Thanks to its spacious beaches, numerous wineries and bustling downtown, Santa Barbara is often referred to as “The American Riviera.” But, this small Californian city is much more than a glamorous getaway destination—the city is a gateway to the state’s rich culture.
The Old Mission Santa Barbara is both serene and historic
Established in 1786 by the Franciscan order, Mission Santa Barbara offers visitors a unique look at the city’s history. The imposing structure, which was rebuilt after the massive earthquake of 1812, is still in use today. It sits on a hilltop and is surrounded by gardens full of roses and other bright blooms—the perfect spot for a picnic.
The harbor is one of the prettiest on the west coast
This iconic Stearns Wharf stretches its wooden walkway into Santa Barbara Harbor for gorgeous views of the surrounding shoreline, mountains and downtown—it’s a popular destination for plein air painters for that reason. Stop for an ice cream cone, shop for souvenirs or just stroll the length of the wharf while taking in the sights.
The County Courthouse is a functional work of art
The county’s Spanish Colonial Revival-style courthouse features gorgeous architecture, a beautiful interior and scenic grounds. See the recently-restored fountain by the imposing front façade. Then, step inside the massive iron door and climb the spiral staircase of the clock tower for amazing 360-degree views of the surrounding area. Learn about the building’s history while exploring the sunken garden, the site of the original courthouse that is now used to host outdoor events.
The Presidio is home to historic relics
Established by the Spanish and later taken over by the Mexicans, presidios were fortresses built throughout the United States (as well as in Mexico, Greece and northern Africa) to protect Spanish territories. The Presidio of Santa Barbara holds the distinction of being the last Spanish military fortress built in the New World. Today, it sits on an archaeological park, where visitors can see El Cuartel, an adobe structure considered the second-oldest building in California.
Have you been to Santa Barbara? Tell us in the comments!