Spring has sprung, as they say, and summer is just around the corner. Santa Barbara’s sundrenched coastlines and abundance of spring events and activities are beckoning to anyone ready to shake off a long, snowy or rainy winter season. To further entice, I’ve included some exciting news on hotel openings and updates – we’ve been seeing a lot of activity!
Currently, we’re in the midst of Ecotopia, a celebration of the area’s eco-friendly offerings. Ecotopia encourages eco-attentive travelers to experience Santa Barbara’s sustainable side by escaping to nearby parks and mountains, ditching the car and enjoying Santa Barbara car-free or partaking in farm-to-table cuisine. We’ve been filling our blog, TheSBPost.com, with lots of great content, so be sure to check it out.
More than just a pretty face, our coastal town has long been recognized for its vibrant variety of art and cultural offerings. The Santa Barbara Bowl, one of the most iconic outdoor music venues in the country, kicks off its 76th season with an all-star lineup that avid concert-goers won’t want to miss.
Santa Barbara Travel News & Story Ideas
The Hotel Report –From affordable inns and unique bed-and-breakfasts to luxury resorts and rustic ranches, Santa Barbara offers rooms to suit every style and budget. The following are the latest highlights from the hotel front:
- The oceanfront Hyatt Santa Barbara (www.santabarbara.hyatt.com) (formerly Hotel Mar Monte) has just completed an extensive renovation encompassing all 127 guest rooms, meeting rooms and public spaces including the hotel lobby, landscaping and décor around the pool and deck area.
- The trendy Canary Hotel (www.canarysantabarbara.com) located in the heart of downtown became a Kimpton property in late March.
- The much-anticipated reopening of El Encanto, a Santa Barbara landmark that has long been recognized as one of California’s finest resorts, is scheduled for January 2013. Orient-Express purchased the property in 2004 (its first on the U.S. West Coast) and set about restoring it to the standards of style, design and service synonymous with the brand. Upon reopening, the hotel will have 92 keys in a seven acre garden setting. Restored California Craftsman style buildings date from 1911 to 1918 and Spanish
Colonial cottages date from the 1920s. The main building will retain many original features and will house a fine dining restaurant with views of the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands, featuring local Santa Barbara County produce and wines. A favorite hideaway for stars from Hollywood’s golden era, the redeveloped El Encanto will feature an infinity edge swimming pool, tennis courts, state-of-the-art event space, and a six room boutique spa. (www.orient-express.com.)
- Just in time for summer, Bacara Resort & Spa (www.bacararesort.com) will conclude a full renovation of its guest rooms and refurbishments to key areas of the property by Memorial Day weekend.
GREEN SCENE – The new, 41-room boutique Hotel Indigo ( >www.hotelindigo.com) has opened downtown at 121 State Street, bringing a unique new lodging experience to Santa Barbara. A community crossroads that breathes life into a thriving and energetic arts corridor, the hotel boasts a modern, environmentally friendly design that includes a plant-filled living wall, green space and energy efficient elements. Located near the railroad station and Stearns Wharf at the gateway to the city, it’s just a short jaunt to attractions, fine dining and shopping. It also borders the Funk Zone, a hotbed of homegrown artistic production, known for its eclectic wall murals, ateliers, galleries, alternative exhibition spaces, and trendy artist shops, as well as the Urban Wine Trail. The hotel houses the CAF Satellite @ Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara, curated by the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum (www.sbcaf.org), which provides exhibitions of thought- provoking artworks and site-specific, commissioned installations by local artists. The inaugural exhibition entitled Open House will be on view through February 2, 2013 and presents artworks by Alejandro Diaz, Ann Diener, Stephanie Dotson, Rob Fischer, Francesca Gabbiani, Saul Gray-Hildenbrand, Nathan Hayden, Cyndee Howard, Jennifer Nocon, Zacarias Paul, Luke Stettner, Kirsten Stoltmann, Sandra Torres, and James Van Arsdale.
