yellow water taxi, runs back and forth between the Harbor and Stearns Wharf every 30 minutes. If you're lucky, you'll see one of Santa Barbara's sea urchin fishing boats come in. In years past, almost all the catch ended up in Japan, but uni has caught on in the west, and some of the crews will even sell the spiky but tasty little creatures right off the pier, and show you how to crack them open.
- Wine Tasting in the Funk Zone. Santa Barbara has a number of wineries all within blocks of downtown and mostly within the area known as the Funk Zone for its earlier, funkier roots as the industrial part of town. Some smaller wineries have set up shop, many in converted industrial buildings, in the Funk Zone, which is in the blocks just east of State Street and between the waterfront and the Highway 101 overpass. This up-and-coming part of the city now features a large number of wineries, including Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail, restaurants, craft breweries and craft distillers, making it a popular destination for foodies and those wishing to escape the shopping scene on State Street. Most wineries have tasting rooms and are open to the public.
- Wine Tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley. For those who want to escape the city limits and get out in to wine country, the Santa Ynez Valley is just a short drive north of Santa Barbara, accessible either via U.S. Highway 101, or by State Highway 154. Here in north Santa Barbara County are hundreds of wineries and vineyards, and the fall harvest period is an especially scenic time to make the trip. Most of the wineries are part of the Santa Barbara County Vintner's Association. Pinot noir, and to a lesser extent, chardonnay, are the signature varietals of Santa Barbara wine country. Just pop up to Solvang, Santa Ynez, Los Olivos or Buellton and enjoy. The region takes responsible consumption very seriously, and since the February 2008 launch of the CHP Designated Driver Program, DUI checkpoints have been frequent. Consider hiring a limo or signing on for a wine tour.
- Wine Tours. Daily wine tasting excursions depart from most area hotels, and you can pick from several different approaches. The Grapeline Wine Country Shuttle, (888) 8-WINERY, offers a flexible day aboard deluxe shuttles. Stagecoach Wine Tours offers wine tasting tours in the Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County. Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours offer a wine tour in open air jeeps. Sustainable Vine, +1 805 698-3911, focuses on the producers employing sustainable practices,Golden Rooster Transportation & Wine Tours offers wine tours in limousines and party bus vehicles. Golden Limo Santa Barbara offer limousines and conduct wine and other tours.
- Sanguis, 8 Ashley Ave, ☏ . by appt. Santa Barbara winery.
- An easy walking tour. Find some free parking on the side streets from Cabrillo Boulevard after passing State Street (i.e. on Bath Street and Yanonali St). Then walk on the sidewalk or the beach to State Street. At the intersection of Cabrillo Boulevard and State Street you will find the pier which will give you great views of the city. After walking on the pier, take State Street up past the train station. Shops and restaurants line up State Street up and down providing a great visitor experience. Take a right on West Carrillo St and go one block and then take a left on Anacapa St. This should get you to the Santa Barbara Courthouse (details above under See) opposite the public library Main Branch, where you can enjoy the pleasant views from its tower. Next, walk up the street to Anapamu St and take a left. This will put you back on State Street. If you're not tired yet you can keep walking up State Street to Mission St and take a right. If you follow the street to Laguna St and take a left and after three blocks take a right on Los Olivos. This will get you to the Santa Barbara Mission. After visiting the mission and the delightful rose garden in front of the Mission, you can walk back to Cabrillo Boulevard or take the shuttle back to the waterfront.
- Red Tile Walking Tour. The Santa Barbara Visitors Center gives out a nice free guide to Santa Barbara that includes a suggested self-guided walk that's about 1.2 miles long in total. It features historic red-tiled adobe buildings in Downtown Santa Barbara but also helps visitors to get a sense of the lay of the land and see some of the stores and restaurants on State St. and a few paseos. Not to be viewed as a substitute for the easy walking tour listed above, as that is a longer walk and encompasses parts of the city not included in this one.
- 2 Fiesta 5 Theatre, 916 State St, [email protected]. The cinema has 5 screens for good movies in downtown Santa Barbara with decent seats.
- Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show, Cabrillo Boulevard at Stearns Wharf. Sundays, 10AM-dusk. Every Sunday, local artists display their work along Cabrillo Boulevard near the beach. The "art walk" stretches for several blocks. You can stroll along and browse the paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other pieces, and buy something if it strikes your fancy.
- 3 Metro 4 theatre, 618 State St, toll-free: , [email protected]. The cozy theatre has big screens. It sells discounted tickets on Tuesdays. It screens during the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
- 4 Mahakankala Buddhist Center, 508 Brinkerhoff Ave, ☏ . Offers relaxation meditations and meditation classes.
