Sometimes travelers forget that the destination is only part of the vacation experience. And then there are those who have recognized that a scenic drive can provide sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean, sandy windswept beaches and soaring interior mountains. This can be the experience of those traveling to Santa Barbara, California. Named after an early Christian martyr and saint, Santa Barbara runs along the southern coast of the state. Channel islands occupy this space, bringing splendor and beauty to the travel experience. There are so many grand and elegant spaces awaiting the Santa Barbara tourist. Following are some of the most noteworthy venues to see and exemplary things to do in order to have top fun in Santa Barbara.
Awe-Inspiring County Courthouse
While many may balk at the idea of going into a courthouse, but Santa Barbara has an emblematic courthouse that is a source of civic pride. Upon entering, visitors behold the large fascade portraying two enthroned figures with a Spanish language inscription. The impressive downtown building was fashioned in the Spanish Colonial architectural tradition and features solid construction and ornamentation attributed to the Baroque period. Just inside the principal entrance are opulent mural rooms, and a bronze medallion fixed in the Saltillo tiled floors.
The Clock Gallery is a favored point of interest, with labeled photos depicting what's in the viewer's panoramic bird-eye view. Also at the summit of the courthouse is the observation tower; which offers excellent view points of the city due in part to the ideal elevation of the courthouse city center.
Located at 1100 Anacapa Street, the courthouse is open during weekdays from 8:00am-5:00pm, and during the weekends from 10:00am-4:30pm. The only holiday during which it is closed is Christmas Day. Admission is free.
People in the hundreds choose this venue as a wedding ceremony site, with some electing a Garden wedding amid palm and specimen trees and others preferring a ceremony in the Mural Room. The courthouse occupies four buildings for a combined total of 150,000 Sq Ft..
Gardens are often a source of endless delight. Lotusland is a public garden located in one of Santa Barbara's residential neighborhoods. The proper name is Ganna Walska Lotusland, as it's named after an opera singer and social virtuoso. Madame Ganna Walska purchased the estate and over a period of 43 years she busied herself creating the venue. Exotic plants on the 37-acre property showcase her dramatic flair, whimsical nature and passion for undertones of the unpredicted.
The non-profit botanical garden has been open since 1993. Educational programs there enlighten many in the community and garden-lovers and botanic garden hosts around the globe copy the progressive botanical protocol practiced there.
Tours are made by reservation only from February 19 through November 15 at10:00am and 1:30pm. Reservations can be made by calling 805-969-9990.
Waterfronts can provide all types of recreation, and there's few places that offer waterfronts more versatile and unique than the city of Santa Barbara. Tidelands, submerged lands, a harbor, Stearns Wharf and other aquatic venues are found within the city and they are either managed by the city or placed under the city's care.
Many water lovers can enjoy boat rentals, attend special events, fish and enjoy other nautical experiences in Santa Barbara.
Sterns Wharf is a 130 year old building that is teeming with historical significance and bears the footprint of early immigrants.
The Harbor is said to be man-made by a resident who had a breakwater and harbor created to provide fishing and pleasure boating and enable him to house his yacht close to his home. A Maritime Museum is one of the popular harbor features.
On the West Coast, Candor Express Cruises provide whale watching tours along with partying and dinnertime adventures aboard a nautical vessel. The captains and crew are credited with extensive knowledge of the waters and the whales that occupy that body of water.
A 42-foot yacht parked at Stearns Wharf makes daily cruise trips for all types of venues; ranging from weddings, memorials, parties, holiday occasions, whale watching, viewing the sunset and more.
There's also the Waterfront Shuttle that runs every half hour, from noontime until dusk. It volleys back and forth between Stearns Wharf and the Santa Barbara Harbor. If children are along for the ride, they can play Junior Captain by steering the boat and sounding the locomotive whistle while Captain Fred supervises.
Along Stearns Wharf is the educational facility called Warner Sea Center. The center is owned and operated by the city's museum of natural history. The center offers interactive maritime life education. Nearby, the Ty Warner Sea Center offers a lot of exposure to the natural side of the world.
Younger crowds like to flock to Skater's Point to skateboard and enjoy inline skating. While there is no supervision, lots of skaters bring their own equipment and skateboard or skate at their own risk. Helmets, pads and other equipment are strictly bring your own.
Artsy types find enjoyment rubbing shoulders with local craftsmen on Sundays at Chase Palm Park during the weekly Arts & Crafts Show. According to Jason Bryan, next year Santa Barbara will celebrate 50 years of holding the grass roots Arts & Crafts Show. “You must be a Santa Barbara resident to be in the show,” stressed the lead representative for the venue. He said squatters are asked to take down their wares, as they strictly enforce the membership requirement. As Administrator of the show, he was able to verify that many featured artisans have participated since the early 1970's.
“It's a long linear show,” he advised, while sharing that it runs for about one and a half miles, spanning from State Street to just past Cesar Chavez Boulevard. Bryan said visitors are able to view and purchase paintings, sculptures; as well as functional items like clothing, plates and jewelry.
Bryan shared some extra tidbits about Santa Barbara. He stated that the city has the distinction of having all beach property as public land. When asked if there was any private property along the ocean front, he responded, “Not within the city limits.”