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Santa Barbara

Welcome to the American Riviera®...Where Life Itself is a Fine Art
Santa Barbara. Sun-drenched, relaxed and nestled seductively between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Sample the world-class hotels and resorts and delectable restaurants that tempt even the well-seasoned traveler. Check out our event calendar and discover plenty of things to do . From State Street and the Santa Ynez Mountains to the Channel Islands and the wine country , Santa Barbara is one of America's best-kept secrets.

Santa Barbara and Montecito, Population: 104,154
Also known as the American Riviera®, Santa Barbara is nestled between the Santa Ynez mountains and a sweeping shoreline overlooking the nearby Channel Islands. Its unique southfacing position results in a temperate climate with sunshine from dawn to dusk. The city of Santa Barbara and the Montecito area are known for their exceptional beauty and have a world-renowned flair, much of it reflected in the area's architectural mix of Mediterranean, Spanish Colonial, Monterey, Moorish, and Islamic styles. Montecito is home to many beautiful estates with every form of architecture and landscaping.


Use this quick-reference page to find information on a variety of Santa Barbara–related topics. It's designed as a sort of mini-encyclopedia all about this city and county. This is where to find everything from Santa Barbara's time zone, climate, and general dress "code" to contact numbers and websites for the air, rail, and bus lines that can bring you to Santa Barbara—and the transportation providers who can take you around once you're here.

Santa Barbara lies on the West Coast of the United States, 92 miles (148 km) north of Los Angeles and 332 miles (534 km) south of San Francisco. It is the largest city and the seat of Santa Barbara County, which covers 2,774 square miles. The Santa Ynez Mountains, which run along the east-west section of the Santa Barbara coast, serve as the boundary distinguishing "North County" (Ballard, Buellton, Guadalupe, Lompoc, Los Alamos, Los Olivos, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, Solvang) from "South County" (Carpinteria, Goleta, Montecito, Santa Barbara, and Summerland). While the South County cities and towns nestle in the Santa Ynez foothills on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, North County communities are located in higher-elevation inland mountain valleys.

The county is famous for its beautiful beaches, most of which lie along a unique south-facing stretch of coastline that affords beach visitors sun all day long and greater shelter from winds and surf. But there's far more here than beaches. The county encompasses enormously varied terrain: nearly one-third of its total acreage is set aside in the Los Padres National Forest, which includes the rugged San Rafael Wilderness Area. Santa Barbara County's topographical diversity creates a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities in a relatively compact area.

Distances to Santa Barbara from other destinations include:

  • Hearst Castle: 118 mi./189 km.
  • Santa Barbara County Wine Country: 32 mi./51 km.
  • Universal Studios: 85 mi./136 km.
  • Disneyland: 110 mi./176 km.
  • Hollywood: 89 mi./142 km.
  • LAX: 92 mi./148 km.
  • San Diego: 228 mi./367 km.
  • San Francisco: 332 mi./534 km.
    Santa Barbara is in the Pacific Standard Time Zone, 8 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.

    Santa Barbara boasts one of the most pleasant year-round climates in the country. Temperatures range from the mid-60s to mid-70s (degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the year, though late summer highs climb into the 80s. Evening temperatures are refreshingly cool all year long. The area receives about 18 inches (46 cm) of rainfall a year. The inland and mountain portions of the county see hotter high temperatures — an average of 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit hotter during the day — and colder low temperatures.

    In dress, as in most other respects, Santa Barbara style is comfortable and casual, though evening wear may be dressier in some places. Throughout the county, you'll be most comfortable if you layer your clothing. Early mornings, evenings, and nights may be cool enough for a sweater, but daytime temperatures in the seaside areas and the drier, hotter wine country and valley regions are comfortable enough for short sleeves.
It is illegal in California for anyone under 21 years old to consume alcohol in any quantity. To purchase alcohol in a bar, restaurant, or store, you must be able to produce photographic identification that proves your age. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is a serious offense in California. A person is considered legally drunk when the concentration of alcohol in his or her blood is at or above .08%.

In California, the driver and all passengers must wear their seatbelts at all times when traveling in a car. Any child too small to be protected by a seatbelt must be secured in a child safety seat.

California law prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars, theaters, auditoriums, museums, and most other public buildings.