Performance venues and organizations
The events calendar of the Santa Barbara Independent (a local weekly newspaper) is a good source for the latest events in town.
- 5 Arlington Theater, 1317 State St. A 2,000-seat single screen movie theater, used mainly for blockbuster films, but also hosts occasional live performances. Also has a restored theater organ, that is used occasionally for solo performances or to accompany silent movies. Even if nothing special is going on, it's worth catching a flick there just for its charming interior design, with a faux "Spanish" village around the walls and a dark blue ceiling that even has a few pinpricks of light to represent "stars"
- 6 Lobero Theatre, 33 E Canon Perdido St. California's oldest continuously operating theater is an elegant, intimate venue that hosts a little bit of everything, from chamber music to folk to ballet to jazz.
- 7 Santa Barbara Bowl, 1122 N Milpas St. Still often referred to as the "County Bowl," this 6,000-seat amphitheater hosts some surprisingly big-name acts for a city the size of Santa Barbara, including Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, and Radiohead, and you'll get to see them in a smaller venue than you might if you caught them in L.A. or San Francisco.
- 8 The New Vic, 33 W Victoria St, ☏ . Home of the Ensemble Theatre group. Also hosts various other performances and films.
- 9 Granada Theater, 1214 State St. Opulent theater hosting musicals, opera, ballet, and the Santa Barbara Symphony
- 10 UCSB Arts and Lectures, ☏ . UCSB brings performers, authors, and other lecturers to town. Some performances are on the UCSB campus, others are in town at some of the venues mentioned above.
Santa Barbara has numerous attractive public parks. A few notable ones are listed below.
- 11 Alameda Park, 1400 Santa Barbara St. Upper East Side Park covering two city blocks. Includes a popular community designed playground, and picnic tables popular for family celebrations (no alcohol is allowed, though). The western half of the park has a somewhat sketchy reputation for being a hangout for drug addicts, but it has been cleaned up a lot in the mid-2010s.
- 12 Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden, 1500 Santa Barbara St. Across the street from Alameda Park. Something of a cross between a park and a botanical garden, it features a large pond with ducks, koi and turtles, as well as numerous differently themed plantings, most with labels describing the different plant species. Local wags sometimes refer to it as "Alice Keck Park Park," but you'll often hear it just called "Alice Keck Park" since many people are unaware that "Park" was Alice's last name.
- 13 Shoreline Park. It offers a blufftop walk with stunning views overlooking the ocean.
- 14 Chase Palm Park, 323 E Cabrillo Blvd. This is a long, narrow park that stretches along East Beach. Features pedestrian and bike paths, as well as a skate park.
- 15 Skofield Park. Small rural park that contains the trailhead for Rattlesnake Canyon, one of the most popular local hikes. Its name comes from the sinuous nature of the trail, not any particular concentration of rattlesnakes, although like anywhere in the California backcountry, you should be alert for them.
- 16 East Beach & West Beach. Separated by Stearns Wharf, for all practical purposes these are one continuous beach, usually referred to just as East Beach. This is Santa Barbara's most popular beach, and most easily accessible from the tourist amenities on State St. Popular sand volleyball spot.
- 17 Leadbetter Beach. On the other side of the harbor from West Beach and near Santa Barbara City College, this beach tends to be less crowded than East Beach. It usually has a fairly mellow break that is suitable for beginner surfers.
- 18 Arroyo Burro Beach. Almost universally referred to by locals as "Henry's" or "Hendry's" beach, and more isolated than the downtown beaches. Dogs are permitted to be off-leash, and one end is a nude beach, where you'll often see nude dudes frolicking.
- 19 Butterfly Beach. Tucked away in Montecito by the fancy Biltmore Hotel, and something of a hidden gem. Depending on tides and fluctuations of the sand, some parts of the beach may not be easily accessible. Though you'll often see off-leash dogs here, unlike Arroyo Burro beach, this isn't officially sanctioned.
- Hammonds. Tucked away between Miramar and Butterfly in Montecito, this is beach is a hidden gem. To get there park at Miramar beach parking and then walk along the path adjacent to edge cliff drive, cross over the creek. It is also accessible from butterfly during low tide. While the waves here are subpar is it a great place for families, sunset watching and is a popular date spot among locals.
Festivals and events
- 20 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Held annually towards the end of January/beginning of February - an eleven day celebration at several historical theaters, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival welcomes some of the biggest names in Hollywood with awards ceremonies and world premier screenings. SBIFF has gradually built a reputation for its growing program that features some of the industry's top distributors in attendance. Individual tickets are available for the tribute events.
