Santa Barbara has long held visitors enthralled. Its mission architecture, seen throughout the city, makes it a unique cultural destination. Restaurants featuring locally sourced produce and meats have always been de rigueur. And with abundant sunshine throughout the year, weary winter-phobes have flocked here during the colder months. Here are our selections for where to eat, play, and stay in this charming Californian city.
Santa Barbara has plenty of spots to keep you busy. Any visit to the city wouldn’t be complete without a trek to the Old Mission. Founded by the Franciscans in 1786, the well-preserved landmark is still home to the friars, welcome in the sacred garden, cemetery, church, and museum portion of the facility. Pro tip: The Mission lawn is a fabulous place for a picnic surrounded by rose gardens. This is also the only public space in Santa Barbara where you can drink alcohol. Get a feel for life in this city as you watch locals throw Frisbees, have a game of bocce ball, or play fetch with their dogs.
Like the Mission, El Presidio is a relic from the past. Built in 1782, it was the last of four Spanish fortresses in coastal New Spain. Exhibits run the gamut from historic photography to lectures on how life was like in California in the 18th century.
The Santa Barbara Courthouse is a masterpiece of Spanish Colonial Revival design that offers a citywide view from atop its tower. If you’re lucky, the attendants will let you ring the bell (feel free to imagine you’re in Notre Dame). During the summer, you can set up a lawn chair, unwrap a picnic, and enjoy an outdoor movie in the Sunken Gardens with residents of all ages.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art boasts permanent and temporary exhibitions throughout the year and features Asian and European art and a number of antiquities. For you analytical types, the Moxi Museum is a newer addition to Santa Barbara’s discovery scene. Here you can explore hands-on science exhibits that intrigue adults and children alike.
During the summer months, the Moxi also hosts exclusive after-hours parties with drinks, music, a rooftop dance floor, and a chance to explore the exhibits at your leisure (you may want to leave the kids at home for this one).
With a name like the “Funk Zone,” how could this downtown hangout be anything but a good time? Converted warehouse buildings, graffiti murals, tasting rooms, breweries, and hip restaurants serve as a magnet for SB’s socialites. One of our favorite hangouts is Fig Mountain Brewery, which hosts live music each weekend.
Santa Barbara is renowned for its scenic beaches, but equally breathtaking is the view of the harbor, pier, and city center from open water. We recommend a sunset cruise on the Double Dolphin, or, if you prefer something a bit more active, rent a kayak or paddle board and make your own adventure.
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SOURCE: (The Week)