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Santa Barbara Travel Guide, California

Santa Barbara is 92 miles from Los Angeles nestled between palm-lined Pacific beaches and the foothills of the gentle Santa Ynez Mountains.

Its beautiful location with wide sandy beaches, dolphin-filled Pacific waters and its picturesque hills and the fact that you can enjoy a wonderful weather almost all year round have made people call it the „American Riviera”. As all beautiful places, this place has attracted the rich and famous that put in some of their money for the city’s development and now we can look at grand public buildings, well-funded museums and luxurious gardens.

Though the town is steeped in Spanish/Mexican heritage that is evident in today's culture and architecture, the settlement was at its beginning populated by Native American Chumash who lived here for centuries. Then, in late 18th century, the Spanish came and built a fort here (the reconstructed version of the fort can be seen on its original spot). Not much of the former architecture remained as in 1925 a massive earthquake leveled the business district and much of State Street. Most of the architecture we can see now is the result of the construction done after the earthquake. Some saw the earthquake as a good opportunity to draw up plans and construct the new buildings according to the codes of Spanish and Mission-style architecture. The Mediterranean ambience that resulted, with terra-cotta rooftops, rounded archways and adobe-textured walls, now characterizes Santa Barbara. Because everything is so well planned, the community takes care that all new buildings follow strict building codes.

Some of the greatly designed buildings that resulted after the earthquake are the El Paseo, a complex of shops and restaurants restructured from a section of the Casa de la Guerra, and El Presidio which is now a state park that commemorates the site where Santa Barbara was originally settled in 1782.

You can visit the historic part of town on a 1 to 3 hours self-guided walking tour called the Red Tile Tour because of the building’s architecture. It is also where most of the nightlife scene is centered.

You can help yourself with maps and guide of the tour from the visitor center. You should go on visiting the entire city as it is really breathtaking.

You will eventually get to Santa Barbara's waterfront where on Sundays it features Waterfront Arts and Crafts Show that since 1965 has gathered together artists, craftspeople, and street performers in one of the city's best-loved shows.

Lotusland: Montecito's Hidden, Magical Garden is a must-see attraction at a five minute drive from downtown. It is named for the estate's European-born mistress: Madame Walska's Montecito an eccentric and rich woman. The estate is the result of some skillful gardeners and her love for rare and beautiful plants. What you can see there takes your breath away; probably that’s why there are many who want to visit it, although it is not easy to get inside as it is opened only to a select few visitors. But don’t lose hope; you might get inside if you plan ahead. There are two-hour guided tours from mid-February to mid-November. Once inside you will marvel at romantic, lotus-filled ponds; succulents and cacti among decorative objects; mysterious garden paths; native, exotic and more important at rare and prehistoric plants that can’t be seen in the wild any more. It’s like walking on the land of legends that reveals its secrets to you.

There are other major attractions that include the Botanical Garden (with about 1,300 indigenous and rare plants and lovely trails to walk), the Mission (with its majestic adobe church with its double bell tower and rose garden), the Museum of Art (boasting decorative arts from Asia and an impressive collection of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century American and European paintings and sculpture), the Museum of Natural History (tracing the town’s history from the 1780s to the 1920s), and the Zoological Gardens (including a zoo with a collection of animals among which are some endangered species and 30 acres of well-landscaped gardens).

Santa Barbara is a lively resort community ideal for relaxing on white-sand beaches or taking up some action hiking, biking or seasonal whale watching.

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Read our members' reviews about Santa Barbara

  • adamSanta Barbara
    review by adam posted more then 30 days ago
    Santa Barbara, which is a halfway point between San Francisco and Los Angeles is easily the most gorgeous and I've ever been to by far. Nicknamed the "American Riviera" because of it's extremely beautiful scenery, wonderful beaches, enjoyable climate and pleasant mountains which...
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Read our members' travel tips about Santa Barbara

  • AnonymousThings to do in Santa Barbara
    travel tip by Anonymous posted more then 30 days ago
    Great thing to check out while in Santa Barbara would be the beaches. Every beach is wonderful but I really recommend Butterfly Beach. Stunningly gorgeous. Also, hiking Inspiration Point or biking along Cabrillo Blvd (along the beach) is...
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Santa Barbara City Ratings

  • Rating63%
    City Rank276
  • History & Culture: rated for 70%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 60%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 80%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 80%
  • Food: rated for 50%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 60%
  • Shopping: rated for 60%
  • Public Transportation: rated for 40%
  • Must visit this place: rated for 70%
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