- 21 Summer Solstice, Alameda Park. In 1974 friends of local artist Michael Gonzalez dressed up in costumes and ran down State Street, without a permit, to celebrate his birthday. Several decades later this has turned into a civic celebration of the first day of summer. There's a carnival-like parade on State Street, and a festival with live music in Alameda Park. Check the website for exact dates.
- Old Spanish Days (Fiesta). In the 1920s, the Chamber of Commerce decided that there should be a reason to visit Santa Barbara in August, and so invented "Old Spanish Days." Nowadays it's universally referred to as "Fiesta" and is still held in early August. In modern times it's probably more popular among locals than among visitors, but worth a look-in. There's a parade, "El Desfile Historico," that features pretty impressive costumes and horsemanship. 22 De La Guerra Plaza downtown becomes "El Mercado," with live bands and stalls selling food. "El Mercado Del Norte" in 23 MacKenzie Park has a county fair ambience with carnival rides. "Las Noches de Ronda" is the collective name for numerous performances around town of traditional Spanish and Mexican performances such as flamenco dances and mariachi bands. There's also a horse show and rodeo at the 24 Earl Warren Showgrounds.
Santa Barbara is a shopping paradise. State Street alone offers more than a mile stretch of everything from trendy boutiques to popular chain stores like Restoration Hardware. El Paseo (812 State St., downtown) is an upscale mall that bills itself as "California's First Shopping Center," while lushly themed and nearby Paseo Nuevo (651 Paseo Nuevo) offers Nordstrom's and more than 50 specialty shops. Whatever you're looking for, you'll likely find it on State Street. There is plenty of parking downtown with the first 75 minutes free in most lots (except at the beach). A good bet is the parking structure on Ortega.
- 1 Channel Island Surfboards, 36 Anacapa St, ☏ . The retail shop has a big choice of wet suits and surf boards.
- 2 Cranky's Bikes, 1014 State St, ☏ . M-Sa noon-7PM, Su 2-6PM. They do repairs and sell bikes. Knowledgeable staff.
- 3 Farmers Market, Cota Street and Santa Barbara St. Sa 8AM-1PM. The market hosts vendors who sell local eggs, fresh fruits, vegetables, oils and many other organic products. There is also a Tuesday evening market on State Street and markets on other days in other nearby towns.
- Fusano Olives, [email protected]. This local olive oil mill sells from their own grounds smoked olives, delicious tapenades, olive oil and other olive based products. $8 per tapenade glass.
- Mama's Preserves (2 Peas in a Pod), [email protected]. This stand sells extraordinary homemade jams and marmalade. Mama recommends the sweet and spice Jalapeño along with cheese. The nectarine, blueberry are delicious too. One is always welcomed to taste on their stand. Their fresh berries are excellent too and vary in taste according to season. $8 per jam/marmalade.
- 4 Hazard's Cyclesport, 110 Anacapa St, ☏ , [email protected]. M-F 10AM-6PM; Sa 10AM-5PM; Su noon-5PM. The bicycle shop has been around since 1914, they sell bikes, do service (not snobby) and charge reasonable prices. They also have a running store in their bike shop.
- 5 The Italian Pottery Outlet, 929 State St, toll-free: . A family-owned business, it has been in this location for more than 15 years. It carries the largest collection of Italian pottery in the west and at discounted prices.
- 6 Mountain Air Sports, 14 State St, ☏ , [email protected]. M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 11AM-5PM. This outdoor shop sells good for camping, kayak, rock climbing, skiing and many other activities. They have a great selection on site.
Santa Barbara does French-inspired California cuisine quite well. Locally sourced food is a point of pride for many chefs, who are able to draw from the bounty of fresh produce grown within a few hundred miles of the city, as well as the fresh seafood that's pulled in from the ocean daily. The town's elevated cultural status attracts high-powered chefs from all over the world, and the selection and sheer variety of local fare is quite astonishing for a community of 90,000.
In addition, Santa Barbara's Mexican food ranks with any other town in California and the food truck scene born in L.A. has emerged in the city as well. Here are just a few of Santa Barbara's culinary choices:
- East Beach Tacos, 226 S Milpas St Santa Barbara, CA 93103. 11:00-6:00. Innovative taco spot with great tacos, good prices and a weird location attached to batting cages. Don't let the location fool you, this place stands out in a city bursting with great tacos. While classic taco staples like carnitas and carne asada are on the menu, the real gems are the asian inspired tacos, reminiscent of the LA food truck scene. The triple play, 3 tacos of your choice for 10 dollars, is the way to go and is what most people order. Be warned the parking lot is poorly designed and always crowded. 10-20$.
