Santa Barbara, California USA

Santa Barbara, California, USA (4/15-20/2015)

Beautiful Santa Barbara California
Beautiful Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara is an enchanting seaside delight and a must visit when you are in California!

Sometimes referred to as the “American Riviera”, Santa Barbara has beautiful beaches and a majestic backdrop of mountains surrounding it. Santa Barbara’s world-class accommodations and dining, colorful architecture, and an abundance of fun things to do make it a premier resort destination.

Beautiful Architecture Santa Barbara Court House
Beautiful Architecture -
Santa Barbara Court House
Santa Barbara is less than 100 miles from hyper-metropolitan Los Angeles but differs vastly. With a temperate climate and lush natural surroundings, pedestrian-friendly Santa Barbara has wide sandy beaches, highly rated wineries, and a large variety of shopping and dining choices. Rebuilt after a 1925 earthquake, the distinctive architecture is built in a Mediterranean style with red-titled roofs, whitewashed buildings, and palm trees.

Music Academy of the West Santa Barbara
Music Academy of the West -
Santa Barbara, California
In addition to all this, Santa Barbara is much more. Santa Barbara’s 90,000 sophisticated residents demand a lifestyle rich in cultural and social amenities. Visitors can also enjoy the sort of cultural experience usually found only in much larger cities. We include some of Santa Barbara’s wonderful cultural opportunities at the end of this post.

Beautiful State Street Santa Barbara California
Beautiful State Street -
Santa Barbara, California
State Street

Santa Barbara’s beautiful tree-lined main street, State Street (see photo), is a great way to spend hours exploring brand name and local boutique shops and dropping into one of the many unique restaurants.

La Arcada Plaza at Night santa barbara California
La Arcada Plaza at Night
For shoppers, Santa Barbara’s State Street is hard to beat. We enjoyed walking through the Paseo Nuevo shopping mall with its fountain and 50 upscale stores that line its brick walkway. On upper State Street you will find La Cumbre Plaza, Santa Barbara’s mall filled with the major brand name stores that you enjoy. For a more local shopping experience, drop into the pretty La Arcada Plaza. Also, try the unique Public Market for some good eats and shopping.

Friendly Wine Tasting in the Presidio Neighborhood santa barbara californa room
Friendly Wine Tasting 
in the Presidio Neighborhood
Located just off State Street (northeast on De La Guerra Street), you will find a favorite of Santa Barbara’s locals. The Presidio Neighborhood has wonderful wine tasting, restaurants, coffee houses, and stores that will please everyone from gourmet cheeses to handmade jewelry. Check out the great sandwiches at C’est Cheese

El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park
El Presidio de Santa Barbara 
State Historic Park
In the Presidio District, the El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park gives visitors a chance to see one of the last Spanish fortresses (presidios) to be built in California and attend a show at the Lobero Theatre, California’s oldest continuously operating theater.
Waterfront and Beaches

Stearns Wharf  Santa Barbara California pier
Stearns Wharf -
Santa Barbara, California
There are also plenty of things to enjoy at the ocean end of State Street. Santa Barbara’s Waterfront and Stearns Wharf have fun seafront restaurants, museums, shops, and souvenirs. This is a great place for families with children to visit.

Kids Learning about Ocean Ty Warner Sea Center Museum stearns wharf santa barbara
Kids Learning about the Ocean -
Ty Warner Sea Center Museum
Stearns Wharf at the end of State Street has an assortment of shops and seafood restaurants. We enjoyed the Ty Warner Sea Center Museum that brings out the kid in you learning more about the amazing creatures of the sea. For history bluffs located across from the train station on State Street, we found the Reagan Ranch Center museum interesting.

East Beach santa Barbara California beaches ocean
East Beach - Santa Barbara, California
The Santa Barbara Harbor features a variety of seafront shops, restaurants and museums. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is interesting and worth a visit.

Sunset at Butterfly Beach santa barbara california
Sunset at Butterfly Beach
Santa Barbara has four miles of beautiful sandy beaches including East Beach (Santa Barbara’s largest and most popular), Shoreline Park, West Beach, Leadbetter, and others. 

It is great fun to rent a bike or petalcab from Wheel Fun Rentals across from Stearns Wharf and take a ride along the beach. There are many other enjoyable things to do at the Waterfront including walking, volleyball, fishing, kayaking, parasailing, sailing, surfing, swimming, skating, diving, whale watching, and windsurfing.

Wine Tasting Wine Connection in Funk Zone santa barbara california
Wine Tasting -  
Wine Connection in Funk Zone
Funk Zone

Innovative Cuisine at The Lark Restaurant santa barbara california food
Innovative Cuisine at The Lark Restaurant
We liked Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone so much we have included its own section. This area near the Waterfront is fun! You can taste wine, enjoy great restaurants and lively award-winning brewpubs, and wander through art galleries and artisan shops.

We absolutely loved the innovative cuisine at The Lark that is next to the Lucky Penny that features nice wood-fired pizzas and thousands of copper pennies on its walls.

Pat Thinks Bigger is Better Jamie Slone wine Tasting Room santa barbara Presidio District
Pat Thinks Bigger is Better -
Jamie Slone Tasting Room
For wine lovers, get ahold of a brochure for the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail. Strolling around in the downtown area, mostly in the Funk Zone and Presidio District, wines of many different varieties from 26 of Santa Barbara’s best vineyards can be tasted and purchased. Along the way, you can enjoy sidewalk cafes, excellent restaurants, and shopping.