For all life-threatening medical, fire, and police emergencies call 911.
For nonemergency calls dial the following numbers:
  • Buellton: 805-681-5500 (fire), 805-686-8150 (police)
  • Carpinteria: 805-684-4591 (fire), 805-684-4561 (police)
  • Gaviota: 805-681-5500 (fire), 805-681-4100 (police)
  • Goleta: 805-681-5500 (fire), 805-681-4100 (police)
  • Isla Vista: 805-681-5500 (fire), 805-681-4179 (police)
  • Lompoc: 805-736-4513 (fire), 805-736-0159 (police)
  • Montecito: 805-969-7762 (fire), 805-684-4561 (police)
  • Santa Barbara: 805-965-5254 (fire), 805-897-2300 (police)
  • Santa Ynez: 805-686-5000 (fire), 805-686-5000 (police)
  • Solvang: 805-686-5000 (police)
  • Summerland: 805-684-4591 (fire), 805-684-4561 (police)

Bank-card, bank-cash, and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are located throughout the city. Members of participating banking networks and credit card companies can obtain U.S. currency by using an ATM card or credit card and a Personal Identification Number (PIN). If you need to exchange foreign currency, contact Paul A. Brombal (3601-A State St., 805-687-3641), open Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

The first people to fall in love with Santa Barbara's spectacular setting were the Chumash Indians. The Chumash made their homes here, sustaining themselves from the fish-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean in front of them and the game-tracked mountains behind.

In 1542, Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo laid claim to the region in the name of Spain and established friendly relations with the Chumash. Sixty years later, Sebastian Vizcaino led his small fleet into the channel seeking shelter from a severe storm. The storm passed on Saint Barbara's feast day and, grateful for God's having spared the ships and the lives of their crews, a friar on board one of the vessels named the bay and the coastal landfall in honor of Saint Barbara.

It was almost another 200 years before the Spanish began settling the area in earnest. Father Junipero Serra, traveling with Captain Jose Ortega and Governor Felipe de Neve, made his way up from Mexico and established a royal presidio here in 1782. Four years later, Mission Santa Barbara was founded — the first of three (including Santa Inés in Solvang and La Purísima in Lompoc) in what is now Santa Barbara County.

The Spanish ruled the area until 1822, when Mexico asserted its independence and California became a Mexican territory. Mexican rule was short-lived however. In 1846, Colonel John C. Fremont claimed the region for the United States. California won statehood in 1850, but Santa Barbara retained much of its sedate pueblo atmosphere until the late 1800s, when affluent and famous visitors began arriving in great numbers.

This increased when a fledgling industry was established in town — motion pictures. In 1910, the American Film Company opened Flying A Studio on the corner of State and Mission Streets. At the time, the largest studio of its kind in the world, Flying A ultimately produced more than a thousand films. It closed in 1920, and the film industry dug in farther south, but movie stars had been introduced to the remarkable appeal of Santa Barbara. Close enough to be accessible but far enough from Hollywood that they could actually have some privacy and quiet, the area was a true haven, and many stars began spending more and more time here.

Resorts had been springing up to accommodate the city's affluent guests for several years, but now celebrities wanted in on the action. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford owned property in the mountains. Charlie Chaplin built the Montecito Inn in 1928, largely for movie people. Ronald Colman and Alvin Weingand bought the San Ysidro Ranch in 1935 and ran it, too, mostly for friends and guests. The trend has continued, with many celebrities keeping homes here to this day. Other residents have established themselves in an astonishing range of entrepreneurial successes. Among the companies that have started up here are Balance Bar, Carrows, Motel 6, Lockheed, Big Dog Sportswear, Territory Ahead and Kinko's (which the founder started, right out of UCSB, in Isla Vista with a single copying machine in a 100-square-foot shop in the corner of a taco stand).

