From the moment you set foot in Santa Barbara, Calif., there’s no denying you’ve landed somewhere special. Nestled between miles of pristine Pacific coastline and the Santa Ynez Mountain range, with a storied maritime history, beautifully preserved Spanish Colonial architecture and laid back Southern California vibe, Santa Barbara has long been a refuge for celebrities and visitors seeking the idyllic California getaway. Add to that year-round sunshine and world-class wineries, it’s no wonder Santa Barbara is being called the American Riviera of the West.
In many ways, Santa Barbara’s unique microclimate has a lot to do with its growing popularity as one of the country’s leading wine, beer and food destinations. It was the 2004 film Sideways, starring a slightly disgruntled yet extremely loveable wine connoisseur played by Paul Giamatti, that really put Santa Barbara on the proverbial wine map.
While you can never doubt the bankability of a Hollywood hit, today, Santa Barbara’s steady mix of world-class restaurants, many of which rely on the bounty of freshly sourced vegetables and meat from local farms, has elevated this once sleepy city by the sea, from pop culture fame to a star in its own right.
A major draw for travelers with a discerning palate is the Urban Wine Trail, a collection of more than 30 tasting rooms scattered from Santa Barbara’s downtown Funk Zone area to the Presidio neighborhood, all within walking distance of each other. In addition to tasting rooms, the Funk Zone’s eclectic 16-block radius consists of reclaimed warehouses that now house everything from bakeries and breweries to coffee shops and restaurants, as well as an array of galleries and boutiques.
So whether you have a day or a week in Santa Barbara, see the photos above for the best places to eat and drink around town, from farm-to-table restaurants to hometown dives, tiki bars and tasting rooms.
SOURCE: (USA TODAY)