Santa Barbara is a city and metropolitan area less than 100 miles 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 LA, with its wide beaches, highly rated wineries, and a large variety of shopping and dining choices, that enables 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 food 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 roughly north–south 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 features a more off-the-beaten-path experience that is still immediately adjacent to the downtown area. 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.
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 the city's wealthy enclaves, known as part-time hideouts for Hollywood celebrities and rich retirees.
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 Municipal Airport (IATA: SBA), located in Santa Barbara, near the neighboring town of Goleta, provides access to LAX through a shuttle service that flies between the two airports several times per day. There is also service to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver and other destinations. Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District's Route 11 bus links the airport with downtown Santa Barbara.
Amtrak, housed in a historical landmark on lower State Street, provides service on both the Pacific Surfliner (San Luis Obispo to San Diego) and Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles). The ride is beautiful on its legs that are near the coast, but don't expect on-time service. If you take the train from Oakland and it's only one hour late, consider yourself lucky.
There is only one major highway in and out of Santa Barbara, US 101; downtown Santa Barbara can be accessed via the Garden St. exit, while the beaches can be found off the Cabrillo Blvd. off ramp. Traffic patterns are the opposite from the famous Los Angeles grid lock, as the 101 can come to a grinding halt on Sunday afternoons.
State Route 154 is a secondary road that leads into the hills and eventually to Los Olivos and 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 and Montecito. Routes and fares are on their website.
The SBMTD also runs shuttle bus services along State St between downtown Sola St and the waterfront, and along the waterfront, 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.
Taxis are extremely expensive.
Along the waterfront, many businesses offer bicycle or inline skate rentals for exploring the beach areas, and "rickshaw" taxis are also common.
Budget and Hertz car rental outlets are present at the airport terminal, and several other rental agencies are located in Santa Barbara.
- 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.
- Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna St (from downtown State St., turn east onto Mission St. and follow signs pointing toward the Mission), ☎ . 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. Adults $5.
- 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." $10 for adults; free on the last Sunday of every month except September.
- 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.
- Santa Barbara Historical Museum, 136 East De la Guerra St. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Free.
- Presidio of Santa Barbara, 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.
- 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. You may see brown pelicans at the end of the wharf. It was once owned by Hollywood legend James Cagney. Free.
- 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.
- 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 and Seniors 60+: $10. Children under 2: Free.
- 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.
- Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, 653 Paseo Nuevo, ☎ . Tu-Sa 11AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. CAF is a non-profit, non-collecting institution dedicated to exhibiting the highest quality of contemporary art while recognizing "the artists of tomorrow," and was founded in 1976 by artists and art supporters seeking a venue dedicated solely to contemporary art. What began as a grassroots, artist-run organization with nominal funding now serves as the leading contemporary arts presenter in Central California. CAF offers its innovative education and exhibition programming to the region primarily free of charge. Foundations and individuals keep CAF active with opportunities for artists, children, and adults to experience all the visual and performing arts have to offer. Free.
- Reagan Ranch Center Exhibit Gallery, 217 State Street, downtown (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.
- Santa Barbara Surfing Museum, 16 1/2 Helena Ave, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Sunday: 12 Noon - 5PM. The surf history is on display since 1992 and contains historic boards from the collection of James O'Mahoney. It also displays old surf films. free.
Although Santa Barbara is an atypical coastal town, it offers the typical Southern California variety of outdoor activities, from surfing to whale-watching.
- Beaches. Along the waterfront. Santa Barbara's most popular beach, East Beach, is a pristine stretch of blindingly white sand framed by postcard quality palm trees, surrounding hills and nearby harbor. For less crowded beachcombing, try nearby Leadbetter Beach, or further up the road, isolated Arroyo Burro (known to locals as Hendry's Beach,) where dog lovers bring their pets to frolic in a no-leashes-needed surfside dog park. Hendry's Beach is also home to a nudist beach, where one can often see a frolicking nude man pass by. Even more isolated is Butterfly Beach, tucked away in a cove beneath the high-toned Biltmore Hotel in Montecito.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. A number of smaller wineries have set up shop, many in converted industrial buildings, in the Funk Zone, which is located 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. Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours offer a wine tour in open air jeeps. Sustainable Vine, (805)698-3911, focuses on the producers employing sustainable practices.
- 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 Carillo 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 just 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.
- 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.
