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Find Santa Barbara sandwiched between the Atlantic and the Santa Ynez Mountains, less than a two-hour drive northwest of L.A. You’ll see beauty at every turn in this relaxed California coastal city.
What to See
Make one of your first stops the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, located at the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Yes, it’s a desert climate, but you’ll also see shady redwoods and babbling brooks - the perfect place for a stroll, as is Ganna Walska Lotusland - a 37-acre estate boasting gardens filled with rarities: bromeliads, succulents, cycads. You can find several species of lotus in the ponds and kids will love the topiary garden, with trees trimmed into giraffes and other fun shapes. See fascinating local history at the Mission Santa Barbara and Casa del Herrero.
What to Do
Hike at the Nojoqui Falls County Park, about a 30-minute drive northwest of downtown Santa Barbara and into the foothills. If it has recently rained, you can take a swim under the pretty waterfall here. Head to Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park to see intricate and well-preserved cave paintings, dating to the 1600s or earlier, from the local Chumash Native Americans.
See more history at the fascinating Santa Barbara Maritime Museum or the small but mighty Museum of Natural History. To cool off, take a swim at breathtaking Shoreline Park and enjoy a sunset picnic at the Arroyo Burro County Beach Park, a relaxed beach about 20 minutes west of downtown Santa Barbara. Catch a live show at the historic Granada Theatre - dating to 1924 - in downtown Santa Barbara or at the historic open-air Arlington Theatre.
Dining and Shopping
You can find the best shopping - major retailer and boutique - on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, running about ten blocks between Micheltorena and Gutierrez Streets. Head to the waterfront for the best seafood: Brophy Brothers near the yacht club and The Harbor Restaurant on Stearns Wharf. Bouchon, Wine Cask and Los Agaves are other must-tries and all located near downtown Santa Barbara.