•Santa Barbara • Montecito • Summerland • Carpinteria • Goleta • Santa Ynez Back Country • Solvang • Los Olivos • Ballard •
Santa Barbara: Downtown
STATE STREET defines the city of Santa Barbara’s center—and also, its heart. The intersection of State and Carrillo streets is the very location where Captain Salisbury Haley hammered an iron stake in 1850 to officially designate the city’s future midtown area. Thus, many of Santa Barbara’s important historic buildings are near, as well as a lively arts district and a thriving shopping area. To explore some of Santa Barbara’s downtown architectural and historic jewels, take the self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour. A map with detailed directions is available in the Santa Barbara Visitor Center, 1 Garden St. or at Santa Barbara Car Free. A downloadable podcast is also available at Santa Barbara Podcasts.
Historical Museum Santa Barbara Historical Museum exhibits fine art, costumes and artifacts from Santa Barbara’s colorful history. Gledhill Library houses photographs and historic documents. 136 E. De la Guerra St. Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m. 805/966-1601.
El Presidio de Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Royal Presidio was founded in 1782 to offer protection to the mission and settlers, provide a seat of government and guard against foreign invasion. It is now a state historic park. 123 E. Canon Perdido St. 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily. 805/965-0093.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse
County Courthouse A National Historic Landmark, Santa Barbara County Courthouse was dedicated in 1929 at the height of enthusiasm for the Spanish Colonial Revival style. Its immense landscaped courtyard and sunken garden is the site of public celebrations throughout the year. Don’t miss the 360° view overlooking the city from the clocktower. 1100 Anacapa St. Hour-long docent tours Mon.–Sat. at 2 p.m. and Mon., Tues. and Fri. at 10:30 a.m. 805/962-6464.
Museum of Art SBMA’s outstanding permanent and special collections are housed in a stately building constructed in 1914 as the city’s first federally funded post office. The museum has become a prominent player in the art world. The only remaining intact mural by Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros, Portrait of Mexico Today, is on display outside. 1130 State St. Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. 805/963-4364.
La Arcada Designed by architect Myron Hunt in 1926, this storied paseo is home to a wealth of galleries, shops and restaurants. Dotted along the way are historical curios and sculptures by Santa Barbara sculptor laureate Bud Bottoms, among others, with all roads leading to the much-loved central fountain stocked with turtles and fish. 1100 block of State St.
Contemporary Arts Forum The leading contemporary arts presenter in Central California, CAF is a nonprofit dedicated to exhibiting the highest quality of contemporary art while recognizing the artists of tomorrow with innovative exhibitions both inside its walls and throughout the community. 653 Paseo Nuevo. Tues.–Sat. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sun. noon–5 p.m. 805/966-5373.
Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden Named for the benefactor who donated the prime property to the city in 1975, the park’s streams, turtles, Koi, gazebos, bridges, trees and flowers make it a popular photo backdrop, and the sensory garden with audio posts and interpretive Braille signs makes it accessible for the visually impaired. | Micheltorena and Santa Barbara streets. Micheltorena and Santa Barbara streets. The garden closes at sunset.
Santa Barbara: Mission District
Identified by MISSION SANTA BARBARA, the district is among the oldest residential neighborhoods in the city. Characterized by revival-style architecture ranging from Mission Revival and Craftsman to Tudor and Spanish Colonial Revival, it is also home to the Mission Historical Park and rose garden.
Botanic Garden Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s 78 acres are accessed by five and a half miles of trails and are a recorded history of the state’s rare and indigenous plants. From the dramatic opening view through the meadows, chaparral and forest, to the ridge tops that afford sweeping views of the Channel Islands, the garden is a skillful display of California’s natural bounty. 1212 Mission Canyon Rd. Mar.–Oct., 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; Nov.–Feb., 9 a.m.–5 p.m. 805/682-4726.
Mission Santa Barbara Dedicated more than two centuries ago on December 4, 1786 by Father Fermin Lasuen, the first mission was a tule-thatched shelter of logs and brush—a far cry from the building that has become the unofficial landmark of the city. Known as “Queen of the Missions” for its twin belltowers, Mission Santa Barbara is the only of California’s 21 missions to be continuously occupied by the Franciscans. 2201 Laguna St. Daily tours 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. 805/682-4713.
Museum of Natural History Originally a showplace for ornithology, to engage the public in the study and enjoyment of the natural history of the region, today, the museum—including its Insect Arena, Pygmy Mammoth Exhibit and Gladwin Planetarium—draws more than 150,000 visitors per year, all eager to take a closer, studied look at what nature has to offer. 2559 Puesta del Sol Rd. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. 805/682-4711.