- Channel Islands Kayaking (Channel Islands National Park). Close to the California mainland, yet worlds apart, Channel Islands National Park encompasses five remarkable islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara) and their ocean environment, preserving and protecting a wealth of natural and cultural resources. Isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals, plants, and archeological resources found nowhere else on Earth and helped preserve a place where visitors can experience coastal southern California as it once was.
- Fiesta 5 Theatre, 916 State St, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The cinema has 5 screens for good movies in downtown Santa Barbara with decent seats.
- Art Walk, 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.
- Go for a walk in the park. Santa Barbara has many beautiful city parks, each with its own unique character. Chase Palm Park stretches long and narrow beside the beach, and includes a skate park and a vintage carousel. Shoreline Park offers a blufftop walk with stunning views overlooking the ocean. Alameda Park has a community-designed kids' playground, and just across the street is Alice Keck Park Park (yes, park park), a mini botanic garden featuring various species of trees and a pond with ducks and turtles. Or take a picnic lunch to any of the dozens of other neighborhood parks off the beaten path.
- Metro 4 theatre, 618 State St, toll-free: , e-mail: email@example.com. The cozy theatre has big screens. It sells discounted tickets on Tuesdays. It screens during the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
- Mahakankala Buddhist Center, 508 Brinkerhoff Ave, ☎ . Offers relaxation meditations and meditation classes.
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, Macy'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.
- Channel Island Surfboards, 36 Anacapa St, ☎ . The retail shop has a big choice of wet suits and surf boards.
- Cranky's Bikes, 1014 State St, ☎ . M-Sa 12-7PM, Su 2-6PM. They do repairs and sell bikes. Knowledgeable staff.
- Farmers market, Cota Street and Santa Barbara St. Sa 08:30-13:00. The market sells local eggs, fresh fruits, vegetables, oils and much more also from organic producers. There is also a Tuesday evening market on State Street, and markets on other days in other nearby towns.
- Fusano Olives, e-mail: Emily@fusanoolives.com. 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), e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- Hazard's Cyclesport, 110 Anacapa St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 10AM-6PM Sa 10AM-5PM Su 12Noon-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.
- 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.
- Mountain Air Sports, 14 State St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mo-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 hundreds 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:
- Cajun Kitchen, 901 Chapala St. 1924-A De la Vina St. Very popular breakfast and lunch place. The best breakfast in town. Delicious sausages. Good price.
- The Habit, 216 S. Milpas St or 628 State St, ☎ . , Stop by for a cheap, charbroiled sidewalk burger at this regional chain, which has roots in Santa Barbara.
- Los Arroyos, 14 W. Figueroa St (Off State street), ☎ . The restaurant serves popular and very good Mexican food.
- The Natural Café and juice bar, 508 State St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mon-Sun 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.
- 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.
- Panino, 834 Santa Barbara St, ☎ . Good variety of sandwiches, part of a local chain.
- 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.
- Rudy's Restaurant. Six in town, one in Paseo Nuevo. Very good tamales, chimichangas and burritos. Charming family-owned business.
- La Super-Rica Taqueria, 622 N. Milpas St, ☎ . Open 11 AM-9 PM except on Fri/Sat, when opening hours are extended until 9:30. Always closed on Wednesdays, but lately, also closed on Tuesday, per a hand-written sign on the door. Once tabbed "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 claimed this her favorite Mexican restaurant (or even all-time favorite place to eat, according to some accounts), saying: "Everything is incredibly fresh. The salsas are wonderful." $5–$15.
- Super Cuca's Taquería, 2030 Cliff Dr, ☎ . Big burritos, vegetarian recommended even for those die-hard carnivores. Has a second location on 626 W. Micheltorena St.
- Woody's BBQ, 5112 Hollister Ave, ☎ . Serving delicious BBQ in Santa Barbara for 19 years and voted Santa Barbara's Favorite BBQ For 19 Years In A Row!
- Arigato Sushi, 1225 State St, ☎ . M-Th 11:00-22:30, Fr, Sa 11:00-23:00, Su 11:00-22:30. Unbelievably good sushi. Just keep in mind that 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 2pieces Salmon.
- Boathouse at Hendry's Beach, 2981 Cliff Dr, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 7:30-11:30, M-S 14:00-24:00. 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.
- Brophy Bros, 119 Harbor Way, ☎ . 11:00-22:00. Breakwater at the Harbor, great seafood, known for clam chowder, the setting cannot be beat.