THE “FUNK ZONE” FLOURISHES – Bordered by State Street, Stearns Wharf and East Beach, Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone” is an eclectic, walkable neighborhood where working facilities like wine-production warehouses, surfboard-shaping shacks and fishermen’s vessels converge with sophisticated home design stores, gourmet purveyors, and more. Originally an industrial district, the entire waterfront area has emerged in recent years as a hot spot of fresh thinking, artistic expression, and interesting characters and is thriving with a new hotel, new wine-tasting rooms and shops (Municipal Winemakers, Sanguis, Silver, Conway Deep Sea Tasting Room, Corks n’ Crowns and La Tour Wine Merchants), surf shop J7 Surfboards, art galleries and alternative spaces, a burgeoning food truck scene, boutiques and even a chic private event space, The Loft (www.eventsattheloft.com). Meanwhile, mainstay attractions include the Santa Barbara Surf Museum, the Urban Wine Trail (www.urbanwinetrailsb.com), Blue Line Paddle Surf, >Segway of Santa Barbara and watering holes Reds and The Pub. The Santa Barbara Train Station is centrally located here as well, allowing for easy access to a car-free and carefree vacation.
AT YOUR FINGERTIPS – The Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau presents “NEXT: Santa Barbara,” a new mobile and iPad app that is the go-to resource for information on all things Santa Barbara. The user-friendly, location-based app connects users with the entire vacation experience, whether in Santa Barbara or in the planning process, offering detailed listings for restaurants, wineries, events, arts and cultural offerings, accommodations, outdoor activities, retail shops, and much more. It also includes timely, money-saving deals from local attractions as well as “What’s Near Me” features, maps and photos.
The free “NEXT: Santa Barbara” app is available at the App Store and Android Market. Learn more at www.NextSBapp.com. ON EXHIBIT – The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (www.sbma.net) presents Behind the Wheel (May 5 – August 12, 2012) as part of the Vantage Point California Photography Series. This exhibition of So Cal photographers examines the enduring love affair between Southern Californians and their automobiles since 1925, when the world’s first “motel” opened just north of Santa Barbara. Chosen from the collection of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, these photographs explore the psychological place of the car in Southern California life. Whether in celebration, investigation, or incrimination, all of the photographs depict those unique mental states that can only be produced behind the wheel. Another major exhibition, Van Gogh to Munch: European Masterworks from the Armand Hammer Foundation and Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, has been extended through 2012.
FAMILY FUN – Zoo Nooz: The Santa Barbara Zoo (www.sbzoo.org), which celebrates its 50th birthday this year, recently introduced “Michael,” a five-year-old male Masai giraffe who arrived from Parc Safari, Quebec, Canada, to start breeding as part of a cooperative program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The Zoo is making a transition from exhibiting Baringo giraffes to showcasing Masai giraffes, as part of a regional giraffe management program with other West Coast AZA zoos including those in Los Angeles and San Diego.
The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort (www.alisal.com) is offering a Cowgirl Bootcamp, where wranglin’ cowgirls learn the fundamentals of barrel racing, roping, and trail riding. The package includes three nights’ accommodation, cowgirl amenity basket, all meals, gourmet picnic lunch, hat shaping and archery lesson at Alisal Lake, line dancing instruction, daily horseback rides, lessons and a mini cattle round-up.
The Dish On Santa Barbara Food & Wine.
- The latest arrival to the Urban Wine Trail is Sanguis (www.sanguiswine.com), a Santa Barbara based winery that focuses on creating limited production blends of Rhone and Burgundy varietals. The new facility – open by appointment only – signals a decidedly modernist and minimalist aesthetic with Japanese-Modern leanings. Owner/ winemaker Matthias Pippig’s artwork is on display in the foyer, where guests are often received for a sit-down tasting with both Matthias and co-Vintner Jamie Kinser.
- The newly opened Cielito Restaurant & Taqueria (www.cielitorestaurant.com), located in the historic La Arcada complex, showcases authentic regional Mexican cuisine and South American flavors at their finest by Chef Ramon Velazquez. Emphasizing fresh seafood and seasonal offerings, Cielito endeavors to write a new story for Mexican food in Santa Barbara by celebrating the richness and diversity of Mexican cuisine in a tapas-style format. The adjoining Cielito Taqueria offers fresh, handmade, on-the-go items.
- Petros, an upscale, modern Mediterranean restaurant complete with open-air patio recently opened its doors on State Street across from the historic Arlington Theatre. The California Hellenic menu balances classic Greek cuisine with dynamic Mediterranean ingredients and haute stylings. Owner Petros Benekos – who runs successful locations in Manhattan Beach and Los Olivos – has
created an exotic oasis with geometric fountain, fireplaces, and two bars, as well as a colorful array of citrus trees.