Santa Barbara: Waterfront
Santa Barbara’s WATERFRONT, running the length of Cabrillo Boulevard from East Beach to the harbor, is a feast for outdoor enthusiasts. A paved bike, rollerblading and strolling pathway runs the full distance and on weekends passes through the popular Sunday Arts & Crafts Show, by Stearns Wharf and along West Beach to the harbor. Chase Palm Park, on both sides of the boulevard, offers everything from picnicking to carousel rides and a marvelous children’s play area, as well as free Thursday night concerts during the summer.
Andree Clark Bird Refuge Andree Clark Bird Refuge—an artificial, fresh-water lake and marsh pond adjacent to the zoo, the perimeter provides one of the best biking/jogging/skating paths in the area. 1400 E. Cabrillo Blvd.
Santa Barbara Harbor
Santa Barbara Harbor and Breakwater This picturesque harbor is also a working harbor, home to fishing boats, private yachts and nearly 1,200 excursion and sightseeing boats. Always busy and interesting, it is also a great place to walk, skate, bike, eat and purchase fresh catch. Don’t miss the Fisherman’s Market every Saturday morning. Off Cabrillo Blvd.
Maritime Museum Situated on the harbor at Santa Barbara’s scenic waterfront, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum presents the region’s rich local maritime history. From ancient seafaring Chumash to modern-day deep-sea research, emphasis is placed on human interaction with the sea, encompassing shipwrecks, oil exploration, sailing and surfing, naval military history, environmental efforts and much more. Memorial Day–Labor Day, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Labor Day–Memorial Day, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed Wed. 805/962-8404.
Stearns Wharf A Santa Barbara icon, Stearns Wharf was built by a Vermont native in 1876 to accommodate ocean-going vessels. It was once owned by Jimmy Cagney. Its dramatic views of the city and the hills beyond and its mix of shops and restaurants have charmed for more than a century. Where State St. meets the Pacific Ocean at Cabrillo Blvd.
Ty Warner Sea Center Located on Stearns Wharf, Ty Warner Sea Center is a participatory experience, with the look and feel of a marine science laboratory. Among the exhibits are a simulated tide pool with surging waves and BioLab focusing on the biology and ecology of deep-sea resources. Where State St. meets the Pacific Ocean at Cabrillo Blvd. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. 805/962-2526.
Arts & Crafts Show The longest-running public, weekly art show in the country, Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show has more than 250 exhibitors, all carefully screened to ensure originality of work and there in person to sell their work. This is a cultural connection in the purest form. Cabrillo Blvd. between State and Calle Puerta Vallarta streets. Sun. 10 a.m. to dusk. 805/897-1982.
Kayaking, Surfing, Paddle boarding and More With the ocean, mountains and countryside so near, take advantage of Santa Barbara’s beautiful natural surroundings and embark on guided kayak tours, surf trips, paragliding adventures, rock climbing expeditions and more. 805/884-9283.
Santa Barbara Zoo When Santa Barbara Zoo opened to the public in 1963, it had only seven residents. Now more than 500 animals live here. With 30 acres of lush gardens spread across a knoll overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a staff that is committed to conservation, species survival and education, Santa Barbara Zoo is an enlightening, entertaining and visually appealing place to visit. 500 Niños Dr. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. 805/962-5339.
Whale Watching Santa Barbara Channel offers a marine environment so rich that it draws visitors from throughout the world. There are more than 27 species of dolphins and whales including migrating grays, humpbacks, Minke, fin, sperm and the largest creatures on earth, blue whales. Dolphins’, porpoises’, sea lions’ and seals’ antics encourage squeals of delight. Coastal trips depart daily February through April, island whale watching trips depart daily May through February. 805/882-0088.
Funk Zone This once-industrial zone bordered by State Street, Stearns Wharf, and East Beach, is now a hotbed of homegrown artistic production. The Funk Zone is also known for its eclectic wall murals, ateliers, galleries, alternative exhibition spaces, trendy artist shops and the lively Urban Wine Trail, which offers a one-stop tasting trail for some of the region’s best wines. You never know what surprise awaits you down the alley or painted on the wall in front of you—which is half the fun!
Montecito: Points South
MONTECITO’s ascent into the real estate stratosphere has promulgated the idea that this densely wooded, lightly populated residential area between the eastern edge of Santa Barbara and the beachside community of Summerland is the domain of the ultra-rich and ultra-celebrated. While it’s true that Montecito has attracted the privileged for more than a century, its genesis was agrarian. Remnants of this rich heritage are still in use. The 500-acre property on which Harleigh Johnston grew oranges and lemons until 1893 is now the celebrated San Ysidro Ranch. With its completion in 1935 and the Montecito Inn in 1928, it wasn’t long before the Armours, Swifts, Fleischmanns, Pillsburys and other captains of industry built estates, many of them incorporating the farms and ranches that had originally settled the area.
