Travel in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a beautiful city in a great location. Located 100 miles north of Los Angeles, it is cradled by mountains to the north and lovely beaches to the south. It is beloved by artists, food lovers, shoppers, and anyone who enjoys natural beauty. Come and visit!
To get here
By air – Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA)
This is a beautiful little airport. I use it every month or two and love to hear visitors laugh, gasp, giggle when they see our al fresco baggage claim area. There is service to and from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Phoenix and other destinations.
By car – You access Santa Barbara via the US 101. There are no other good alternative routes. **Beware** On Sunday afternoon traffic comes to a halt near the Milpas Street onramp and is slow through Ventura. Take the train or stay for dinner and then brave the highway!
If you aren’t bringing your car you can walk to most restaurants and shops from the downtown and beach hotels. You can also rent bikes from Reggie at Wheels of Fun or rent a Segway across the street from the IPO.
There is an electric shuttle that runs daily: Sunday through Thursday 9am to 6pm - Friday and Saturday from 9am to 10pm. The shuttle cost is .25 cents and runs from the waterfront to the zoo and from the wharf to Victoria Ave. up State Street.
There are bike lanes along the beach, on State Street, and on many other city streets. There are a number of great rides in Santa Barbara County. Check out http://www.sbbike.org/region/rides/rides.html. This is a wonderful resource for day-ride ideas. One of my favorite routes is from my house near the Mission to Goleta Beach. Much of this ride is on dedicated bike routes – no cars! If you are ambitious you can keep going and check out the UCSB campus. If you need gear or a tune up check out Hazards at 110 Anacapa Street (2 blocks from the IPO in the Funk Zone).
Things to do and see
Mission Santa Barbara - 2201 Laguna Street (from downtown go up State Street or Garden (or Santa Barbara Street – the fastest choice) to Mission and turn right, then follow the signs. This was California’s 10th mission to be built. It has a beautiful rose garden with remains of the mission aqueduct (built by the Chumash Indians), a mill, tanning vat and a reservoir. Self-guided tours are available daily from 9am to 5pm ($4 per adult). The tour is a great way to get in and see the Mission graveyard. Your Californian 4th grader will love it. The remains of Chumash trails are found in this part of Santa Barbara. They bisect residential streets throughout the upper East Side. Look for one that leads from the Rose Garden to Padre Street (it’s near the middle of Plaza Rubio). You will find more of these trails (sometimes in the form of stone staircases) on Alameda Padre Serra (APS).
Santa Barbara Mission
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History - 2559 Puesta del Sol (just above the Mission on the left) – open daily from 10am to 5pm ($8 per adult). This museum is located on beautiful grounds along Mission Creek. There are natural trails and picnic tables. This is one of the most beautiful museum settings I have ever seen (and this is where I get to vote!). Every fall there is a juried ArtWalk at the museum with more than 100 artists showcased on the grounds. This is one of my favorite Santa Barbara events.
Stearns Wharf, built in 1872 and once owned by James Cagney, is located at the end of State Street. This is a great place to experience a winter storm – with waves crashing over the boards. You can fish off the end of the pier – rentals available from Bait and Tackle (805-965-1333) at the end of the wharf – or just admire the magnificent view of Santa Barbara, the gathering pelicans and the outrigger canoes as they race past. Don’t forget to stop by SB Shellfish for lobster tacos and a beer.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse – located at 1100 Anacapa Street. The Courthouse was designed by William Mooser III in the Spanish/Moorish style and was built in 1929. Check out the view from the 85-foot “El Mirador” tower. There are free docent tours at 2pm daily except on Sunday. You can often find a musical performance or art show in the sunken gardens on the weekend.
Wine Tasting – There are a number of tasting rooms in downtown Santa Barbara – most within walking distance from the Italian Pottery Outlet. Kalyra Winery (you may remember them from the movie Sideways) recently opened a second tasting room at 212 State St. Santa Barbara Winery, the county’s oldest winery, is located at 202 Anacapa St. There are 5 others in the downtown area.
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - located at 1212 Mission Canyon Road. The Garden is open 7 days 9am to 5pm ($8 per adult). From Mission Santa Barbara – pass the Mission going north toward the mountains. At Foothill Road (stop sign) turn right. Continue to the next stop sign at Mission Canyon Road and turn left. Bear right at the fork of Mission Canyon Rd. and Tunnel Rd. The Garden is about ½ mile up on the left.
The Botanic Garden is one of 30 gardens in the United States that is accredited as a Living Museum. It is comprised of 78 incredible acres. There are unique native California plant displays, nature trails, docent-led tours and my favorite – retail nursery and gift shop. The nursery grows and sells a broad array of California native plants as well as uncommon drought-tolerant plants.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art 1130 State Street. Open Tuesday through Sunday 11 to 5pm ($9 adults – free on Sunday). This is a wonderful little museum with a gallery feel. The visiting exhibits change regularly and are always excellent. They have a great gift shop and café.
Santa Barbara Beaches
If you are staying downtown and you don’t have a car there are two options – Ledbetter Beach and East Beach. Ledbetter is the best choice. It is located to the west of the Marina and extends to the cliffs. There are restrooms and showers near the restaurant (Shoreline Beach Café). The winter point break at Ledbetter provides some of the best waves in Santa Barbara to learn to surf.
Your second option is East Beach. This is the beach to the far east of the wharf – the portion in front of East Beach Grill. There are volleyball courts down the beach and if it’s windy – there are windbreaks in front of the restaurant. These are great for getting sun, even on cold windy days.
If you have transportation there are two other local beaches that you should check out:
Arroyo Burro Beach (know locally as Hendry’s Beach) is a ten-minute drive from downtown. It is secluded by towering cliffs on a curving coastline. You can take a long walk on the beach with beautiful views of the ocean and the fancy homes of Hope Ranch. There is a restaurant that is currently closed, but should open under new management by summer 2008. There are restrooms and showers behind the restaurant. Hendry’s is another great beach for beginning surfers and boogyboarders. This is my favorite beach, but there are a few cons. The parking is limited. In the summer you need to get there by 11 or after 2. You usually come home from Hendry’s with tar on your feet and dogs roam free, so if you are afraid of dog’s go to a different beach. From downtown drive west on Cabrillo Blvd. As you go up the hill (at Ledbetter) the street name becomes Shoreline Drive. Follow Shoreline Drive for a few miles (beware – there is a huge dip in the road after you pass Shoreline Park) until the stoplight at Cliff Drive. Turn left on Cliff and drive for a few more miles. After you pass the stoplight at Las Positas, turn left into the beach parking lot.
The other beach to consider is Butterfly Beach. This beach is located in front of the Biltmore Hotel in Montecito. If the tide is low, you can get here along the beach from East Beach. If on bike – head east on the bicycle path on Cabrillo Blvd. Cross Cabrillo at Channel Drive (at the Santa Barbara Cemetery). Continue east on Channel Drive. Years ago, the road that connected Santa Barbara to the Biltmore and the beach slipped into the ocean, now the remainder of that road is a dedicated path for bikes and pedestrians. If driving – take the 101 south to Olive Mill Road in Montecito at the stop sign turn toward the ocean and follow the road for about ¼ mile. The beach is on your left.
This is a beautiful beach for walking and playing in the waves. You might even spot a celebrity on the beach. The cons: parking is limited. You can park on both sides of the street, but there is no lot. There are no bathrooms, showers, snack bars, stores etc. If you happen to be staying at the Biltmore it’s great, otherwise, come prepared.
"Anapamu" (a prominent downtown Santa Barbara street name today) originally would have signified, in Chumash, a topographical summit.
Things to do with kids:
We have beautiful parks throughout the city. Some are complete with playground equipment and others are just great open spaces to walk and run.
Alice Keck Park and Memorial Gardens – 1500 Santa Barbara Street.
This park features a large botanical collection (75 different tree and plant species); a koi pond, complete with turtles; sensory garden with audio posts; low water-using demonstration garden; picnic areas and gazebo. Across the street is Alemeda Park.
Alameda Park – 1400 Santa Barbara Street.
One of the City’s oldest parks, this two-block park features unique rare trees, a gazebo, and is the home of Kids’ World, an 8,000 square foot playground built by local residents containing a castle, swings and slides. Free concerts often held here during the summer on Sundays.