- Café Luck at 18 E. Cota Street has reopened as The Pan. While the cozy French-inspired décor remains, the new menu features a gastropub-inspired selection of reasonably priced burgers and sides along with wines and beers.
- Blue Agave (www.blueagavesb.com) has launched The Wurst, a lunch and late-night backdoor counter serving up curry, Thai, and chili wursts, a chicken brat, a kielbasa, and a veggie dog. Everything is hormone- and preservative-free, and plans are in the works to begin making their own sausages and sauerkraut.
- Now open in Montecito’s upper village, Pierre Lafond Montecito Wine Bistro (www.pierrelafond.com) is a casual and kid-friendly California bistro showcasing the culinary art of chef Nathan Heil. The fare is complemented by sommelier Don Hull’s extensive wine list featuring local wines along with the best from around the world.
- After quickly becoming a popular stop on the Urban Wine Trail during its first year and recently expanding into a new, larger tasting room (located in the former Divers Den industrial building with views of the beach), Municipal Winemakers (www.municipalwinemakers.com) recently launched a series of monthly workshops, co-hosted by local espresso bar The French Press, on the basics of fine coffee and wine appreciation.
- Through the summer, Downey’s Restaurant (Zagat Survey’s top rated Santa Barbara restaurant, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, www.downeyssb.com) will offer a “Taste of Santa Barbara” four-course tasting menu showcasing the very best from the local farmers’ market, poultry farms and fishermen.
ADVENTURES FOR AFICIONADOS – Craving Adventures (www.cravingadventures.com) is a sort of “epicurean adventure” purveyor recently founded by Caroline Connor and Eve Somer-Belin, two local ladies who are passionate about food, wine and outdoor adventure. Inspired by travel, Craving Adventures crafts customized itineraries pairing Santa Barbara’s best flavors with unique palates and interests. With a focus on everything local, they will create a personalized experience in food and adventure and take care of everything including planning meals, activities and transportation. From cooking lessons to salsa dancing, stand-up paddle boarding to spa, or mountain biking to beer tasting, guests can enjoy a Santa Barbara experience all their own, complete with local insight and personal touches.
Santa Barbara On a Budget:
Save money and cash in on fun with inexpensive lodging options, car-free convenience and low- or no-cost activities in Santa Barbara. Affordable family-owned inns and unique bed-and-breakfasts offering value-added amenities are plentiful, even in beachside areas. Visitors can leave their vehicles at home with the city’s walkable downtown and waterfront areas, abundant bike paths, affordable electric shuttles, pedicabs, and award-winning public transportation. Amtrak currently offers 20% off travel to Santa Barbara on the Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquin, and visitors who leave the gas guzzler at home can enjoy remarkable savings throughout the destination via SantaBarbaraCarFree.org. To stretch vacation dollars even further, 101 Free Things to Do on The American Riviera® (www.SantaBarbaraCA.com) means plenty of exploring without spending a dime.
- Ongoing: 1st Thursday – an evening of arts and culture in downtown Santa Barbara on the first Thursday of every month. santabarbaradowntown.com
- Ongoing: Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show – an al fresco showcase of local artists’ works every Sunday along Cabrillo Boulevard steps from East Beach. >santabarbaraartsandcraftsshow.
