Santa Barbara, California Travel Article
California has hundreds of miles of beautiful shoreline, but few more beautiful than the city of Santa Barbara. Located on a section of coastline that faces south into the Pacific Ocean, the city is nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. This location blesses the city with the perfect Mediterranean climate. It has been nicknamed the "American Riviera" which it richly deserves and is one of the reasons why it one of California’s most popular tourist destinations. And especially for young lovers of every age, the city is one of the country’s favorite honeymoon destinations. No matter how often you’ve been to the city, there is always something new and exciting to experience. While the city enchants people from around the world, it also draws a lot of traffic to the Southern California hot spot. The region’s transportation system can seem a maze of highways to the unfamiliar, some of which will always be under construction. More importantly, a road that can be clear sailing at three can be a parking at five. A charter bus service will know the best routes at the best time of the day to get you to your destination. You can leave the driving to the pros allowing you to sit back, close your eyes and enjoy the sea air.
Much of the city was destroyed in the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit in 1925. This allowed the city to be rebuilt in Spanish Colonial style which is characteristic of many the city’s public structures. The county courthouse is considered to be one most beautiful public building in the United States. And while the courthouse is an example of the revival Spanish Colonial architecture, the Santa Barbara Mission, north of downtown on Laguna Street, was originally built in 1820 by Franciscans missionaries settling the area. The Mission has incredible frescos in the main chapel and an important research library. The Museum of Natural History is located immediately behind the Mission on a park-like complex and includes a state-of-the-art planetarium. Another fine example of the Spanish Revival style is Casa del Herrero located east of downtown in Montecito. It is an 11-acre private museum and garden that was made a National Historic Landmark in 2009. Over the years, the city has developed an impressive heritage for the visual arts. The Museum of Art features nationally recognized collections and special exhibitions of international importance. It has one of the most innovative museums of contemporary art situated on the top floor of the Paseo Nuevo shopping mall. The Casa Dolores is devoted to the popular arts of Mexico. Other art venues include the University of California SB Museum of Art, plus various private galleries that offer a wide variety of art and photography shows. The city offers many exhibits that the whole family can enjoy. The Santa Barbara Historical Museum located on De La Guerra Street and the Maritime Museum on the waterfront, both offer free admission. Once down on the waterfront, you will find several beautiful green spaces including Elings and Shoreline parks. Stearns Wharf and the harbor is another popular destination for shopping and sightseeing. The oceanfront is also the home for the zoo, which is considered one of the best small zoos in the country and can easily be visited in an afternoon. North of downtown, you can find the city’s Botanic gardens which also free for visitors.
The city is surrounded by protected areas that offer outdoor activities. Behind the city is the Los Padres National Forest, which contains several wilderness areas. Many visitors and locals like to take a bus rental and visit the wonderful rustic Cold Spring Tavern in the middle of the forest that has been serving up great food is a natural setting for years. The most popular recreational area in the city is Mission Canyon. Adjacent to the Botanic Gardens, Mission Canyon is a popular area for hiking and camping in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. In the opposite direction from the city, out into the ocean is Channel Islands National Park and the accompanying Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The park consists of five of the eight channels while the Sanctuary consists of six square miles of ocean surrounding the islands. Although only a few miles of the coast, the islands are amazingly pristine. Tourist can reach the islands by public ferry or outfitter services. Channel Islands National Park offers a wide variety of outdoor activities including primitive camping, hiking, scuba diving, and spearfishing. The park has a large number of sea caves that visitors can visit by kayak.
Nightlife and Shopping
With tourist out for a good time and four universities, the city has no shortage of nightlife. The area known as Lower State Street is one of the more popular areas in the city for dining and clubbing, and is sometimes referred to as the Funk Zone. Velvet Jones is considered one of the best places for live music Another popular area is the Mesa which lies between City College on the east to Arroyo Burro County Beach on the west. The neighborhood has beach access to Mesa Lane Beach, as well as Thousand Steps Beach. This is considered to be a desirable neighborhood due to its proximity to the ocean as well as the college. Stearns Wharf is always a gathering place for visitors, especially in the late afternoon when people like to gather at seaside restaurants to beat the heat and enjoy the sunset. As for entertainment, the city has a myriad of different offerings. While the city population is little more than hundred thousand, it brags both a symphony orchestra and a part-time opera company. The Music Academy of the West hosts an annual music festival in the summer, drawing renowned students and professionals. The Lobero Theatre and the Granada Theater are historic landmarks which now serve as venues for concerts and plays, while the Santa Barbara Bowl on the Riviera is an amphitheater used for outdoor concerts. The city is home to many film buffs dating back to when the city was the center of the silent film industry. The Arlington Theater is the site of the city’s international film festival. The first Thursday of every month celebrates the arts with music and performance art in the State Street area downtown.