- 1 Cajun Kitchen, 901 Chapala St, ☏ . M–Sa 6:30AM–3PM, Su 7AM–3PM. Very popular breakfast and lunch place. The best breakfast in town. Delicious sausages. Good price. Another location at 1924-A De la Vina St.
- 2 The Habit, 628 State St, ☏ . M–Sa 10:30AM–9PM, Su 11AM–8PM. Stop by for a cheap, charbroiled sidewalk burger at this regional chain, which has roots in Santa Barbara. Also 216 S. Milpas St. and 5735 Hollister in Goleta. (+1 805 962 7472).
- 3 Los Arroyos, 14 W. Figueroa St (off State street), ☏ . The restaurant serves popular and very good Mexican food.
- 4 The Natural Café and juice bar, 508 State St, ☏ , [email protected]. Daily 11AM-9PM. Outdoor, sidewalk dining that is healthy and good. If there is a vegan/vegetarian in the group, they will be happy here. Part of a small regional chain; there's another location further out at 361 Hitchcock Way.
- 5 On The Alley, 117 Harbor Way, ☏ . Su-Th 6:30AM-6PM, F Sa 6:30AM-7PM. Burgers, seafood, and other simple but tasty meals right at the harbor. You can take your food around the corner to sit on the beach or the sea wall and enjoy the ocean view while you eat.
- 6 Panino, 834 Santa Barbara St, ☏ . Good variety of sandwiches, part of a local chain.
- 7 Romanti-Ezer, 701 Chapala St, ☏ . M–W 9AM–8PM, Th–Sa 9AM–3AM, Su 9AM–9PM. "Weird Name - Delicious Food" [sic] A great walk-up Mexican restaurant with outdoor and limited indoor seating, in-the-know locals look for options with the mole sauce.
- 8 Rudy's Mexican Restaurant, 305 W. Montecito St, ☏ . M–Sa 8AM–10PM, Su 8AM–9PM. Very good tamales, chimichangas and burritos. Charming family-owned business. A total of six locations.
- 9 La Super-Rica Taqueria, 622 N. Milpas St, ☏ . M 11AM–9PM, Tu W closed, Th 11AM–9PM, F Sa 11AM–9:30PM, Su 11z–9PM. Once named "Best Mexican Food in the Country" by the New York Times. You won't come here for the atmosphere. There is no sign on the building, and seating is first come-first served, but you'll be happy you stood in the long line forming outside the door once you taste what's served up here. Julia Child is said to have named this her favorite Mexican restaurant, but other reviews call it pleasant but not extraordinary. Cash only. After you order, keep the tab with your order, and wait in the dining area for your number to be called. $5–15.
- Super Cuca's Restaurant, ☏ . Daily 6AM-8PM. Two Locations. Big burritos, vegetarian recommended even for those die-hard carnivores. $8 for a large burrito.
- 12 Woody's BBQ, 5112 Hollister Ave, ☏ . Serving delicious BBQ; voted Santa Barbara's Favorite BBQ for 19 years in a row.
- 13 Rusty's Pizza Parlor, 232 W. Carrillo St (2 blocks east of the Carrilo St exit from Hwy 101.), ☏ . Favorite local pizza chain. Pizzas have quality toppings and a thin but fluffy crust. 7 other locations around town (see website). The Carrillo St location has the most character, as it's in an authentic Tudor-style building that used to be a pub. Great place to take the kids. They also deliver.
- 14 Arigato Sushi, 1225 State St, ☏ . M-Th 11:00-22:30, F Sa 11:00-23:00, Su 11:00-22:30. Good sushi. They don't take reservations and are usually packed Thursday through Saturday nights with people queuing up. While they serve also US-style sushi combinations like grilled stuff and with funny sauces on top, they have a great choice of traditional sushis and rolls with for example mackerel, salmon, tuna or yellowtail. The choices of sake are excellent. $7 tuna roll, $6 2 pieces salmon.
- 15 Boathouse at Hendry's Beach, 2981 Cliff Dr, ☏ , [email protected]. M-F 7:30AM-11:30AM, M-Sa 3PM-midnight. The restaurant serves local seafood. One can either have a breakfast, brunch or dinner. For the happy hour selection there is a designated outdoor seating area. Its choices include cheeseburger, tuna and black mussels plus local wine choices.
- 16 Brophy Bros, 119 Harbor Way, ☏ . 11AM-10PM. Breakwater at the Harbor, great seafood, known for seafood and particularly clam chowder, the setting cannot be beat. Longstanding local favorite.
