Santa Barbara—Vacation spot

The city of Santa Barbara is one of California’s best-kept secrets: less than two hours away from Los Angeles, this quiet town is a living reminder of California’s old Spanish past. The mission-style buildings have been carefully preserved to create a downtown area that alters your mood from harried to leisurely almost as soon as you open your car door.

With a population of just about 100,000, Santa Barbara still manages to convey a cosmopolitan atmosphere: the shopping, dining and arts programs rival those of much larger cities. Probably it is for this reason that Santa Barbara has been named the “American Riviera.”As a vacation spot, Santa Barbara combines that movie-style glamour of Hollywood and Southern California with the more nature-loving’ northern towns.

Its unique geography, with the Santa Ynez mountain range running east-west parallel to the coast, provides not only days of uninterrupted sunshine and more shelter from the Pacific currents and winds for beach lovers, but also a countryside so varied in topography as to inspire a host of different outdoor activities. No wonder that the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California is one of the most popular campuses in the state. Santa Barbara is a great vacation destination for everyone. Adventure-lovers can go mountain-biking, coastal kayaking, hiking, rock-climbing and perhaps put them all together in a multisport package.

The more leisurely of us might want to start the day with a whale-watching cruise, then come back to wander the old Spanish downtown, decorated with flowers and lined with a lively mix of local-flavor boutiques and national and international retail stores. Perhaps, then, a couple of hours relaxing on the sun-drenched beach, before heading off to one of Santa Barbara’s world-class restaurants for dinner

History lovers might want to explore the buildings of the Santa Barbara mission, founded in 1786 by the Spanish on the feast day of Santa Barbara. Wine lovers can head over to the Santa Ynez foothills to explore Santa Barbara wineries, which produce award-winning wines and are open for tours and wine-tasting. Many wineries also offer a lunch menu and additional gourmet items such as olive oil for sale. Santa Barbara also has a formidable history in movies: Santa Barbara was the first Hollywood, boasting the largest film studio in the world in 1910. The Santa Barbara zoo, with its environmentally friendly “green” policy and open, naturalistic habitats for its 500 animals, is a great place to visit, with family and educational tours available.
Wherever you end up, the casual California style of Santa Barbara will only relax and rejuvenate you during your vacation.