Set on the Pacific Ocean with 100 mi/160 km of sweeping coastline, Santa Barbara and its environs (including the Santa Ynez Mountains, wine country and seaside cities) lie just 92 mi/148 km north of Los Angeles and 332 mi/534 km south of San Francisco. Visitors may arrive via scenic Highway 1 (101), daily stops on Amtrak trains or via air service to Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) or Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Santa Barbara County encompasses the cities of Carpinteria, Goleta, Montecito, Summerland, Ballard, Buellton, Lompoc, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez and Solvang as well as Channel Islands National Park. The city of Santa Barbara is 18.9 sq mi/49 km sq with a population of 90,305. The County is 2738.5 sq mi/7092 km sq with a population of 405,396.
Santa Barbara boasts a moderate Mediterranean climate year-round with an average of 300 days of sunshine. Santa Barbara’s unique east-west coastline (the only one from Alaska to Cape Horn) provides soothing year-round southern exposure. Average day temperatures range from the mid-60s to mid-70s°F (18°-24°C), and evening temperatures are refreshingly cool throughout the year. The area receives about 18 inches of rainfall annually. The inland and mountain portions of the county experience warmer high temperatures and cooler low temperatures.
Santa Barbara’s south coast boasts 89 lodging properties (5,404 rooms), ranging from deluxe to budget to boutique, including 32 beachfront properties, one hostel, and 18 bed-and-breakfasts. Guest ranches and resort camping are also available, as are six public and two private campgrounds.
Santa Barbara Airport (flysba.com, 805.683.4011) is 8 mi/13 km north of downtown. American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Horizon Air, United Airlines and US Airways service the airport. Non-stop flights are available from Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle. Express bus service is available from major airports via Santa Barbara Airbus (800.423.1618) and Roadrunner Shuttle (800.247.7919). Amtrak serves Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Goleta, and Greyhound bus offers service to the region. The Santa Barbara Trolley runs throughout the city from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, departing from Stearns Wharf ($19 adults/$8 children for all day on/off privileges); the electric shuttle serves the downtown area and the Waterfront (25 cents). Car Free (santabarbaracarfree.org) transportation alternatives and discounts are available. Bikes, Segways and cars are available for rental.
Points Of Interests
- Architecture: The city’s Red Tile Walking Tour showcases Santa Barbara’s “Spanish Revival” architectural landmarks. Historic adobes and missions dot the area, including the “Queen of the Missions,” Old Mission Santa Barbara.
- Cuisine: Santa Barbara chefs use fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from local waters and farms. Dishes are complemented by world-class wines from more than 175 local wineries. Culinary tourists may enjoy the farms, waters, vineyards, restaurants, farmers’ and fishermen’s markets, cooking classes and food and wine events that create, cultivate and celebrate the region’s distinctive flavors. SantaBarbaraFresh.com
- Film: Santa Barbara was the original “Hollywood;” hundreds of silent movies and westerns were filmed here in the early 1900s, including Cecile B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1923). The region continues to be used as a backdrop for photo shoots, commercials and films; recent feature film shoots include Hidalgo, Seabiscuit and Sideways. A Sideways movie tour map and a Lonely Planet Santa Barbara Movie Tour Guide are available via santabarbaraCA.com. The star-studded Santa Barbara International Film Festival rolls out the red carpet every late January/early February, and several film events and festivals take place throughout the year. SantaBarbaraFilmTour.com
- Gardens: Delve into acres of orchids and native plants at one of the area’s gardens or public parks. Top picks: Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, Casa del Herrero, Lotusland, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara Zoo, Rose Story Farms and Santa Barbara Orchid Estate.
- Museums: Santa Barbara Historical Museum is an excellent starting point. The Santa
Barbara Museum of Art boasts outstanding collections of art from the Americas, Asia and Europe. The Museum of Natural History is nationally renowned. On the waterfront, the Maritime Museum offers an in-depth look at the region’s maritime roots and surf culture, and the Ty Warner Sea Center resembles a working marine science laboratory. Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, South Coast Railroad Museum, Santa Barbara Surfing Museum and Carriage Museum are also worth a visit.
- Performing Arts: Santa Barbara is home to more than 200 annual classic and contemporary stage productions, including drama, comedy, dance and musical theater. Santa Barbara Bowl concerts, Santa Barbara Symphony, State Street Ballet, Opera Santa Barbara and PCPA Theaterfest are just a few of the compelling options. SBStage.org
- Visual Arts: The Santa Barbara Visual Arts Alliance (sbva.org) provides information on galleries, museums, studio tours, art events, public art and art education. In addition to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the many galleries, the Contemporary Arts Forum and University Art Museum are leading visual arts institutions. Brooks Institute of Photography is also based in Santa Barbara.
- Wine Country: 175+ wineries and 22,000 planted acres of vineyards are located within the Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Santa Maria Valleys, just a 45-minute drive north of the city of Santa Barbara via Highway 101 or 154; tasting rooms also located in Downtown Santa Barbara on the Urban Wine Trail. Winery facilities offer tours and picnic sites. Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association: sbcountywines.com
Beaches, Outdoor Recreation & Nature
Eighteen beaches stretch nearly 100 mi/160 km from the coastal city of Carpinteria to the north-county town of Guadalupe. The area offers whale watching, beachside bicycle and in-line skating paths, backcountry jeep tours, eagle tours, sailing excursions and rentals, fishing charters, direct service from Santa Barbara Harbor’s SEA Landing to the Channel Islands, a skateboard park and seven 18-hole championship golf courses. Santa Barbara County also offers four horseback riding ranches, hiking, sea kayaking, surfing, beach volleyball, rock climbing, kite boarding, skydiving, hang gliding, road and mountain bicycling, windsurfing, SCUBA diving, birding, tidepooling and seasonal spectator polo at Santa Barbara Polo Club.
Contact the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission at 800.676.1266, 805.966.9222 or tourism@santabarbaraCA.com for more information..
Article provided by Jennifer Gues, Santa Babara visitors Bureau