Wayne Making Glass Creation at Santa Barbara Art Glass california blown glass
Wayne Making Glass Creation at Santa Barbara Art Glass
While in the Funk Zone, drop by the Santa Barbara Art Glass on Mason Street for some beautiful glass pieces. Better yet, give them a call to set up an appointment to make your own blown glass creation - had a great time learning and doing the process.

Auto Wine Tasting Terravant
Wayne Auto Wine Tasting - Terravant
A tour we highly recommend taking is from Eat This Shoot That. Starting at Stearns Wharf, you are escorted through wine tastings and wonderful food in the Funk Zone and Waterfront neighborhoods – not to be missed.

Pat Dunlap on Santa Barbara Trolley Company Tour california
Pat on Santa Barbara Trolley Company Tour

Travel tips: It’s easy to get around Santa Barbara. There is an inexpensive shuttle (25 cents) that runs up and down State Street to the Waterfront. Also, the Santa Barbara Trolley Company conducts a very nice narrated hop on hop off tours around downtown, out to the Old Mission, and along the beach.

Surrounding Area

Famous Bar from movie Sideways at Hitching Post II santa barbara california
Famous Bar from  
Sideways at Hitching Post II
The award-winning Santa Barbara wine country is just minutes away from the city. It was the setting for the movie Sideways. The gorgeous Santa Ynez Valley, with its breath-taking vistas, is home many other wonderful places to visit. Stop in at the Terravaunt for some wine tasting and a hearty meal at the Hitching Post II, make famous in Sideways.

Outstanding Cultural Experiences

History Awaits at Old Mission Santa Barbara California
History Awaits at Old Mission  -
Santa Barbara, California
You should consider a visit to the interesting and well-restored Santa Barbara Mission for a better understanding of California’s history. Santa Barbara has many other worthwhile museums.

Santa Barbara Bowl
Santa Barbara Bowl
The Music Academy of the West puts on a great Summer Festival offering outstanding musical presentations under the stars overlooking the ocean in the Santa Barbara Bowl such as the New York Philharmonic in concert and many others.

GranadaTheatre Santa Barbara California
GranadaTheatre -
Santa Barbara, California
Fans of live performance will be well entertained in Santa Barbara with its many historic theatres (Lobero, Arlington, Ensemble, Center Stage, Granada, & others) and performing arts (i.e. Opera, Symphony, Chamber Orchestra). The wonderful nearby University of California, San Barbara and Santa Barbara City College put on many more performances.

Food and Wine Festival Bacara Resort santa barbara california
Food and Wine Festival -
Bacara Resort
Attending a local festival with great weather is a great way to enjoy a day with culture, food, and fun. Santa Barbara has more than their fair share of fun events. Some of the ones they are famous for are: Old Spanish Days, Summer Solstice Parade, Harbor & Seafood Festival, Vintners’ Festival, Madonnari Italian Street Painting, French Festival,, and Earth Day. The star-studded Santa Barbara International Film Festival is held in January/February.

A Botanical Wonderland Pat at Lotusland santa barbara california
A Botanical Wonderland  -
Pat at Lotusland
For garden lovers, Santa Barbara is a delight. We loved visiting Ganna Walsha Lotusland, a 37-acre botanical wonderland consisting of 26 different themed gardens. Reservations are required to visit Lotusland. To see a beautiful display of native plants in beautiful landscaped settings, a visit to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden gives visitors a chance to walk along a meadow, through a canyon, and small redwood forest.

Garden at Casa del Herrero santa barbara california
Garden at Casa del Herrero
A visit to Casa del Herrero in Montecito offers a chance to enjoy a garden and to see one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in America. Reservations are required.

Travel tip: You can travel to Santa Barbara’s conveniently located train station from San Diego or San Francisco and places between on the very comfortable Amtrak train. Our trip from San Diego took about the same time as driving and was much nicer watching the beautiful coastline, reading, and using the free Wi-Fi Internet.

Elegant Spanish Garden Inn Santa Barbara california hotel courtyard
Elegant Spanish Garden Inn -
Santa Barbara, California
We had a wonderful stay at the Spanish Garden Inn. It is an elegant retreat with a superb location near the heart of Santa Barbara’s downtown. Stays include private balconies & gardens, a nice breakfast inside or in the courtyard, fireplace, Italian linens, soaking tub, Wi-Fi, HDTV, parking, and pool.

Beautiful Rose Garden at Old Mission santa barbara california
Beautiful Rose Garden at Old Mission
Having visited Santa Barbara a couple of times, we did not realize the vast amount of things worth seeing and doing. We would to thank Visit Santa Barbara for hosting us and showing us many more wonderful sites and the cultural aspect of Santa Barbara. Their website ( is a wonderful resource for planning your trip to Santa Barbara and you can order a free travel guide.

Visit Santa Barbara! You will love it.

Driving the California coast is a treat. For a review of some of the outstanding places south and north of Santa Barbara, please refer to our other 3 travel blog posts:

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  1. What a beautiful city! I was heartbroken when I heard of the nearby oil spill last week.

  2. I haven't been to Santa Barbara, but it certainly sounds worth a visit. I'm hoping to do a tour up the California coast next spring or the following, so I am hanging on this information. Thanks.

  3. I've been to Santa Barbara many times and visited most of the sights. One of my very favorite gardens anywhere is Ganna Walsha Lotusland. An absolute don't-miss.

  4. It's years since I've visited Santa Barbara. Looks like time to return. The proximity to the Amtrak station also adds another appealing dimension A nice change from madly rushing from airport to airport!

  5. I need to explore so much of California and Santa Barbara looks like a destination I should add to my list! Loved your great photos!!


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