Santa Barbara Architecture
The "Santa Barbara" architectural style is famous around the world. Although distinctly influenced by the architecture of Spain, it's actually a blend of genres, including Spanish, Mediterranean and Moorish/Islamic. Its key features are gleaming white stucco surfaces, the famous red tile roofs, courtyards, and the wrought iron used to ornament windows, light fixtures, staircases, and other accent elements. This aesthetic is largely the work of engineer Bernhard Hoffman. He founded the City Planning Commission and worked with other organizing bodies to enforce building codes and architectural standards at the advent of the 20th century, demanding that all new construction conform to modern safety guidelines. The new style which emerged was a tribute to Santa Barbara's Spanish heritage and the predecessor of the "look" we know today. In 1927, Pearl Chase became chair of the Plans and Planting Committee (in which capacity she served until her retirement in the 1970s) and further helped establish and enforce many of the standards that have kept Santa Barbara, in her words, "...a beautiful city, with an architecture in harmony with its historic background and adapted to its distinctive topography, its climate and its delightful location."

The Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (805-965-6307, leads two-hour tours each Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. weather-permitting. Saturday tours meet at the steps of City Hall, De la Guerra Plaza and discover the city's hidden courtyards, secret fountains, and original Spanish adobe structures. The Sunday tour leaves from the entrance of the Public Library and explores Santa Barbara's historic art and architecture as it was reborn after the 1925 earthquake. A $5 donation is appreciated. Group tours or tours for the physically challenged are available by arrangement.

Beaches in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara County boasts miles and miles of supremely beautiful beaches. And your visit to Santa Barbara really can't be said to be complete without spending some time enjoying one of Santa Barbara's most magnificent attractions. The array of activities possible at the beaches here is almost limitless, from sand volleyball and kite-flying to tidepooling, swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, biking, picnicking, whale-watching, and more. Amenities can include restrooms, showers, and on-duty lifeguards in peak season.

Santa Barbara Dining

Dining in Santa Barbara is an experience like no other. The dining scene here combines several delectable elements: an extraordinarily beautiful setting; an emphasis on the very freshest local ingredients; world-class training, expertise, and dedication to excellence among the county's chefs; and the variety of fare, from Santa Maria style barbecue to Santa Barbara Wine Country gourmet to peerless nouvelle cuisine. Mixed together, these ingredients have made Santa Barbara nationally famous as a dining destination.

Sports and Recreation

Santa Barbara is a truly year-round destination for active visitors. The weather here is so perfect virtually all year long that you have the option of outdoor recreation any day you choose. And the county's hugely varied topography ranges from warm, clean sand and ocean waves to rugged mountains and wilderness areas. In Santa Barbara, you are within minutes of world-class venues for surfing, kiteboarding, scuba diving, hiking, rock climbing, hang-gliding, and much, much more.


If you're traveling with your family, you will find Santa Barbara County a matchless destination. Here, museums and historical and cultural attractions pride themselves on taking a kid-friendly approach without sacrificing any of their appeal for adults. Active and outdoor options cover a huge range of possibilities. And you can rent everything you'll need right here, from bikes (families love the surrey-topped four-person quads) and tents to surfboards, sailboats, and kayaks. Instruction is also available.

Search Shopping in Santa Barbara

Shopping in Santa Barbara is more than beautiful shops brimming with quality merchandise. The stores include national and international retailers, one-of-a-kind boutiques, art galleries, trendy hot spots, and outlets. But this gorgeous natural setting, permeated by ocean air and year-round sunshine, is part of the pleasure. So are the shop-lined cobbled walkways and paseos that meander into courtyards brilliant with bougainvillea and calmed by softly splashing fountains. Yes, shopping here is truly a sensory experience.

Arts, Culture & Entertainment

Santa Barbara County is a veritable paradise of artistic, cultural, and entertainment options. The Spanish-Moorish architecture and historic adobes and missions are internationally famous. The arts are celebrated in an array of art galleries, public murals, and performance spaces. The museums highlight everything from photography to local, regional, maritime, and natural history. And the county is renowned for its film festivals, writing conferences, annual events, and world-class ballet, opera, classical music, modern dance, and theater.

Santa Barbara Wine Country

Internationally respected wine guru Robert Parker has declared that within the next decade, Santa Barbara's Wine Country will “rule America.” It's that good. It's also still largely undiscovered, although its starring role in 2004 Oscar®-winning film Sideways changed that somewhat ( download a self-guided tour map of the actual filming locations, or click here to request your free copy). The fact is that this wine country is uncrowded, sophisticated without being pretentious, and spectacularly beautiful.

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King Frederik Inn

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