- 17 Cold Spring Tavern, 5995 Stagecoach Rd (Take the 101 North. Get off on the 154 North exit. Drive about 9 miles on 154, until you see a street sign on your left for Stagecoach Road and turn left. If you miss that turnoff and see Paradise Road on your right, you can turn right on Paradise Road and then turn right when it intersects with Stagecoach Road), ☏ . Located off of Highway 154 near wine country (from downtown Santa Barbara, the trip is approximately 15 miles, and may last as long as 30 minutes or so), this historic rustic tavern, restaurant and coach stop is a touch of Old West and a world away from the glitz of lower State Street. Stop for lunch at this family-friendly historic tavern and restaurant that's also popular with the weekend biker crowd. The place serves up some of the best tri-tip sandwiches on Sundays, when outdoor live music from local bands is usually on tap as well. Great location and great food. It also offers a fun atmosphere on weekend nights with live music. It can be very crowded especially on sunday when various car and motorcycle clubs will stop by. Dinner is more expensive, in the $17–29 range.
- 18 Chuck's of Hawaii, 3888 State St, ☏ . The watergrill is found on 113 Harbor Way, A great cut of beef. Try anything with artichokes.
- 19 Los Agaves, 600 N Milpas St, ☏ . Los Agaves is one of the favorites of Milpas and often earns the coveted Best Of Santa Barbara award from the Santa Barbara Independent in the Mexican food category. Many of the dishes are seafood-centric, and the seafood enchiladas are a regular favorite. The restaurant was so popular in its Milpas Street location that it opened a second location in Santa Barbara in 2013. The new location is located on upper De La Vina St, in the Mid-Town District.
- 20 Opal Restaurant, 1325 State St, ☏ . A great example of typical mid-range Santa Barbara cuisine, with an innovative, California-French menu and lovely atmosphere. The salmon with Thai curry sauce is a good bet.
- 21 The Palace Grill, 8 E. Cota St, ☏ . This place celebrates the cuisine of New Orleans. It has a fun, yet laid back atmosphere with great service. Try the Caribbean coconut shrimp.
- 22 Palazzio, 1026 State St, ☏ . Extremely generous portions of pastas and salads. One entree and a half salad is enough to feed up to three people. Every fifteen minutes waiters walk around with freshly baked garlic rolls that are to die for.
- 23 Pascucci, 729 State St, ☏ . Santa Barbara's best affordable Italian food from local producers. Often a local band plays during dinner.
- 24 Restaurant Roy, 7 West Carrillo St, ☏ . Good "off State St." bar. Serves great food late at night, focus on local ingredients. Prix fixe menu with everything at around $25.
- 25 La Playa Azul Cafe, 914 Santa Barbara St, ☏ . Not perhaps the most authentic Mexican food, but very tasty and popular. Excellent margaritas.
- 26 Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, 230 Stearns Wharf (Near the end of Stearns Wharf), ☏ . Rustic little spot with mostly counter seating. Excellent views. Probably the best food on the wharf, but it's shellfish only - if it's got scales and a backbone, it's not on the menu.
- 27 Finch & Fork, 31 West Carrillo St., ☏ . Progressive, New American food. Excellent cocktails.
- 28 Arnoldi's Cafe, 600 Olive Street, ☏ . Quaint little Italian joint, serving homey Italian classics and espresso. Has a lovely patio. The bocce courts out back have some fairly serious league play.
- Via Maestra, 3343 State St (next to the San Roque Post Office), ☏ . M-Sa 8:30AM-9PM, Su 11AM-5PM. Delicious Italian restaurant in a little strip mall on upper State St. They also do catering and takeout. For breakfast and lunch, antipasti and salads: $6.95-15.95, panini: $8.95, mains $13.95-32.95 (clustering in the teens), desserts: $3.50-7.99, with $6.99 the most common price. Dinner menu not online.
For a city as wealthy as it is, Santa Barbara has fewer real fine dining options than you might expect. A few good options are below.
- 29 Wine Cask, 813 Anacapa St, ☏ , [email protected]. Tu-F 11:30AM-2:00, 5:30–9PM. As the name implies, Wine Cask has an extensive wine list, much of it drawn from co-owned and neighboring Margerum Wine Co. The French-inspired menu is quite pricey, and the restaurant is a favorite among the city's movers and shakers. It is located in the gorgeous El Paseo building, one of the city's earliest Spanish Colonial Revival structures. If you're looking for a cheaper taste of the menu and a more casual atmosphere, try Intermezzo Bar + Café, the bar area off to the side. They offer delicious, fresh-baked flatbreads.
- 30 Olio e Limone, 11 West Victoria Street, Suite 17, ☏ . Upscale Italian. Excellent wine list. The Dover sole, when available, is particularly good. Also has a lower-priced pizzeria connected to it.
