Santa Barbara, CA
Ninety miles up the coast from Los Angeles, the mountains and sea meet at what has become known as the American Riviera. Anyone visiting Santa Barbara quickly discovers the town’s treasures, whether it be outdoor excursions, Spanish architecture or culinary delights.
Santa Barbara rests along California’s stunning southern coast and is hedged in by the Santa Ynez Mountains. The Mediterranean climate allows nature-lovers year-round fun, and hikers can gain exquisite views of the Pacific and the Channel Islands atop Gaviota Peak or take to the Seven Falls/Inspiration Point Trail to access the Botanic Gardens. “The Y” at San Ysidro Canyon provides climbers with a rocky haven. Water lovers find Santa Barbara Harbor is great for sailing and kayaking, and those visiting Santa Barbara between December and the beginning of April can hop aboard a whale-watching cruise, also available from the Harbor.
Ocean lovers discover that Santa Barbara has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. East Beach is among the city’s most popular attractions, offering an expanse of perfect sand scattered with sand-volleyball courts and the occasional bongo player. Meanwhile, surfers and those traveling with the precious pooch head to Arroyo Burro Beach County Park, where half of the beach is open to visitors whose pups enjoying splashing in the water and running leash-free. The beach’s other half is pet-free and reserved for sun-bathers, surfers and body-boarders.
Cultural connoisseurs and art aficionados visiting Santa Barbara enjoy the city’s courthouse, considered one of the most beautiful in the nation and among the best Santa Barbara tours. After taking in a fabulous, panoramic view from El Mirador clock tower, a half-block walk southwest to the corner of West Anapamu Street and State Street leads to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The museum houses over 27,000 pieces in its permanent collection alone, among them the major works of Matisse.
Near the museum is the Bouchon, a restaurant known for its carefully crafted culinary delights, like the Maple-Glazed California Duck Breast and Confit of Thigh, sourced from local farmers’ markets and ranchers. The dessert menu includes White Chocolate Bread Pudding.
The streets of Santa Barbara come alive on the first Thursday of each month. Those visiting Santa Barbara on a Thursday can explore downtown galleries and art exhibits that open their doors to the public at scheduled times, and listen to live performances by local artists.
One of the best and most unique Santa Barbara tours is the Urban Wine Trail. The trail leads to more than a dozen wineries, including Summerland Winery and Au Bon Climat.
Venturing outside of town, Old Mission Santa Barbara rests to the northwest of the city. Known as the “Queen of the Missions,” the 1786 Spanish-style buildings are among the California coast’s most photographed. Along the shoreline, Stern’s Wharf is one of the oldest wooden piers on the West Coast where some of area’s best lobster and crab can be found at the restaurant stationed at the pier’s end, Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.