Casa del Herrero
Casa del Herrero This home was designed for George Steedman by the “father of the Santa Barbara style,” George Washington Smith, and offers a glimpse into Montecito life in the 1930s. As a splendid example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, both the house and gardens have National Historic Landmark status. The gardens, covering 11 acres, were designed by noted landscape architects Ralph Stevens, Lockwood de Forest and horticulturist, Frances T. Underhill. Tours Wed. and Sat. 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Reservations required. 805/565-5653.
Lotusland Ganna Walska Lotusland is a 37-acre garden estate, prized for its rare and exotic plants, and offering new perspectives on what can be done with nature’s offerings. Themed gardens include topiary, bromeliad, succulent, cycad, cactus, fern, Japanese, Australian, water and a blue garden, among others. Reservations required. Tours Wed.–Sat. at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. between Feb. 15 and Nov. 15. 805/969-9990.
Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art Seeking to educate students and the larger community about the power and value of the visual arts in our world through physical, critical and spiritual engagement with the creative process and its result, this museum offers a wide variety of exhibitions. Westmont College, 955 La Paz Rd. Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–5 p.m. 805/565-6162.
Just a stone’s throw off Hwy. 101 and two minutes south of Montecito, SUMMERLAND offers the rural charm of an earlier California beach town and maintains its spirit of an artists’ colony via plentiful antique, home and garden shops, art galleries, boutiques and unpretentious eateries.
Lookout County Park Off Lillie Avenue at Evans Avenue is Lookout County Park, spread out on the bluffs above the beautiful Summerland Beach. From this vantage point—where full picnic facilities await families and friends—there are spectacular views of the Channel Islands. Exit Hwy. 101 at Evans Ave.
Five minutes south of Montecito and Summerland is the city of CARPINTERIA. Although the city advertises itself as home to the “world’s safest beach,” visitors also come to roam the avocado-laden hills in search of the fields and hothouses full of orchids for which Carpinteria is well known.
Salt Marsh Nature Reserve The 230-acre salt marsh is home to local and migratory waterfowl and fish, and is also a birder’s dream. Exit Hwy. 101 at Linden Ave. at Sandyland Rd., turn right and drive three blocks to Ash Ave.
Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club
Carpinteria State Beach and Bluffs Carpinteria is among California’s most popular destinations—the result of a broad beach and good sunning, tidepooling and fishing. Most any sunny weekend, you’ll find loads of families settled in for the day—umbrellas, picnic baskets, beach balls and Frisbees on hand. For hikers and bird-watchers, it doesn’t get much better than the Carpinteria Bluffs. Exit Hwy. 101 at Linden Ave. Continue through town to the beach. Park on Linden Ave. or in the Carpinteria State Beach parking lot.
Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club Admitted to the U.S. Polo Association in 1911 and moved to its present location shortly thereafter, Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club welcomes visitors for Sunday games from April through October, with the high-goal season capped by the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open. 3375 Foothill Rd. 805/684-6683.
Goleta and Points North
The City of GOLETA and several of the area’s well-known institutions and landmarks are just 10 minutes north of Santa Barbara, including the University of California at Santa Barbara and two championship golf courses.
Rancho La Patera One of the oldest landmarks in Goleta Valley, Rancho La Patera is home to historic Stow House, a beautiful example of Carpenter Gothic architecture, as well as the Cavalletto History Education Center, which focuses on the ranching and agricultural history of Goleta. Open Sat.–Sun. 1–4 p.m. and by appointment. 304 N. Los Carneros Rd. 805/ 681-7216.
South Coast Railroad Museum The museum is housed in a restored train depot and is a mecca, of sorts, for train buffs. Tours of the Victorian depot, rides on the “Goleta Short Line” miniature train and exhibits are part of the experience. 300 N. Los Carneros Rd. Wed.–Sun. 1–4 p.m. 805/964-3540.
Goleta Beach Park This beach, adjacent to UCSB, is favored by families and groups for its white sands and expanse of lawn with numerous barbecue and picnic table areas. The slough and park are representative of a unique and increasingly rare habitat —the coastal marsh and estuary. It is a major resting point for migratory waterfowl. The 1,500-foot-long pier was built for military use during WWII and now accommodates boat launching facilities, fishermen and strollers. Exit Hwy. 217 at Sandspit Rd. 805/967-1300.
Art, Design & Architecture Museum at University California Santa Barbara UCSB’s AD&A holds an impressive fine art collection, as well as one of the largest architectural archives in North America, and includes drawings, photographs, manuscripts, and furniture by architects and designers. In addition it engages contemporary artists in exhibits and programs. UCSB. Wed.–Sun., noon–5 p.m. 805/893-2951.