- 31 Bouchon, 9 West Victoria St, ☏ . Innovative California French cuisine. Extensive local wine selection. Affiliated with the Wine Cask
In addition to Santa Barbara wine tasting, the region is also full of bars. Many of them cater to crowds of students from the nearby university. Thursday nights are the official college night of downtown bars at which time the drinks are particularly cheap. Really any bar on lower State Street is Fun on Thursday nights to relive those college days.
- 1 Dargan's Irish Pub & Restaurant, 18 E Ortega St, ☏ , [email protected]. 11:30AM-. Sportsbar with Irish music. Good lamb stew.
- 2 Elsie's, 117 West De La Guerra St, ☏ . Neighborhood beer and wine joint with good music. Meet the locals out back in the outdoor smoking area or over rounds of pool inside. It is a former bike shop turned into a comfy bar. It can get very crowded.
- 3 Intermezzo Bar + Cafe, 819 Anacapa St, ☏ . M-F 4PM-, Sa noon-. The place has a wide selection of wines per glass. It's the bar of the upscale wine cask restaurant. It serves simple food plates too.
- 4 The James Joyce, 513 State St, ☏ . 10AM-2AM daily. Yes, it's an Irish pub, or "A Traditional Irish Bar." Free peanuts, karaoke, a fireplace and dixieland jazz bands on the weekend. Guinness flows freely.
- 5 Joe's Cafe, State Street 536, ☏ . 7:30AM-11PM. This upbeat bar and steakhouse severs the stiffest drinks on State St. Have a couple at the beginning of the night.
- 6 Cruisery, 501 State St, ☏ . M–Th 11:30AM–11PM, F–Su 11:30AM–midnight. The revamped location of the old Santa Barbara Brewing Company; still features good quality beer but has a significantly more interesting and better, though still reasonably priced, food menu. The name refers to its bicycle themed decor.
- 7 SOhO Restaurant and Music Club, 1221 State St, ☏ . Jazz/live music club above Victoria Court.
- 8 Wildcat Lounge, 15 W Ortega St, ☏ . Danceclub.
- 9 The Press Room, 15 E Ortega St, ☏ . Small, friendly bar with a very English vibe. Popular spot for watching European soccer. Sometimes keeps fairly oddball hours to accommodate important matches in distant time zones.
There are several good places to relax in Santa Barbara:
- 10 The Andersen's, 1106 State St, ☏ . Very perfect café and pasteries, the place is ideal for breakfast. On the happy hour they serve wine for special prices. It established itself in 1976 and expanded since. One can dine here too. Many people stop by for pastries on the go.
- 11 D'Angelo Bakery, 25 W Gutierrez St, ☏ . Great place to start the day with a breakfast. It offers poached eggs, delicious omelets all accompagned with their bread or home made pastries.
- 12 The French Press, 1101 State St, ☏ . M-F 6AM-7PM, Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 8AM-7PM. The café serves fine espressos, chocolate chais, various leaf teas and also fine pastries. One can buy great coffee beans.
- 13 Handlebar Coffee Roasters, 128 E. Canon Perdido St., [email protected]. M-Sa 7AM–5PM, Su 8AM–1PM. The Handlebar is owned by two former pro-cyclists. They bring that same focus and dedication to detail to in-house roasting, espressos, brewed coffees, teas and their selection of baked goods from local bakers. You'll find baristas and extremely friendly stuff doing excellent coffee together with fine croissants.
- 14 Savoy Cafe & Deli, 24 West Figueroa St, ☏ . M-Sa 7:30AM-8PM, Sunday 7:30AM-5PM. Good breakfast with large selection of leaf teas. Serves great sandwiches to go.
The local ice creams or blenders are great for the go or to relax on one of the state street benches.
- 15 Blenders In the Grass, 720 State St, ☏ . M-F 7AM–8PM, Sa Su 8AM–8PM. The juice shop sells pressed fruity juices with several possible supplements for the go. The local chain has 12 shops in and around Santa Barbara.
- 16 McConnell's Fine Ice Creams, 728 State St, ☏ . Selling handcrafted local ice creams from Santa Barbara since 1949.
Santa Barbara has a huge number of hotels and motels, ranging from Motel 6 to Fess Parker's astonishing Doubletree Resort. One thing you won't find here is dives. Prices are before tax; allow another 8% for tax.
- 1 Motel 6 Santa Barbara - Beach, 443 Corona Del Mar, ☏ . Basic simple hotel room with bed, private bath, small pool, and TV. Has air conditioning, but noisy in window units. Friendly staff. About 75 yards (68 m) to the beach. This was the world's first Motel 6. $92-264.
