Nestled between mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and surrounded by undeveloped coastline, Santa Barbara has been called “The American Riviera” for decades.
“The city’s distinctive Spanish-influenced architecture and lush landscape evoke the topography and aesthetic of the European Riviera—with a carefree California spirit,” says Karna Hughes, Visit Santa Barbara’s director of public relations. “Santa Barbara welcomes visitors with relaxing resorts and hideaways, outdoor escapes, world-class wineries, arts and cultural attractions, and a hyper-local food scene.”
Two of the city’s top attractions are the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and the Old Mission Santa Barbara.
The courthouse, which was constructed in 1929, is a castle-like structure built in the Andalusian style. As they explore the facility, travelers can see original artwork, colorful tapestries, hand-painted tiles, and thousands of other ornate details. Two notable features are the Mural Room that depicts historical scenes and the Clock Tower that offers sweeping views of the city.
The Old Mission Santa Barbara is a time capsule of California history. The rich heritage of the 10th of the state’s 21 missions is detailed during a tour that goes to the church, the museum, and the gardens. As they roam the 13-acre property, visitors can see handcrafted archways and the distinctive twin bell towers, and a number of Mission-era plants and trees.
Another popular stop is Santa Barbara Harbor, which anchors the city’s waterfront district. Visitors can get active by going kayaking or stand up paddleboarding. Those who want to relax can pull up a chair at a local restaurant and enjoy fresh seafood, local veggies, and a glass of the area’s renowned wine.
Speaking of, Hughes calls the city’s Urban Wine Trail a must-do.
“The trail includes nearly three dozen tasting rooms in the city alone, most of which are walkable and in close proximity to each other,” she says. “We recommend exploring areas like the historic Presidio neighborhood and the cobblestone paths of El Presidio, which boast the tasting rooms of some of the most respected winemakers in Santa Barbara.”
Top photo: Santa Barbara Harbor
Photo by Blake Bronstad/Visit Santa Barbara