- April 20-23, 2012: Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Festival Weekend – Sip and savor world-class pinot noirs and chardonnays in a simple, down home atmosphere at the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Festival. This much anticipated event attracts wine lovers from near and far for an opportunity to meet local vintners, taste their wines and enjoy great food and music over a long spring weekend in April. sbcountywines.com
- April 21–22, 2012: Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival – Often considered the birthplace of the modern environmental movement, Santa Barbara’s “Ecotopian” roots run deep, especially at the city’s nationally acclaimed Earth Day Festival. From a cutting-edge green car show to over 200
exhibitors, Santa Barbara’s Earth Day Festival draws thousands of eco-minded attendees each April. sbearthday.org
- April 27–29, 2012: Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival – The annual event highlights the beginning of the Strawberry Season as well as the importance of the strawberry industry to the local economy. It also strives to showcase both the variety and taste of local berries. 60,000 attendees expected. santamariafairpark.com
- April–Nov., 2012: Santa Barbara Bowl Season – For a ceiling of real stars, catch a show at this spectacular naturally formed amphitheater nestled in the foothills. As the largest coastal city between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Santa Barbara bowl attracts big-name musical talent during the
April-through-November season. This year’s show schedule features Radiohead, Florence + The Machine, Beck, Bon Iver, The Beach Boys’ 50th Anniversary Tour, Sugarland and more. sbbowl.org
- May 26–28, 2012: i madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival – The plaza of the Old Mission is transformed with 200 colorful street paintings created by 400 artists. imadonnarifestival.com
- June 2, 2012: Los Olivos Jazz and Olive Festival – Spend a Saturday afternoon in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, tasting wine from twenty five local wineries, listening to world-class, professional jazz musicians, and sampling thirty different olive themed dishes prepared by local chefs. >losolivosrotary.org
- June 18–Aug. 11, 2012: Music Academy of the West Summer Festival – Every year, talented young musicians attend the prestigious Music Academy of the West Summer Festival to hone their crafts. The students perform in more than 200 concerts and “masterclasses” – ensemble “lessons” that are open to the public – held in venues throughout town, including the Academy’s Mediterranean-style “Miraflores” estate in Montecito. musicacademy.org
- June 22–24, 2012: Summer Solstice Celebration – This signature festival features more than 1,000 parading participants, extravagant floats, whimsical costumes and creatively choreographed dancing ensembles. From its beginnings as a small parade featuring street artists,
the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration is now the premier Santa Barbara County arts event, drawing crowds of over 100,000 spectators from around the world. solsticeparade.com
- June 30, 2012: Santa Barbara Wine Festival – Swirl, sip and savor at this alfresco event where 70 Central Coast wineries pour tastings alongside savory and sweet culinary delights. A summertime favorite, the festival takes place at the picturesque Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History under a canopy of oak trees and among wooded walking trails. sbnature.org/winefestival
- July 19–21, 2012: California Wine Festival includes three days/nights of tasting events throughout downtown Santa Barbara and on the waterfront. californiawinefestival.com
- July 28–29, 2012: Santa Barbara Greek Festival dishes out the sights, sounds, aromas and flavors of Greece at Oak Park. santabarbaragreekfestival.com
- Aug. 1–5, 2012: Old Spanish Days Fiesta – Santa Barbara’s largest annual celebration started in 1924 and features parades, rodeo, dancing and more. oldspanishdays-fiesta.org
- Throughout Oct. 2012: epicure.sb – An annual celebration of cuisine, libations and culture, epicure.sb presents signature festivals,
cooking classes, winemakers’ dinners, seasonal menus, epicurean-inspired art exhibits and many more ways to taste the very best of Santa Barbara! epicuresb.com
- Oct. 5–7, 2012: California Avocado Festival – Take a bite out of “Avofest,” an epicurean, entertaining and educational trifecta with delicious food, live music, kids’ activities, arts and crafts, and the world’s largest bowl of guacamole. avofest.com
- Oct. 2012: Celebration of Harvest – Celebrate the 2011 harvest at Rancho Sisquoc Winery with wine tastings from 110+ wineries and delicious bites crafted with locally sourced ingredients by the area’s best restaurants. sbcountywines.com
- Oct. 13, 2012: Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival – Reel in the fresh-caught fun at the thriving Santa Barbara Harbor with delicious seafood specialties, cooking demonstrations, interactive maritime education, children’s activities, boat rides and more. harborfestival.org
- Oct. 20–21, 2012: California Lemon Festival – Squeeze every last drop of fun from this family-friendly festival with kids’ rides and activities, the annual Goleta Fall Classic Car Show, a pie-eating contest, lemon-infusd food tastings and more. lemonfestival.com
Considered the northernmost point of Southern California and the southernmost point of Northern California, Santa Barbara spans 100 miles of pristine coastline. Santa Barbara is known as The American Riviera® thanks to its Spanish-Revival architecture, rich heritage, world-renowned food-and-wine scene, stunning natural beauty and near-perfect weather. Courtesy of Gena Downey, Director of Communications, Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission