Santa Barbara

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California Santa Barbara

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Introduction

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 L.A. Its wide beaches, highly rated wineries, and a large variety of shopping and dining choices enable 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 restaurants to be found. Santa Barbara has also been influenced by Los Angeles' food-truck scene.

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Sights and Activities

  • 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; public transit: SBMTD bus #6 or #11 to State & Mission Sts.), ☎ +1 805 682-4149. 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. The mission also features a small but well-regarded rose garden. The mission continues to be used as an active church, with regular masses on Wednesdays, Sundays, and holy days. Admission to masses is free, but a small donation is customary Adults $9; Children (5-17) $4; Seniors $7.
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta Del Sol (follow signs from nearby Santa Barbara Mission), ☎ +1 805 682-4711. 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." Note: The museum is undergoing a comprehensive remodel throughout 2018 and several galleries are closed. During this time, admission is half-price. $12 for adults; $8 for seniors and 13-17 years; $7 for 2-12 years; free on the last Sunday of every month except September.
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St, ☎ +1 805 963-4364. 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 (El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park), 123 East Canon Perdido St (a block off State St, corner of East Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara Sts), ☎ +1 805 965-0093. 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. There's also a small public aquarium, the Sea Center, that's associated with the Museum of Natural History. You may see brown pelicans at the end of the wharf. There's a bait and tackle shop, and no fishing license is required to fish from the wharf. It was once owned by Hollywood legend James Cagney. Free.
  • Karpeles Museum, 21 West Anapamu St (half a block from State St), ☎ +1 805 962-5322. 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, ☎ +1 805 963-5695. 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), ☎ +1 805 682-4726. 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, ☎ +1 805-966-5373. 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 (next to Amtrak Station), ☎ +1 805-957-1980. 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, ☎ +1 805-962-9048, e-mail: cowboystar7@verizon.net. Su 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.
  • 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.

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Events and Festivals

  • 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.
  • Summer Solstice, Alameda Park. In 1974 friends of local artist Michael Gonzalez dressed up in costumes and ran down State Street, without a permit, to celebrate his birthday. Several decades later this has turned into a civic celebration of the first day of summer. There's a carnival-like parade on State Street, and a festival with live music in Alameda Park. Check the website for exact dates.
  • Old Spanish Days (Fiesta). In the 1920s, the Chamber of Commerce decided that there should be a reason to visit Santa Barbara in August, and so invented "Old Spanish Days." Nowadays it's universally referred to as "Fiesta" and is still held in early August. In modern times it's probably more popular among locals than among visitors, but worth a look-in. There's a parade, "El Desfile Historico," that features pretty impressive costumes and horsemanship. 22 De La Guerra Plaza downtown becomes "El Mercado," with live bands and stalls selling food. "El Mercado Del Norte" in 23 MacKenzie Park has a county fair ambience with carnival rides. "Las Noches de Ronda" is the collective name for numerous performances around town of traditional Spanish and Mexican performances such as flamenco dances and mariachi bands. There's also a horse show and rodeo at the 24 Earl Warren Showgrounds.

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Santa Barbara must have one of the best climates in all of the United States. Summers last from May to September with generally warm and sunny weather, but very rarely too hot to enjoy. Temperatures are mostly between 20 and 25 °C and nights are never cold, though rarely warm either so bring a sweater for the colder nights. Winters are not much worse actually, although it's a few degrees cooler of course from November to March.

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Getting There

By Plane

Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA) has regular flights to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Denver, Sacramento, Seattle, San Francisco and Phoenix.

The airport can be pricey, and flight schedules limited; flying to Los Angeles (LAX) or Burbank (BUR) and driving the 100 miles to Santa Barbara may come out ahead on price, time, or both. Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner stops at Burbank airport, but as there are only 5 trains a day in each direction and they can be subject to delays, give yourself plenty of extra time if you plan to use this connection.

By Train

Two Amtrak routes stop in Santa Barbara: the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and Seattle and the Pacific Surfliner between San Luis Obispo and San Diego.

By Car

There is only one major highway in and out of Santa Barbara: US 101, which is coterminous with Highway 1 for over 30 miles both north and south (well, east, but down the coast) of the city. From the 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.

By Bus

Greyhound has several daily services to Los Angeles (2.5 hours), San Francisco (8-9 hours) and San Luis Obispo (2 hours).

The Santa Barbara Airbus travels to Los Angeles Airport (LAX).

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Getting Around

By Car

Taxis are plentiful but expensive, but given the relatively compact size of downtown Santa Barbara, they're viable if you don't need to go out too far into the suburbs.

Budget and Hertz car rental outlets are present at the airport terminal, and several other rental agencies are located in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is fairly easy to drive around, and in most areas parking is rarely difficult to find, either in a municipal garage or on the street. One confusing wrinkle is the presence of 3 similarly named major streets, Carrillo St, Castillo St, and Cabrillo Blvd. Don't mix them up. As anywhere, you shouldn't drive under the influence of alcohol, but be aware that Santa Barbara police are particularly merciless about catching and prosecuting drunk drivers.

By Public Transport

The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District runs buses all over Santa Barbara proper, and neighboring Goleta and Montecito. Routes and fares are on their website. It's a cheap and fairly comprehensive way to get around town, but not particularly fast.

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.

Bill's Bus specializes in transporting the student party crowd safely Downtown from Isla Vista and back again on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. $10 round trip, $7 one way.

By Bike

Along the waterfront, many businesses offer bicycle or inline skate rentals for exploring the beach areas, and "rickshaw" taxis are also common.

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Eat

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, ☎ +1 805 965-1004. M–Sa 6:30AM–3PM, Su 7AM–3PM. Very popular breakfast and lunch place. The best breakfast in town. Delicious sausages. Good price. Another location at 1924-A De la Vina St.
  • The Habit, 628 State St, ☎ +1 805 892-5400. M–Sa 10:30AM–9PM, Su 11AM–8PM. Stop by for a cheap, charbroiled sidewalk burger at this regional chain, which has roots in Santa Barbara. Also 216 S. Milpas St. (+1 962 7472)
  • Los Arroyos, 14 W. Figueroa St (Off State street), ☎ +1 805 962-5541. The restaurant serves popular and very good Mexican food.
  • The Natural Café and juice bar, 508 State St, ☎ +1 805 962-9494, e-mail: comments@thenaturalcafe.com. M-Su 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, ☎ +1 805 962-6315. 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, ☎ +1 805 963-3700. Good variety of sandwiches, part of a local chain.
  • Romanti-Ezer, 701 Chapala St, ☎ +1 805 730-1612. 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, 305 W. Montecito St, ☎ +1 805 899-3152. M–Sa 8AM–10PM, Su 8AM–9PM. Very good tamales, chimichangas and burritos. Charming family-owned business. A total of six locations.
  • La Super-Rica Taqueria, 622 N. Milpas St, ☎ +1 805 963-4940. M 11AM–9PM, Tu W closed, Th 11AM–9PM, F Sa 11AM–9:30PM, Su 11z–9PM. Once named "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 is said to have named this her favorite Mexican restaurant, but other, recent reviews call it pleasant but not extraordinary. Cash only. After you order, keep the tab with your order, and wait in the dining area for your number to be called. $5–15.
  • Super Cuca's Restaurant, ☎ +1 805 966-3863. Mon–Sun 6AM-8PM. Two Locations. Big burritos, vegetarian recommended even for those die-hard carnivores. $8 for a large burrito. edit 10 Super Cuca's Restaurant (Cliff Dr), 2030 Cliff Dr (In the shopping centre with the big Rite Aid, all the way to the left under the arcade).