- 2 Presidio Motel, 1620 State St, ☏ , [email protected]. This sweet motel is run by a charming young couple, with a foible for mid-century design. Free wireless internet and some books on design or art are likely to be part of the rooms set up, as much as TV and a coffee and muffin in the morning. From $109 for king-size bed.
- 3 Sandpiper Lodge, 3525 State St (U.S. Highway 101, exit Las Positas Road, 0.8 miles north, left onto State Street, in 0.3 miles is 3525 State Street), ☏ , toll-free: , [email protected]. In addition to conventional guest rooms, there are two-bedroom units (good for families), as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments include a full kitchen. Free wireless internet in guest rooms and in lobby. $100-150.
- Avania Inn of Santa Barbara, 128 Castillo St. Pillow-top beds, 32" LCD HD TVs, free breakfast, free parking, free Internet. 1 block from the beaches.
- Brisas Del Mar, Inn at the Beach, 223 Castillo St. A Mediterranean-style villa two blocks from the beaches and yacht harbor.
- Best Western Encina Lodge & Suites, 2220 Bath St. Offers lodging accommodations including suites and apartments with small luxury hotel amenities and bed and breakfast charm near local tourist attractions.
- Colonial Beach Inn, 206 Castillo St. Located near the beach, Amtrak Station, golf and wineries. Offers lodging accommodations reminiscent of the romantic American South and a variety of hotel packages.
- Country Inn by the Sea, 128 Castillo St, ☏ . Located 1 block to the waterfront and beach. King beds, jacuzzi rooms, queen beds and 2 double beds. Free breakfast and cookies and milk every evening. Heated pool & spa, his and hers sauna.
- Inn by the Harbor, 433 W. Montecito St. The Inn by the Harbor is an enchanting Spanish colonial hotel and resort offering vacation packages from wine country to whale watching. Extended stay lodging is also available.
- 4 The Eagle Inn, 232 Natoma Ave, ☏ . Santa Barbara bed and breakfast. King- or queen-size bed, private bath, whirlpool tub, fireplace, balcony/patio, high speed Internet, etc. Free on-site parking, complimentary continental breakfast.
- Hotel Santa Barbara, 533 State St, toll-free: . "European-style" hotel smack in the middle of Santa Barbara's busy downtown shopping area. $129–219, ask about midweek specials.
- Ramada Santa Barbara, ☏ , fax: . 4770 Calle Real. Beautiful gardens and freshwater lagoon. Complimentary deluxe continental breakfast, Wifi, parking, free offsite fitness center & airport shuttle. AAA 3 diamond. $99–119.
- 5 The Wayfarer, 12 E Montecito Street, ☏ , [email protected]. Guest rooms for two or three. Also lists all-female or all-male dorm rooms for up to five, and a shared kitchen. Free wireless internet. Close to the beach and the "funk zone". Whimsical animal-themed decor. Very close to the Amtrak train station. $150-274.
- Old Yacht Club Inn, 431 Corona Del Mar Dr, ☏ . 14-suite Bed and Breakfast on East Beach in Santa Barbara. Charming inn with fireplaces, whirlpool tubs & bicycles. $169 – 459.
- 6 Canary Hotel, 31 West Carrillo St, ☏ , fax: . A boutique hotel near State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. Amenities include function space for meetings and wedding receptions, spa service, and dog friendly accommodations. Also has a great rooftop bar with wonderful views, exclusively for hotel guests.
- 7 Cheshire Cat Inn, 36 West Valerio St, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. The Cheshire Cat Inn features three stately Queen Anne Victorians, an elegant Coach House, three cottages, all surrounded by flower-filled gardens and patios. The Inn is located in a residential area, one block from Santa Barbara's main shopping street. Each of the sunny guest rooms and cottages is uniquely furnished and ranges from the elegant to the whimsical. Some are larger split-level junior suites with private balconies; others have in-room Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces. Amenities may include TV/DVD, ironing boards and refrigerators. All the rooms have private baths and telephones. Breakfast is served daily and is included in the rate. $179-400.
- 8 El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas, 1900 Lasuen Rd, toll-free: , fax: . Good views and a favorite with the glitterati, like Diane Lane, Barbra Streisand, and Sharon Stone.
- 9 Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort, 633 East Cabrillo Blvd, ☏ , toll-free: . 24-acre oceanside resort. Starting around $255 for a two queen bedded room, up to $735 for a Presidential Suite with whirlpool bath. Add $25 for breakfast for two adults. Enter off Calle Puerto Vallarta. $255-735.
- 10 Harbor View Inn, 28 W. Cabrillo Blvd. Boutique 4-diamond family friendly beachfront hotel. All rooms and suites have a patio or balcony.