El Capitan State Beach
El Capitan and Refugio State Beaches A narrow strand at the mouth of El Capitan Creek, this mixed sand and rock beach is linked to Refugio—a palm-lined crescent of sand with tide pools—by beach, bluff and bike trails. Both are popular beach campgrounds. Monarch butterflies mating in the woodland of El Capitan Creek in Oct. and Nov., along with autumn leaves, are a stunning sight. From Hwy. 101, exit the northernmost El Capitan exit and/or Refugio Rd. 805/968-1033, 800/444-7275.
Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes The Dunes Center, at 1055 Guadalupe St., should be the first stop in the exploration of the largest dune complex in the state. Exit Main Street in Santa Maria off Highway 101 approximately 75 miles north of Santa Barbara, continue nine miles to Highway 1 (Guadalupe Street) and turn right. Open Thurs.–Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. 805/343-2455.
Santa Ynez Mountains and Valley Areas
As different from the more populated coastal areas as night is from day, the VALLEY is rich in history and geographically diverse. The most scenic route to this beautiful area from Santa Barbara is by Hwy. 154 (San Marcos Pass). Off San Marcos Pass is the Paradise Store—the last chance for supplies before heading across the bed of the Santa Ynez River to the edge of Los Padres National Forest, where Red Rock’s boulders and swimming holes are legendary with generations of adventurers. In the valley, vineyards dot the landscape, many with tasting rooms.
Cachuma Lake Recreation Area Cachuma Lake is a popular recreation area providing 750 campsites just 25 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara. Rental boats, fishing equipment and licenses are available, as well as a full marina and boat launch. Swimming isn’t permitted but two swimming pools are open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and basketball courts, playgrounds, horseshoe pits and day-use picnic areas are available. Guided nature cruises led by park naturalists provide an educational look at the rich wildlife, birds (including bald eagles) and plants that make Cachuma such a rich habitat. Hwy. 154. 805/686-5054.
Back Country—Los Padres National Forest
Thousands of acres of uninhabited forest, chaparral, canyons, rivers, meadows and mountain peaks—all wildly beautiful and much of it accessible on foot—are as much a part of the Santa Barbara County experience as its beaches, restaurants and shopping. LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST, with more than two million acres, starts directly behind the city of Santa Barbara and extends 50 miles northward to the top of the county. The landscape ranges from high snow-covered peaks to dense forest to desert yucca. There are roads and hiking trails throughout this vast, protected terrain, but a few—such as Happy Canyon, which begins where Hwy. 154 crosses the Santa Ynez River north of Cachuma Lake—deserve mention because of their accessibility and popularity. The road leads to campsites and picnic spots in the Figueroa Mountain area.
With a population of nearly 5,000, SOLVANG (“sunny field” in Danish) is the largest city in the Santa Ynez Valley and is considered the “Danish Capital of North America.” Founded in 1911 by Danish educators from the midwest, many of the shopkeepers and other residents today still have roots in Denmark. Visitors come from all over the world to experience Solvang’s Scandinavian shops, bakeries and eateries, and more recently, several wine tasting rooms have opened in the village, which is in the heart of wine country. Highway 246, off Highway 101.
Solvang Festival Theater This beautiful, 780-seat outdoor theater presents excellent productions staged by the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA), a combination of professional actors and advanced students. Open June through October. 420 Second St. 805/686-1789.
Mission Santa Ines
Old Mission Santa Inés This mission is the 19th of 21 missions built in California from 1769 to 1836 by Spanish Franciscan priests. Founded September 17, 1804 by Padre Estevan Tapis, it was the first European settlement in the Santa Ynez Valley and still displays artifacts preserved from the Mission era representing the Spanish, Indian, Mexican and early American settlers. 1760 Mission Dr. at Hwy. 246. 805/688-4815.
Elverhøj Museum This historic building was built in the 1950s as a residence in the style of an 18th century Danish farmhouse. Elverhøj is one of the few museums outside of Denmark that is dedicated to Danish culture and art. Open Wed.–Thurs. 1–4 p.m., Fri.–Sun. noon–4 p.m. 1624 Elverhoy Way. 805/686-1211.
Santa Ynez, Los Olivos & Ballard
SANTA YNEZ, LOS OLIVOS and BALLARD look like they belong in the pages of a book on the history of the west. These small, charming towns are world-renowned for their vineyards, equestrian culture, art galleries, inns and restaurants that epitomize the region’s signature wine country cuisine. The communities are linked to each other by the meandering Alamo Pintado and Ballard Canyon country roads, dotted with farm stands, horse ranches and wine tasting rooms. In Santa Ynez, the Maverick Saloon serves up authentic cowboys and line dancing. Down the road, the historic Ballard Schoolhouse, built in 1883, is classic Americana and still serves as a kindergarten classroom today.
Wildling Art Museum An educational institution dedicated to presenting art of America’s wilderness, Wildling Art Museum is a place where visitors of all ages gain a greater appreciation of art and a better understanding of the importance of preserving our natural heritage. 2928 San Marcos Ave., Los Olivos. 805/688-1082.