  • Woody's BBQ, 5112 Hollister Ave, ☎ +1 805 967-3775. Serving delicious BBQ; voted Santa Barbara's Favorite BBQ for 19 years in a row.
  • Rusty's Pizza Parlor, 232 W. Carrillo St (2 blocks east of the Carrilo St exit from Hwy 101.), ☎ +1 805 564-1111. Favorite local pizza chain. Pizzas have quality toppings and a thin but fluffy crust. 7 other locations around town. The Carrillo St location has the most character, as it's located in an authentic Tudor-style building that was originally a pub. Great place to take the kids. They also deliver.
  • Arigato Sushi, 1225 State St, ☎ +1 805 965-6074. M-Th 11:00-22:30, F Sa 11:00-23:00, Su 11:00-22:30. Unbelievably good sushi. 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 2 pieces salmon.
  • Boathouse at Hendry's Beach, 2981 Cliff Dr, ☎ +1 805-898-2628, e-mail: mark@boathousesb.com. M-F 7:30AM-11:30AM, M-Sa 3PM-midnight. 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, ☎ +1 805 966-4418. 11AM-10PM. Breakwater at the Harbor, great seafood, known for seafood and particularly clam chowder, the setting cannot be beat. Longstanding local favorite.
  • Cold Spring Tavern, 5995 Stagecoach Rd (Take the 101 North. Get off on the 154 North exit. Drive about 9 miles on 154, until you see a street sign on your left for Stagecoach Road and turn left. If you miss that turnoff and see Paradise Road on your right, you can turn right on Paradise Road and then turn right when it intersects with Stagecoach Road), ☎ +1 805 967-0066. Located off of Highway 154 near wine country (from downtown Santa Barbara, the trip is approximately 15 miles, and may last as long as 30 minutes or so), this historic rustic tavern, restaurant and coach stop is a touch of Old West and a world away from the glitz of lower State Street. 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 is 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, ☎ +1 805 564-1200. The watergrill is found on 113 Harbor Way, A great cut of beef. Try anything with artichokes. edit
  • Los Agaves, 600 N Milpas St, ☎ +1 805 564-2626. 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, ☎ +1 805 966-9676. 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, ☎ +1 805 963-5000. 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, ☎ +1 805 564-1985. 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, ☎ +1 805 963-8123. Santa Barbara's best affordable Italian food from local producers. Often a local band plays during dinner. edit
  • Restaurant Roy, 7 West Carillo St, ☎ +1 805 966-5636. Good "off State St." bar. Serves great food late at night, focus on local ingredients. Prix fixe menu with everything at around $25.
  • La Playa Azul Cafe, 914 Santa Barbara St, ☎ +1 805 966-2860. Not perhaps the most authentic Mexican food, but very tasty and popular. Excellent margaritas.
  • Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, 230 Stearns Wharf (Near the end of Stearns Wharf), ☎ +1 805 966-6676. Rustic little spot with mostly counter seating. Excellent views. Probably the best food on the wharf, but it's shellfish only - if it's got scales and a backbone, it's not on the menu.
  • Finch & Fork, 31 West Carrillo St., ☎ +1 805 879-9100. Progressive, New American food. Excellent cocktails.
  • Arnoldi's Cafe, 600 Olive Street, ☎ +1 805 962-5394. Quaint little Italian joint, serving homey Italian classics and espresso. Has a lovely patio. The bocce courts out back have some fairly serious league play.

