The ‘American Riviera’ offers relaxation, wine, great food, luxury spas and scenic views.
By Jason Lewis
A few things come to mind when traveling to Santa Barbara, the ‘American Riviera.’ Relaxation, wine, great food, outdoor patios, luxury spas, shopping, beach activities and hiking with some of the most scenic views in California.
All of that can be found in Los Angeles, but the major difference is that all of those things in Santa Barbara are within walking distance of each other. Don’t worry about doing much driving, because most of the attractions are relatively close, and using the local transportation, or renting a bike, makes getting around really easy.
Anybody looking for a stress-free weekend should make the 90-mile trip up the coast.
“You can easily escape from the city, and it’s a really beautiful place to relax and just enjoy being in the nature,” said Karna Hughes, Director of Communications for Visit Santa Barbara. “We have gorgeous sandy beaches and a very dramatic backdrop of the Santa Ynez mountain range.
“In one day you can do everything from lounging on the beach, to wine tasting, to hiking in the mountains,” Hughes continued. “There’s really a lot of different activities that appeals to a wide range of visitors.”
Many people make the trip because Santa Barbara is one of the world’s most renowned regions for wine tasting. It is one of the most diverse wine growing regions in the world, which attracts millions of people every year. Many people will head out to the valley for tastings, but the Urban Wine Trail in downtown is where a lot of the attractions are.
“One of the most exciting areas of our town is this emerging neighborhood called the Funk Zone,” Hughes said. “It’s basically 12 square blocks of tasting rooms, which are located just a couple blocks away from the ocean.”
This area of downtown makes it convenient for visitors, who do not have to do any driving. Many of the attractions are a short walk or bike ride away.
“It’s so casual here that you can stop off at a tasting room, and then go for a walk on the beach, and then go back and do more tasting if you want,” Hughes said.
Santa Barbara is also known for great cuisine, with fresh seafood and some of the best Mexican food in California.
While there are water sports, such as sailing, surfing, kayaking, and paddle boarding, many people will hit the hills for hiking.
“The foothills are really easy to get to and accessible,” Hughes said. “We have a number of trails that are really easy to do. There are trails for different skill levels, so you can go for a really leisurely hike if you’re a novice, or you can do more of an active hike. The hikes are really wonderful because you can go through these wonderful groves of oak trees, and then you come out at the top and see a view of the ocean. It makes for a really wonderful reward at the end of the hike.”
The trails are also good for mountain biking and trail running, and there is horseback riding along the trails.
For people who are looking for more of a laid back weekend, Santa Barbara is also well known for their resorts that have luxury spas, as well as for shopping.
“Shopping is probably the favorite activity of the people who visit Santa Barbara,” Hughes said. “We have everything from major national retailers, such as Coach, and Nordstrom, to mom and pop shops, which have locally made craft type objects. We have something that appeals to a lot of different demographics. We have the luxury side of things, and also the more casual beachy type of stores.”
For nightlife, many people go out for fine dining, and they also frequent the bars and clubs, while many people find the entertainment scene very appealing.
“That’s one of the best kept secrets of Santa Barbara,” Hughes said. “We have an incredible art scene. People know about the nightlife in terms of visiting the bars along State Street, which is really fun to do. But there is this whole other art scene that’s happening in the evenings. We have several historic theaters downtown, where we present world-class musicians, dance groups, all throughout the year. A lot of people think of Santa Barbara as a sleepy town, but in fact there is usually several competing performances going on in one night. Which sometimes makes it hard to figure out what to do, because there are so many things that you can enjoy here.”
With the ‘Jewel of the Pacific’ being so close to Los Angeles, it is the perfect weekend getaway. For more information about the American Riviera, visit www.santabarbaraca.com.