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Santa Barbara, CA

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About Santa Barbara, CA

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County Courthouse

County Courthouse

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Runner in Santa Barbara

Runner in Santa Barbara

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Beach in Santa Barbara

Beach in Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara has long been an oasis for Los Angelenos seeking respite from big-city life. The attractions begin at the ocean and end in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. A few miles up the coast east and west—but still very much a part of Santa Barbara—are the exclusive residential districts of Montecito and Hope Ranch. Santa Barbara is on a jog in the coastline, so the ocean is actually to the south, instead of the west; for this reason, directions can be confusing. "Up" the coast toward San Francisco is west, "down" toward Los Angeles is east, and the mountains are north.

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Things You Can't Miss

Place
Make This Your Mission
Make This Your Mission

The Old Mission Santa Barbara, dating from 1786, is an architectural and cultural landmark. Tour the church and gardens, and enjoy the interpretive displays.

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Image Credit

Alan Tobey/Getty Images

Place
Go Native at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Go Native at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The garden preserves and displays 65 acres of trees, wildflowers and cacti, including rare native plants. Take a tour or stroll solo.

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Image Credit

Stephen Saks/Alamy

Place
Take the Red Tile Walking Tour
Take the Red Tile Walking Tour

The self-guided tour takes you around 12 blocks of the city’s landmarks and architectural gems, including 22 adobe buildings dating from the 1700s.

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Image Credit

Flickr/Getty Images

Place
A Courthouse With a View
A Courthouse With a View

The County Courthouse, in all its Spanish-Moorish glory, has been in business for 160 years. The tower offers a 360-degree view of the city’s red-tile roofs.

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Image Credit

Getty Images/Robert Harding World Imagery

Place
Hit the (East) Beach
Hit the (East) Beach

East Beach, with white sand and warm water, is the best spot around to watch serious volleyball. The playground and bike path are great for families.

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Image Credit

Blaine Harrington III/Alamy

Place
Marvel at Whales
Samantha's Pick Marvel at Whales

Winter is whale-watching season, when thousands of gray whales pass by on their way to calving grounds in the Baja lagoons of Mexico.

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Image Credit

George D. Lepp/Corbis

Place
Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park
Samantha's Pick Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park

One of my favorite drives in the United States is the winding mountain pass of Painted Cave Road, where you’ll see jaw-dropping views of the Pacific.

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Image Credit

Marek Zuk/Alamy

Place
An American Meal
Samantha's Pick An American Meal

For a bit of the Old West try dinner at Cold Spring Tavern, opened as a stagecoach stop in 1886. Meat and house-baked breads are specialties.

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Image Credit

Chuck Place/Alamy

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