By Betsy Malloy
California Travel Expert, about.com
Santa Barbara is one of California's oldest, most historic and most beautiful towns, with a south-facing coastline that gives it a "banana belt" climate. Red-tiled roofs, warm-colored plaster walls, arched facades and enclosed garden courtyards characterize the local architecture.
In the early 1900s, Santa Barbara was the film capital of the world. More than 1,200 movies were made here in a 10-year span, and the town was a favorite spot for legendary film stars such as Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin. Today's stars still go to Santa Barbara for an easy getaway, and so can you.
Scenes from Santa Barbara
Enjoy some of our best shots in this Santa Barbara Photo Tour
Will You Like Santa Barbara?
Santa Barbara has been popular as a getaway from the Los Angeles area for years. It's a good place for going to the beach, romantic escapes and relaxing weekends.
- Families enjoy walking or biking along the waterfront, going to the beach and visiting the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center.
- History-lovers will find that Santa Barbara is one of California's oldest cities, with its Spanish mission and military Presidio still standing.
- For those who like to shop, State Street is one of the state's great shopping streets, with lots of local boutiques and the Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center.
Best Time to Go
Thanks to its protected, south-facing location, Santa Barbara has some of California's best weather any time of year. Nevertheless, it's more likely to be rainy here in winter than at other times of the year. It's also so popular that it's quite crowded in summer, and local hotels fill up around UCSB's orientation, homecoming and graduation.
Fun Things to Do in Santa Barbara
- Top Things to Do: For a quick peek at the most popular and fun things to do, check the guide to Things to Do in Santa Barbara.
- [post_ads]Every weekend, an arts and crafts show springs up along Cabrillo Blvd. The quality of goods here is high, the vendors friendly and the people-watching excellent. The Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show is on Sundays only (and some Saturdays of major holidays)
- State Street Shopping: Follow State Street away from the waterfront and you'll find a lively street scene with good shopping, dining, and people-watching.
- Rent Some Wheels: It's easy to find places renting skates, bicycles, and surreys and everyone loves taking them along the waterfront.
- Mission Santa Barbara: One of California's oldest and most authentic missions, this is a good place to get a look at the state's history.
Side Trips and Nearby Towns
- Ventura is the jumping-off spot for trips to the Channel Islands, but it also has a nice harbor and charming downtown.
- Santa Ynez Valley and Solvang: Solvang offers Danish-style ambiance and a nice downtown full of shops of every kind and the surrounding valley is a great place for a drive.
- Channel Islands National Park encompasses the islands you'll see offshore. They're each unique and home to many species found nowhere else.
Isn't It Romantic?
The glitterati have been going on romantic getaways to Santa Barbara since the early twentieth century, on and off screen. It's got plenty of places for a romantic stroll or a candlelight dinner - and you can't beat the private cottages at San Ysidro Ranch for a private little tryst.
Annual Events You Should Know About
Even if you don't have a student in school here, you may want to check the university calendar so you can avoid crowds during their big events.
You may want to plan your Santa Barbara vacation to attend a special event. Some of the most popular annual events include the annual film festival, Old Spanish Days Fiesta, and the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration.
- I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival held in May. Street painters take over the pavement in Mission Plaza to create large scale colorful masterpieces.
- California Wine Festival held in July. California wine tasting at it's best, with local cheeses, artisan bread, olive oils and more.
- Epicure.SB held in October. A month long culinary celebration that includes art, food and music.
Where to Eat in Santa Barbara
[post_ads]You probably have a few ways to find a good place to eat, but I'll throw in a few of my favorites. Cold Springs Tavern, a virtually unchanged former stagecoach stop is a short scenic drive out of Santa Barbara. Take CA 154 north toward the mountains. When the road begins to level off, watch carefully for a small sign on the right site of the road. If you cross the beautiful San Marcos Bridge, you've gone just a little too far. While the tavern hasn't changed much, its clientele have. You'll find everyone here from bikers to stock brokers.
The Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara hosts a lavish Sunday brunch or dine at San Ysidro Ranch, which is still as romantic as it was when John and Jacqueline Kennedy honeymooned there.
For some of the most authentic Mexican food north of the border, head to La Super Rica Taqueria at 622 N. Milpas Street.
- Santa Barbara's hotels get filled to capacity almost every weekend. If you show up without reservations, you'll wish you hadn't.
- Parking in Santa Barbara can be a hassle. Leave your vehicle parked and take the Downtown-Waterfront Shuttle that runs along State Street and the Waterfront instead.
Where to Stay
You know how to book a hotel online, but there are a few things you need to know about Santa Barbara before you do that. They're all in the guide to Finding a Place to Stay in Santa Barbara.
Where is Santa Barbara?
Santa Barbara is located 95 miles from Los Angeles, 219 miles from San Diego, 420 miles from Sacramento and 337 miles from San Francisco.
Take the Train Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner Line stops in Santa Barbara.
If you're coming from LAX airport, you can take the Santa Barbara Airbus.