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Some of California's best coastal scenery is found around Santa Barbara, one of the state's premier resort towns. With a sweeping shoreline on one side and the soaring Santa Ynez mountains behind, easy-going Santa Barbara is lent charm by its Mediterranean and Spanish colonial architecture. Two exemplars are the Moorish, 1929 Santa Barbara County Courthouse and the stylish San Ysidro Ranch, an exclusive getaway for the Hollywood set since it opened in 1935. Mission Santa Barbara, founded in 1786, has exhibits on daily life at the mission, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art spans local and international art going back 4,500 years. To ...

Some of California's best coastal scenery is found around Santa Barbara, one of the state's premier resort towns. With a sweeping shoreline on one side and the soaring Santa Ynez mountains behind, easy-going Santa Barbara is lent charm by its Mediterranean and Spanish colonial architecture. Two exemplars are the Moorish, 1929 Santa Barbara County Courthouse and the stylish San Ysidro Ranch, an exclusive getaway for the Hollywood set since it opened in 1935. Mission Santa Barbara, founded in 1786, has exhibits on daily life at the mission, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art spans local and international art going back 4,500 years. To explore, rent a four-person, pedal-powered surrey. Tree-lined State Street runs through town to the beach and Stearns Wharf — the oldest pier in California and a perfect place to watch fishermen bring in their catch. Sunday is best, when artists display their works along the beachfront Cabrillo Boulevard. Offshore, Channel Islands National Park enshrines five islands and the flora and fauna they support, including colonies of seabirds, seals and sea lions. Visits are regulated; the Nature Conservancy Visitor Center on the boardwalk has exhibits.

Christopher Baker
About the Expert

Christopher P. Baker has authored guidebooks to Costa Rica, California, and various Caribbean islands for Frommer's, Lonely Planet, and National Geographic, among others.

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Christopher Baker for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Any time is good. Winter months can be cold.