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Santa Barbara and the Central Coast

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About Santa Barbara and the Central Coast

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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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Balmy weather, glorious beaches, crystal clear air, and serene landscapes have lured people to the Central Coast since prehistoric times. Today it’s also known for its farm-fresh bounty, from grapes vintners craft into world-class wines to strawberries and other produce chefs incorporate into distinctive cuisine. The scenic variety along the Pacific coast is equally impressive—you'll see everything from dramatic cliffs and grass-tufted bluffs to wildlife estuaries and miles of dunes. It's an ideal place to relax, slow down, and appreciate the sheer abundance of beauty.Offshore, a pristine national park and a vast marine sanctuary protect the wild, wonderful underwater resources of this incredible corner of the planet. But not all of the Central Coast's top attractions are natural: Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo are filled with sparkling examples of Spanish-Mediterranean architecture, bustling shopping districts, and first-rate restaurants showcasing regional foods and wines.

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  • 71° / 54°
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Things You Can't Miss

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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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Alan Tobey/Getty Images

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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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Stephen Saks/Alamy

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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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Getty Images/Robert Harding World Imagery

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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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Blaine Harrington III/Alamy

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You Know You Want to Try This
Samantha's Pick You Know You Want to Try This

Take a lesson at Santa Barbara Fitness Tours, then go paddleboarding in the bay. Feel the fresh salt air on your face and gaze up at the mountains.

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Image Credit

Gunter Marx Photography/Corbis

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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

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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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Marek Zuk/Alamy

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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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Chuck Place/Alamy

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