- Cold Spring Tavern, 5995 Stagecoach Rd, ☎ . Located off of Highway 154 near wine country, this historic tavern, restaurant and coach stop is a touch of Old West and a world away from glitzy Santa Barbara. 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 usually on tap as well. Great location and great food. It also offers a fun atmosphere on weekend nights with live music. Dinner is more expensive, in the $17–29 range.
- Chuck's of Hawaii, 3888 State St, ☎ . The watergrill is found on113 Harbor Way, A great cut of beef. Try anything with artichokes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pascucci, 729 State St, ☎ . Santa Barbara's best affordable Italian food from local producers. Often a local band plays during dinner.
- Restaurant Roy, 7 West Carillo St, ☎ . Good "off State St." bar. Serves great food late at night, focus on local ingredients. Price fix menu with everything at around $25.
- Wine Cask, 813 Anacapa St, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 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.
In addition to Santa Barbara wine tasting, the region is also full of bars. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your preference), 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.
- American Ale, 14 East Cota St, ☎ . The kind of old school hipster bar has a big selection of beers ( Avery Ellies Brown Ale, IPA, ..) and mixes old fashioned dirty cocktails. Locals recommend the burgers too.
- Dargan's Irish Pub & Restaurant, 18 E Ortega St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:30AM-. Sportsbar with Irish music. Good lamb stew.
- 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.
- Intermezzo Bar + Cafe, 819 Anacapa St, ☎ . M-F 4PM-, Sa 12PM-. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Santa Barbara Brewing Co., 501 State St, ☎ . M–Th 11:30AM–11PM, F–Su 11:30AM–12AM. Microbrewery, TVs. Decent food.
- SOhO Restaurant and Music Club, 1221 State St, ☎ . Jazz/live music club above Victoria Court.
- Wildcat Lounge, 15 W Ortega St, ☎ . Danceclub.
There are several good places to relax in Santa Barbara:
- 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.
- 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.
- Coffee Cat, 1201 Anacapa St, ☎ . 6AM-7PM. The coffee is an idea place to meet or study. $$.
- The French Press, 1101 State St, ☎ . M-F 6AM-7PM, Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 8AM-7PM pm. The café serves fine espressos, chocolate chai's, various leaf teas and also fine pastries. One can buy great coffee beans.
- Handlebar Coffee Roasters, 128 E. Canon Perdido St., e-mail: email@example.com. M-Sa 7AM–5PM, Su 8AM–1PM. The Handlebar is owned by two former pro-cyclist. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 10% for tax.
- 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 to the beach. $91.99-$164. This was the world's first Motel 6.
- Presidio Motel, 1620 State St, ☎ . 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. $109+ for king-size bed.
- Santa Barbara Tourist Hostel, 134 Chapala St, ☎ . Amazingly, an inexpensive backpacker two blocks from the beach and one block from the State Street buzz. Basic breakfast and wifi internet in the lobby included. Bed in a shared room $25–45, private double room with shared bath $69–125, private double room with private bath $79–139, rates in all cases a function of day (weekends, summer, festivals are more expensive).
- Sandpiper Lodge, 3525 State St. Budget hotel lodging accommodations for guests seeking golf, romantic or weekend coastal getaways near State Street attractions.
- Avania Inn of Santa Barbara, 128 Castillo St. A Newly Remodeled hotel featuring Pillow Top Beds, 32" LCD HD TV's. Free Breakfast, Free Parking, Free Internet. Located 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.
- 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: +1 805 964-0075. 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.
- 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.
- Canary Hotel, 31 West Carrillo St, ☎ , fax: +1 805-884-8153. 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.
- Cheshire Cat Inn, 36 West Valerio St, ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 12Noon. 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.
- El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas, 1900 Lasuen Rd, toll-free: , fax: +1 805 687-3903. Good views and a favorite with the glitterati, like Diane Lane, Barbra Streisand, and Sharon Stone.
- 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.
- 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: +1 805 683-4121. All-suite hotel adjacent to the beautifully restored Sexton House, an 1880's architectural landmark. Meeting space and conference facilities. $169–$209.
- San Ysidro Ranch, 900 San Ysidro Ln, ☎ . "Hotel ranch," with room, suite and villa accommodations, dining, day trips to local beaches and wineries, guided hiking.
- 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.
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.
- Goleta - a city just to the west and part of the contiguous urban area of Santa Barbara, is home to University of California, Santa Barbara, and Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
- Montecito - This affluent town is located just south of Santa Barbara and is home to the 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.
- Wine Country. North on US 101 in the Solvang region.
- 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.
- 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.
|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|