Via Maestra, 3343 State St (next to the San Roque Post Office), ☎ +1 805-569-6522. Mon - Sat 8:30am - 9:00pm, Sun 11:00am - 5:00pm. Delicious Italian restaurant in a little strip mall on upper State St. They also do catering and takeout. For breakfast and lunch, antipasti and salads: $6.95-15.95, panini: $8.95, mains $13.95-32.95 (clustering in the teens), desserts: $3.50-7.99, with $6.99 the most common price. Dinner menu not online.

  • Wine Cask, 813 Anacapa St, ☎ +1 805 966-9463, e-mail: info@winecask.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.
  • Olio e Limone, 11 West Victoria Street, Suite 17, ☎ +1 805 899 2699. Upscale Italian. Excellent wine list. The Dover sole, when available, is particularly good.
  • Bouchon, 9 West Victoria St, ☎ +1 805 730-1160. Innovative California French cuisine. Extensive local wine selection. Affiliated with the Wine Cask.

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Drink

In addition to Santa Barbara wine tasting, the region is also full of bars. 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.

  • Dargan's Irish Pub & Restaurant, 18 E Ortega St, ☎ +1 805 568-0702, e-mail: info@darganssb.com. 11:30AM-. Sportsbar with Irish music. Good lamb stew. edit
  • Elsie's, 117 West De La Guerra St, ☎ +1 805 963-4503. 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, ☎ +1 805 966-9463. M-F 4PM-, Sa noon-. 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, ☎ +1 805 962-2688. 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, ☎ +1 805 966-4638. 7:30AM-11PM. This upbeat bar and steakhouse severs the stiffest drinks on State St. Have a couple at the beginning of the night.
  • Cruisery, 501 State St, ☎ +1 805 730-1040. M–Th 11:30AM–11PM, F–Su 11:30AM–midnight. The revamped location of the old Santa Barbara Brewing Company; still features good quality beer but has a significantly more interesting and better, though still reasonably priced, food menu. The name refers to its bicycle themed decor.
  • SOhO Restaurant and Music Club, 1221 State St, ☎ +1 805 962-7776. Jazz/live music club above Victoria Court.
  • Wildcat Lounge, 15 W Ortega St, ☎ +1 805 962-7970. Danceclub.
  • The Press Room, 15 E Ortega St, ☎ +1 805 963-8121. Small, friendly bar with a very English vibe. Popular spot for watching European soccer. Sometimes keeps fairly oddball hours to accommodate important matches in distant time zones.
  • Telegraph Brewing, 418 N Salsipuedes Street, ☎ +1 (805) 963-5018. No-frills (well, besides a dartboard) tasting room for Santa Barbara's premier microbrewery. Located in a neighborhood that has stubbornly resisted gentrification, it's nonetheless popular with locals due to its excellent beer and friendly bartenders. No food other than the usual basic packaged bar snacks.
  • The Andersen's, 1106 State St, ☎ +1 805 962-5085. 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, ☎ +1 805 962-5466. Great place to start the day with a breakfast. It offers poached eggs, delicious omelets all accompagned with their bread or home made pastries.
  • The French Press, 1101 State St, ☎ +1 805 963-2721. M-F 6AM-7PM, Sa 7AM-7PM, Su 8AM-7PM. The café serves fine espressos, chocolate chais, various leaf teas and also fine pastries. One can buy great coffee beans.
  • Handlebar Coffee Roasters, 128 E. Canon Perdido St., e-mail: handlebarcoffee@yahoo.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, ☎ +1 805-962-6611. M-Sa 7:30AM-8PM, Sunday 7:30AM-5PM. Good breakfast with large selection of leaf teas. Serves great sandwiches to go.
  • Blenders In the Grass, 720 State St, ☎ +1 805 962-5715. 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, ☎ +1 805 324-4402. Selling handcrafted local ice creams from Santa Barbara since 1949.

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Sleep

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 8% for tax.

  • Motel 6 Santa Barbara - Beach, 443 Corona Del Mar, ☎ +1 805 564-1392. 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. This was the world's first Motel 6. $92-264.
  • Presidio Motel, 1620 State St, ☎ +1 805 963-1355, e-mail: reservations@presidiosb.com. 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.
  • Sandpiper Lodge, 3525 State St (U.S. Highway 101, exit Las Positas Road, 0.8 miles north, left onto State Street, in 0.3 miles is 3525 State Street), ☎ +1 805 687-5326, toll-free: +1-800-405-6343, e-mail: frontdesk@sandpiperlodge.com. In addition to conventional guest rooms, there are two-bedroom units (good for families), as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments include a full kitchen. Free wireless internet in guest rooms and in lobby. $100-150.
  • Santa Barbara Tourist Hostel, 134 Chapala St. This has been an amazingly inexpensive but pleasant backpacker two blocks from the beach. It has been "temporarily closed for renovations" since December 2013.
  • Avania Inn of Santa Barbara, 128 Castillo St. Pillow-top beds, 32" LCD HD TVs, 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, ☎ +1 805-963-4471. 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, ☎ +1 805-965-3586. 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: +1-800-549-9869. "European-style" hotel smack in the middle of Santa Barbara's busy downtown shopping area. $129–219, ask about midweek specials.
  • Ramada Santa Barbara, ☎ +1 805 964-3511, 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.
  • The Wayfarer, 12 E Montecito Street, ☎ +1 805 845-1000, e-mail: reservations@wayfarersb.com. Guest rooms for two or three. Also lists all-female or all-male dorm rooms for up to five, and a shared kitchen. Free wireless internet. Close to the beach and the "funk zone". Whimsical animal-themed decor. Very close to the Amtrak train station. $150-274.
  • Old Yacht Club Inn, 431 Corona Del Mar Dr, ☎ +1 805 962-1277. 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, ☎ +1 805-884-0300, 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, ☎ +1 805-569-1610. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. 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: +1-800-393-5117, 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, ☎ +1 805 564-4333, toll-free: +1-800-879-2929. 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. $255-735. edit
  • 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: +1-800-338-6722, fax: +1 805 683-4121. All-suite hotel adjacent to the beautifully restored Sexton House, an 1880s architectural landmark. Meeting space and conference facilities. $169–$209.
  • San Ysidro Ranch, 900 San Ysidro Ln, ☎ +1 805 565-1700. "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: +1-800-676-1280. 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.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Accommodation in Santa Barbara

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This is version 19. Last edited at 9:41 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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