Chase Palm Park – both sides of East Cabrillo
Oceanside: A palm-lined, narrow strip of park adjacent to East Beach with an oceanfront bikepath and walkway from Stearns Wharf to East Beach, home of the Sunday and Holiday Arts and Crafts Show.
Across the street: What we call “Shipwreck Park”. A 10 acre park featuring fountains, creeks, a lagoon, carousel, snack bar and a Shipwreck Playground modeled after an ocean schooner. The large grassy area is the home of a free summer concert series held on Thursday nights.
Oak Park – 300 West Alamar (near Cottage Hospital)
The Oak Park area of Mission Creek has been a popular picnic and recreation spot for Santa Barbara since Spanish times and is one of the most visited parks in the city. It is home to a wide variety of annual cultural festivals in summer and fall months. Features stately Oak and Sycamore trees, two public tennis courts, 2 playgrounds an outdoor wooden-raised dance floor, horseshoe pits, and reservable picnic and barbeque sites. An 18-inch deep wading pool for youth age seven and younger is open May-September with an on-duty lifeguard.
West Beach Wading Pool – 401 Shoreline Drive.
Not really a park, but I loved it when I was a kid… Open to children age 7 and younger. This 18” deep pool is open daily from May through September, noon to 5pm (weather permitting). On-duty lifeguard.
Other places to visit
Santa Barbara Zoo - 500 Ninos Drive - 805-962-5339. Open daily from 10 to 5pm (adults $10, children $8, parking $3)
Kids are constantly delighted by this zoo, which puts a host of exotic animals within easy eye's view. Natural habitats showcase the residents as you'd find them in nature, and the zoo features everything from gorillas (I have to admit that it makes me sad to see these guys all caged up) and giraffes to pandas, sea lions, and elephants. Eeeww! the name of the exhibit that features creatures like hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, scorpions, giant millipedes, among many other species. My nieces love screaming through this place! There is also a merry-go-round and a C.P. Hingington miniature train that runs through the grounds. A cafe is available if you get hungry, and picnics are welcomed as well.
Ty Warner Sea Center - 211 Stearns Wharf - open daily 10 to 5pm ($8 per adult, $5 per child). This is an interactive marine education facility located on Stearns Wharf. There are petting pools with sea urchins and now they have a shark tank. They have a gift shop with a plethora of beanie babies.
Wheels of Fun – 22 State Street Try renting a surry or electric car from Wheels of Fun. They have a huge selection of wheeled things for rent.
Parades – Santa Barbara hosts a number of parades up and down State Street throughout the year (mostly in the summer). We have a fabulous Summer Solstice parade in June, a Big Dog parade also in June, a 4th of July parade, there are two Fiesta parades in August, a Christmas parade (I’m bound to have forgotten some… I’m sure my Mom the parade lover will help me fill in later.)
Check out SantaBarbaraParent.com for a daily list of events about town. This is a wonderful resource for parents.
Santa Barbara Shopping
Your first stop when you arrive in Santa Barbara should definitely be the Italian Pottery Outlet! If you’ve only seen our website or catalog you will be amazed by our vast collection. This is where we test out new patterns and factories, so you will find an assortment here that is much more varied than we are able to show on our website. We have numerous large decorator urns and platters, umbrella stands, cachepots and planters. We have a great assortment of jewelry both Italian and local. I make sparkly, delicate creations from gold and precious gemstones – you can see these on my website, Jump That Moon, and my sister makes hand-stamped initial charms out of sterling silver. These are very popular gifts for moms and grandmas. Check out her website - LoveLettersCharms.com. My father has his gallery here as well. He creates oil paintings of Italian and Santa Barbaran pastoral scenes.
We also carry a large selection of Italian cookbooks and travel books. We have French and Italian linens, Murano glass, pinnocchios, glassware, clocks, lamps… you name it! If you are interested in our antique Giare you can set up an appointment to see them at our warehouse. These urns are 100+ years old. They were made by hand in Puglia and were used for wine or olive oil storage (before plastic). They make a beautiful statement in an entryway or front drive. We are located 1 block east of State Street at the beach.
More to follow…