- Pacifica Suites, 5490 Hollister Ave, toll-free: , fax: . All-suite hotel adjacent to the beautifully restored Sexton House, an 1880s architectural landmark. Meeting space and conference facilities. $169–$209.
- San Ysidro Ranch, 900 San Ysidro Ln, ☏ . Secluded and dripping with luxury, competes with the Rosewood Miramar for the title of fanciest (and most expensive) Hotel in Santa Barbara. "Hotel ranch," with room, suite and villa accommodations, dining, day trips to local beaches and wineries, guided hiking.
- 11 Simpson House Inn, 121 East Arrellaga St, toll-free: . A historic Italianate Victorian manor considered one of the best preserved and restored homes of its era in California. Guestrooms inside the estate house, private English style cottages and four rooms in the Carriage House. Landscaped gardens, wood-burning fireplaces and personalized service. All rates include daily gourmet breakfast, evening wine tasting and hors d'oeuvres and complimentary parking. Rates from $235 to $615.
- Rosewood Miramar. Located directly on the beach, the Miramar competes for the title of most luxurious (and expensive) hotel in Santa Barbara and is a favorite among celebrities. The price is steep but the location is unbeatable with some rooms having direct beach access and Coast Village Road a short walk away. The only downside are the train tracks that bisect the property and the noise that comes with them.
Although Santa Barbara is somewhat geographically isolated, with only one major route in or out of the city, the surrounding area is rife with fascinating side-trips.
- Cachuma Lake Recreation Area - This rural county park in the hills, about 18 miles up Route 154, makes for a pleasant day trip for kayaking or hiking, or you can arrange to camp there.
- Channel Islands National Park - Channel Islands National Park is a series of islands that are home to incredible marine life, beautiful and remote scenery, and the wily Channel Islands fox. While most trips to the Channel Islands depart from Ventura, Truth Aquatics runs trips from Santa Barbara.
- Goleta - Neighboring Santa Barbara to the west, Goleta offers similar beaches and resorts to its more famous neighbor. It is also home to a grove of trees that is an overwintering area for monarch butterflies, with the insects gathering in huge numbers each year from mid-November until mid-February.
- Los Olivos - About 50 miles north of Santa Barbara on Highway 154. This is a cute little one-horse town with about 20 local winery tasting rooms lined up on Grand St. A great place to go wine tasting without having to drive a zillion miles from winery to winery.
- Montecito - This affluent town is located just east of Santa Barbara along the coast and is home to many rich and famous, including Oprah Winfrey. Montecito Village is home to some interesting shops and markets, while upscale resorts can be found on the coast.
- Solvang - Located approximately 40 miles north of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez Valley, Solvang is a gingerbread town. What must have started several decade back as a small "Little Denmark" tourist trap has grown into an entire town and surrounding community obsessed with its own overwhelming Danishness. Every sign, roof, light post and pothole is Danish-themed here, and reports of wandering bands of drunken men in plastic Viking helmets are firmly founded in reality. Take Highway 101 north/west to Buellton (the home of the original Pea Soup Anderson's), exit at the Highway 246 offramp and follow the destination signs to Solvang. If you're up for a twisty drive, take Highway 154 (also known as the San Marcos Pass) back to Santa Barbara at sunset and enjoy an unforgettable view.
- Santa Ynez - 31 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez sits at the heart of the rural Santa Ynez valley, an area that attracts travelers to its many wineries. The valley was the setting for the 2004 film Sideways, and fans of the film are known to make pilgrimages to the inns and restaurants from the movie.
- Wine Country. North on US 101 or Highway 154; pretty much all of the county north of the mountains.
- Los Angeles is about 90 miles down the coast, but whether you take the 101 or the Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1), be prepared for a major tie-up somewhere along the route in the best of times. With no traffic, the trip could take you 90 minutes, but actual driving time is often easily twice that and can be more. Both routes have their appeal, though, as after they diverge in Ventura, Route 1 goes past beautiful coastline and the Malibu Cliffs, whereas the 101 climbs over the Conejo Grade into Thousand Oaks and then the San Fernando Valley. Also accessible by Amtrak, Flixbus, or Greyhound. Contrary to popular belief, Los Angeles does have decent public transportation and a car-free weekend can be had at places like Hollywood or Santa Monica.
|Routes through Santa Barbara|
|San Luis Obispo ← Goleta ←||N S||→ Montecito → Los Angeles / Long Beach|
|Los Olivos ← Santa Ynez ←||W E||→ END|
|San Luis Obispo ← Goleta ←||N S||→ Carpinteria → Los Angeles|