Santa Barbara beckons with California cool.
BY GREGORY D. MCCLUNEY
AFTER 5 | SANTA BARBARA
The tourism community in Santa Barbara has long positioned the city as the American Riviera. While some in France might take exception, this coastal city does have much in common with the jewels of the Mediterranean: a majestic seashore, inviting beaches, the towering San Ynez Mountains and 300 days of sunshine a year. Awe-inspiring sunsets bring cooling winds to the popular alfresco dining scene. Santa Barbara may not be France, but it’s a lot closer. Travelers arrive by air at Santa Barbara Airport, with service from most major American carriers. The city lies less than 100 miles from Los Angeles International Airport, but visitors can also drive up the coast on U.S. 101, checking out the surfers along the way. Santa Barbara’s wharf welcomes cruising passengers from several lines including Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn Cruise Line. Winters can be cool, windy and wet, but you won’t deal with snow and ice. Visitors and business travelers enjoy the mellow patio and palm bar scene almost year-round. Explore two of Santa Barbara’s most popular restaurant and bar destinations, Funk Zone and downtown, where State Street transformed into a pedestrian entertainment district. A few other sites stand out as destinations worthy of a drive out of town. The Stonehouse at The San Ysidro Ranch sits among grounds as exciting as the fine-dining menu. Or head up the mountain to the Cold Spring Tavern on Highway 154, an old stagecoach stop serving since 1865 and famous for its wild game and tri-tip barbecue. For seafood, watch the sunset at Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach as you feast on the fresh catch and raw bar. The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail makes for a great tasting experience with more than 20 wineries, plus wine bars on almost every corner. Then visit Julia Childs’ favorite Mexican restaurant, La Super-rica Taqueria, where she often took her visiting foodie friends. LGBTQ+ visitors get a warm welcome with California cool at most hotels, restaurants and bars across the city, with a special invite at established clubs like Crush Bar & Tap, Wildcat Lounge and iconic Elsies Tavern on De La Guerra Street.