Art, music and missions in Santa Barbara

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John Annarino

Ocean breezes keep Santa Barbara’s temperatures moderate year round. Visitors can enjoy a beachside arts and crafts show, along with surfing, shopping and performing arts.
© Bpperry |

Beautifully situated along the Pacific coast about 90 miles north of Los Angeles, onshore breezes keep Santa Barbara delightfully cool in summer.

Lower State Street is very popular with tourists. The El Paseo Shopping Mall, in particular, makes it a shopper’s paradise. At night its bars and restaurants come alive.

Every August, the famous Fiesta parade, with its flower girls, is held on lower State Street. So is the annual Summer Solstice Parade, with its colorful floats and whimsical costumes. The Santa Barbara French Festival takes place on Bastille Day weekend in July.

The three-day West Beach Music & Arts festival features local artisans and leading musical talents. The Arts and Crafts Show is held on the beach along Stearns Wharf every Sunday. Stearns Wharf, adjacent to Santa Barbara Harbor, is noted for its oceanside dining, and the rebuilt Ty Warner Sea Center.

Performing art venues abound. The 2,000-seat Arlington Theater, the city’s largest indoor performance venue, also presents the respected Santa Barbara Film Festival. The historic Lobero Theater stages small concerts. The Granada Theater, standing tall, once held star-studded Hollywood premiers. And nestled in a picturesque canyon, is the Santa Barbara Bowl, a 4,562 seat amphitheater for outdoor concerts.

Classical music lovers enjoy the city’s symphony orchestra and its part-time opera company.

Artists are drawn to Santa Barbara. Its Museum of Art displays collections of national and international importance. Equally acclaimed are the Historical and Maritime Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Art, Design & Architecture Museum.

Surfing is as much a part of Santa Barbara culture as music and art. Father and son surfing legends Pat and Tom Curran and other surf icons call Santa Barbara home.

With its abundance of seafood and nearby wineries, Santa Barbara excels in fine restaurants. And fine hotels: the oceanside Four Seasons, and the marvelous El Encanto, for instance.

Mission Santa Barbara was founded in 1786 by Spanish Franciscans. Today, it’s the icon of the beachside city.
Photo courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara

Mission Santa Barbara — an active place of worship, a sightseeing stop and a national landmark — is a supreme example of Spanish architecture. Other striking examples are the red-tiled County Courthouse, and the Presidio, a Spanish military installation and chapel built in 1782, which remains an icon of the city’s colonial roots.

Education is well represented, with five institutions of higher learning headed by the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Adding to the distinction of the city are its wonderful zoo, bird sanctuary, parks and beautiful botanic garden.

Bicycling is pure pleasure, thanks to many great cycling routes and notable climbs.

All of this doesn’t begin to capture all that is Santa Barbara. Take a drive up the 101, take a plane to Santa Barbara Airport or take the Amtrak and see all of Santa Barbara’s wonders for yourself.

And there’s no better time than right now — summertime.

If you go

Visit Santa Barbara  provides information on tours, sightseeing, restaurants, accommodations. (805) 966-9222,