The best travel tips for Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara actually owes its name to a saint. A missionary building in California was dedicated to the young woman, who, according to tradition, was beheaded by her father because she did not want to give up her Christian faith. From this building the city developed, which today is one of the most prosperous in the USA. TRAVELBOOK features the best attractions and beaches in and around Santa Barbara.

It was the Spaniards who settled in the area about 400 years ago – and it was they who founded the mission on 4 December 1786. The building of the Spanish Franciscans is today one of the most important places in Santa Barbara. The complex includes a church, a museum and a mausoleum. “La Missione” is still the home of the Franciscans today.

Tours alone or with a guide are worth it. Admire the original furniture, paintings, Franciscan objects, lodgings, church, cemetery and gardens and feel the special atmosphere of the mission (address: 2201 Laguna Street).

City of celebrities

The Californian city of Santa Barbara is located on the Pacific Ocean, approximately 130 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles. Inland are the mountains of the Santa Ynez Mountains, in front of the door a few kilometers of beaches. Many of the houses have red tile roofs and are built in the Spanish style. In addition, there is the pleasant Mediterranean climate and the vegetation with palms and pines (and vines). No wonder Santa Barbara is also popular with celebrities. Stars like Depeche Mode singer Martin Gore, singer Katy Perry or actress Gwyneth Paltrow live or have lived here.

Also Interesting: Top 10 Things to Do in Los Angeles

Beaches near Santa Barbara

Tourists come to the city mainly for the beaches. Some examples: Carpinteria State Beach is twelve miles from Santa Barbara, and there is also a campground on the site. El Capitan State Beach (Hwy 101, signposted exit) has fine sand, is lined with oak and plane trees, and has a campground and picnic area. Finally, Gaviota State Park is located approximately 33 miles west of Santa Barbara on Highway 101. A massive railway bridge, more like a fragile structure, is a focal point of this beach, which is one of the most famous in the region. .

El Capitan Santa Barbara State Beach
El Capitan State Beach near Santa BarbaraPhoto: Getty Images

Historical landmarks in Santa Barbara

There are many other beaches and parks where beach goers, paragliders and nature lovers get their money. And of course there are many other attractions in Santa Barbara. Museums such as the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Historical Society Museum and the Natural History Museum near the mission. This also includes the imposing court house in the center, whose 26-meter-high bell tower would have to be climbed for sweeping views over the city. And finally the Royal Fort Presidio Real de Santa Barbara from 1782, now used as a museum.

Corte Santa Barbara
Courthouse with bell towerPhoto: Getty Images

Also Interesting: Glass Beach – California’s best junk beach

Cart ride

But the modern areas of Santa Barbara are at least as exciting. State Street, for example, is the main shopping street where you can buy high-fashion and sportswear. There are also many outdoor cafes. If you want to get to know the city, we recommend that you take a ride with the tram, a comfortable bus. Passing by many landmarks and passing through fascinating areas such as the Mexican Quarter, the affluent Montecito and the funk zone east of State Street, you will be told many anecdotes and information about Santa Barbara. Also discover the Danish settlement of Solvang near Santa Barbara.

State Street Santa Barbara
Popular shopping street: State StreetPhoto: picture alliance / Ruth Tomlinson / robertharding | Ruth Tomlinson

The tram stops at many attractions and you can hop on and off on one of the next trams. Cars arrive at the stops every 60 minutes.

getting there

The best way to get to Santa Barbara is to drive from Los Angeles on Highway 1. There is also a regional airport about 20 miles west of the city. Buses also operate from Los Angeles Airport (LAX). Journey time is approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Note: Important Note: Information on entry requirements and the current status of the crown in the United States can be found on the Federal Foreign Office website.

Map: Location of Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara – personal advice from our editor Susanne

Dream beaches, a romantic view of the Pacific and the majestic Santa Ynez mountains as a backdrop. Spanish architecture, red-tiled roofs and sun-bleached stuccoes. Add to that a lively bar, restaurant and wine scene and a relaxed atmosphere. I fondly remember my time in Santa Barbara, also known as the American Riviera due to its Spanish colonial architecture and sunshine.

About five years ago I took a mega road trip with my friends: three unforgettable weeks along the west coast of the United States, with some detours inland from California – from San Francisco via Lake Tahoe, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles all the way to Las Vegas. Long story short: here are my tips for Santa Barbara!

What is a highlight?
For me it’s definitely a highlight that you can walk pretty much anything in Santa Barbara. From Stearns Wharf, the famous wooden pier, you go straight downtown, more precisely to State Street, which runs through the center of Santa Barbara. The well-known promenade stretches for around 2 kilometers and has a lot to offer both during the day and in the evening. Bars, restaurants, shops, wine bars – life is great on State Street. By the way, you don’t need an extra day of shopping – the shops here are open late.

Where are the best restaurants?
Surprise: on State Street! Well, at least we only ate there and there is pretty much everything from trendy bowls to Mexican, Asian and Italian cuisine to locally sourced seafood. Where wine is grown, there is usually good food too: Santa Barbara’s cuisine is creative and fresh. If you love seafood, you should eat at the Boathouse right on Hendry’s Beach, with a terrace and a mega view of the sea. With any luck you can also see dolphins here. As the Boathouse is popular, you should book here.

What you should definitely do
While I wrote above that my highlight is that you can walk pretty much anything in Santa Barbara, you also need to explore the area by bike or small gas-powered mini jeeps called Moaks. You should definitely ride your bike along the coastal bike path: palm trees on the left, beach and ocean on the right. The route goes from the port to Montecito, where Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey live, among others. But you don’t have to be a celebrity to get into town.

The best place to watch the sunrise
From Stearns Wharf, California’s oldest functioning wooden pier. Sure, you’re not alone here at sunset, but it’s worth it. The Pacific on one side, the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, and most importantly, Santa Barbara’s breathtaking backdrop.

Is Santa Barbara expensive or cheap?
Costly! Clearly! Many stars and rich people live around Santa Barbara and Montecito, who have “fled” to Santa Barbara due to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and the tranquil idyll overlooking the mountains. Obviously the prices are high.

Susanne Resch, Publisher TRAVELBOOK

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