Welcome to Santa Barbara, CA!
White washed buildings. Bright blue oceans. Mansions climbing the hillsides. Rolling fields of grape vines. Welcome to the Riviera - the America Riviera that is. Santa Barbara has lovingly been called the American Riviera for decades. This little town in central California is a unique respite that feels like it preserved a perfect luxury beach town from 100 years ago and maintains it to this day. Whether it’s the food, the wine, the water, the view, the incredible nature, Santa Barbara is a wonderful relaxing town that makes whiling away your vacation days pure joy.
Here is a playlist to help you get into the spirit of your destination!
One last thing...
Here's Whym's top ten things to know about Santa Barbara, CA
Welcome to Santa Barbara! Two hours outside of Los Angeles and a world away, Santa Barbara is a picturesque beachside town. Filled with French and Spanish influences and surrounded by culture, vineyards, nature, and an abundance of towns to explore Santa Barbara is a perfect spot to base yourself while exploring the undeniably beautiful California coastline.
Finding Your Way
Cars are your best friends while visiting California, not only for getting around Santa Barbara proper but for exploring a lot of the surrounding towns. Santa Barbara itself is quaint beach town with lots of scrollable areas to explore. However getting place to place does require transportation and while Lyft’s are readily available, for further distances, like Solvang or Santa Ynez, a rental car is key.
While a small city, Santa Barbara actually does have its very own airport. SBA is located about 15 minutes outside of the city and is a quick drive or Lyft into town. However, because it is such a small airport, the majority of visitors will find themselves flying into a Los Angeles area airport. The drive takes about an hour and a half to two hours and definitely requires a rental car but the scenery is gorgeous and there are definitely great stops along the way!
Originally inhabited by the Chumash tribe more than 6,000 years ago, Santa Barbara has gone through a lot of iterations. Eventually Spanish settlers would arrive in the early 18th century and their imprint would be a defining feature of Santa Barbara with their architecture, religion, and art. California would join the US in 1850 but would remain feeling like a small Spanish town until the Gold Rush would change everything. Soon it would become a bustling metropolis on the way to San Francisco from LA. When Hollywood discovered the pristine little town, the glamor would become inseparable from the town without overwhelming it but instead filling the hills with celebrities and movie shoots galore, causing Santa Barbara to be a fascinating mix of local and fabulous, all in one gorgeous town.
Why Am I Here?
You come to Santa Barbara for its unique geographical position. Located on the central coast of California, you will find yourself in the middle of many options to explore. From the breezy beach to the cool mountains to the temperate vineyards, it’s all only a drive away. Not to mention Santa Barbara is surrounded by tons of great towns to explore. Once you’ve soaked up the beach in SB, head to Solvang for windmills and bakeries or Santa Ynez for wineries galore or Ojai for markets and boutiques or Montecito for shopping and celebrities just to name a few! You’ll never run out of fabulous things to explore on the scenic California coast.
Because of its coastal location near the mountains, Santa Barbara is a very temperate town. As you head inland, you’ll find the temperatures leap up and as you head even an hour north, they’ll get even cooler. In general though, Santa Barbara is pretty perfect year round. During the winter months, the average highs are still in the mid 60s and the summer it goes up to the 70s, meaning it’s comfortable no matter the time of year! But be sure to have layers so that you’re ready for the temperatures no matter where you explore!
You’re right on the water so you know you can’t leave without seafood! Fresh & delicious, the seafood here is fantastic. From lobster rolls to oysters, it’s all delicious. And of course, the most famous local cuisine is the locally sourced uni. Uni is sea urchin, a salty, briny, buttery unique food found largely in only 3 areas in the world - one of which is Santa Barbara. If you’re feeling brave, it’s a local staple for foodies in the know.
Santa Barbara is not a huge town but that doesn’t mean there isn’t great finds to be had! There are plenty small local boutiques to buy great pieces at. Locally made leather goods are popular here as well. Plus let’s not forget the great crystals and jewelry found around town. If you’re checking a bag our number one recommendation would be to bring home a fantastic bottle of wine from a favorite vineyard in the area. And you can’t leave Solvang without a windmill, some wooden shoes or at least a few really great baked goods.
Santa Barbara is fashion meets the beach. With icons like Rob Lowe, Oprah, & Megan Markle living here, the fashion is always solid. That said, this isn’t a fancy town, it’s not full of suits and ties, but rather fashionable jeans, flowing dresses, beach appropriate sandals. Be sure to have layers no matter what you wear and sunscreen if you’re hitting the beaches or the mountains!
Even though Santa Barbara is a beach town, you’re surrounded by mountains. The Santa Ynez mountain range in fact is particularly unique, being one of the only mountain ranges in the world to run east to west. And don’t sleep on the farmers market scene, theres at least one pretty much every day somewhere in town and each one is more fantastic than the last. Santa Barbara is also frequently recognized as the least stressed city in America, so get ready for the relaxing vacation you deserve!