Santa Barbara proudly bills itself “the American Riviera” for its resemblance to the coastal towns of France and Italy. It’s not just an empty marketing slogan. The Santa Ynez Mountains are this city’s Alps, the Pacific Ocean its Mediterranean Sea. The climate is comparable, too, with pleasantly warm summers and pleasantly cool winters—making for prime grape-growing conditions. The Santa Barbara sunshine blends well with everything it touches, from the city’s vibrant wine scene to the outdoor shopping thoroughfares to the family attractions scattered near the beach.
Santa Barbara for Wine Lovers
- Urban Wine Trail: Taste an array of Central Coast varietals at 17 tasting rooms spread out between State Street and Milapas Street. Check out the city’s abundant Spanish colonial revival architecture along the way.
- Dine al fresco at Zaytoon, which serves Lebanese cuisine and fine wines.
- Visit the Funk Zone for tasting rooms and art galleries off the beaten path. Adjacent to the ultradeveloped commercial thoroughfare of South State Street, the Funk Zone has an industrial appearance, but that’s part of the charm. For the highest concentration of tasting rooms, amble south along Anacapa Street and don’t stop ‘til you reach the ocean.
- Where to stay: Hotel Indigo. You can easily access the Urban Wine Trail from here, starting with Kalyra Winery (located within a block of the hotel’s door). The hotel is also the proud home of the acclaimed Blue Tavern Restaurant, which serves Peruvian fare with a California twist.
Santa Barbara for Shoppers
- State Street has all the stores you’d expect to find in an upscale urban shopping area, plus a handful of boutiques exuding SoCal style.
- Don’t-miss boutiques: Diani (Rag & Bone, Citizens of Humanity, Isabel Marant); The Area (affordable separates); Kitson (a celebrity favorite, with several California locations); and Lola Boutique (a luxury consignment store with some new designer items thrown in)
- One-of-a-kind finds: While you’re on State, step into Antique Alley to browse an eclectic collection of 20th-century objects.
- Where to stay: The Canary Hotel. After a day of shopping on State (one block away), you can sip margaritas while enjoying views of the mountains and ocean from the rooftop pool. Conde Nast Traveler readers ranked the Canary among the Top 25 Hotels in Southern California.
Santa Barbara for Families
- See gorillas and anteaters at the Santa Barbara Zoo. It’s manageable in size—about 30 acres—so it won’t take up a whole day.
- Learn about marine life at the Ty Warner Sea Center at Stearns Wharf, the city’s main pier.
- Eat next to the ocean at Padaro Beach Grill. The prices are affordable and there’s a large sand pit where kids can play while parents savor the view.
- See a drive-in movie at West Wind Drive-In in nearby Goleta. Admission is free for kids under 5 and only $1 for those aged 5–11.
- Where to stay: The Franciscan Inn. Set just a block from the beach, the hotel has a pool, free breakfast, fresh-baked cookies every afternoon, a movie library, and free hot chocolate and coffee in the lobby.