Travel Tips

Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Santa Barbara, CA

Locations in this article:  Los Angeles, CA Santa Barbara, CA Santa Rosa, CA

Santa Barbara Mission Garden - Santa Barbara, CATune into Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio, coming to us from the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, California.

Peter is tackling everything from Gulf Coast tourism with USA Today‘s Kitty Bean Yancey to humanitarian aid in Haiti with Iron Chef Cat Cora, plus he uncovers the hidden gems in this gorgeous coastal town.

Read on to learn about more favorite finds, straight from the locals.

Roger Durling, Executive Director, Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Lotusland - Santa Barbara, CAIn nearby Montecito is Lotusland, a gorgeous botanic garden that is the legacy of the late opera singer, Madame Ganna Walska. This really is one of the most beautiful places in the world, filled with rare plants, succulents, tropical flowers, and a Japanese-style garden. Madame Ganna even auctioned off her jewelry to build the cycad garden. Tours must be booked in advanced and are only available at limited times, Monday through Saturday between mid-February and mid-November.

The Coronado Butterfly Preserve offers one of the most spectacular hikes in Santa Barbara, stretching along the ocean among a grove of eucalyptus trees. Inside, the Ellwood Main Monarch Grove is best-known for the migrating Monarch butterflies that arrive between October and December each year.

Lucky’s Steakhouse in Montecito is my favorite restaurant in all the area. When you walk in, you may see local residents like Oprah or Dennis Miller dining there, but Eric, the maître d’, makes everyone feel like a star.

Check out some Alternatives to Famous Film Festivals.

Michael Redmon, director of research, Santa Barbara Historical Society

Meridian Studios was built on East De La Guerra Street in the early 1920s as artists’ studios with floor-to-ceiling, north-facing windows to allow for ambient lighting. Today it houses various offices and business, but the pastel wall colorings, cobblestone patio, and plantings makes visitors feel they have stepped back into an Old European setting. At the rear of the complex, inside a courtyard, is the historic Lugo Adobe, which dates back to the early 1800s, thus melding Old Santa Barbara into a truly unique space.

Santa Barbara Botanical GardenLos Carneros is a pull-off area on La Patera Lane, part of the old Stow Ranch nearby Goleta. The lake here offers a wonderful array of bird life: egrets, herons, hawks, blue-billed ruddy ducks, cormorants, mallards, etc. Visitors can take leisurely strolls along level paths, some of which are paved. One may spot turtles during a walk across the wooden bridge across the marshes at the backside of the lake. In the past, I’ve even caught glimpses of bobcats and coyotes. Next door is the Stow House, a historic house museum, and the South Coast Railroad Museum.

Learn more about traveling green in our Eco-Travel section.

Santa Barbara Historical MuseumSanta Barbara Historical Museum features galleries highlighting the history of the Santa Barbara area from the days of the Chumash Indians into the 21st century.  Among the highlights are a gold-gilded tong shrine from the city’s Chinatown, which dates back to around 1900, and artifacts from the days of the silent-era Flying A Studio, which, at one time, was one of the largest in the country.

Within the museum is the Gledhill Library, which offers collections of at least 70,000 historic photographs, newspapers, and documents that detail the rich heritage of the area.

Try a roadtrip: One-Tank Trips: Los Angeles to Santa Barbara County

Michael Cohen, Owner/Director & Guide for Santa Barbara Adventure Co.

Channel Islands National Park offers world-class sea kayaking and opportunities to view marine life. The Channel Islands are comprised of five separate islands: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara. Along with the exceptional water sports, it’s also a paradise for hikers and birders.

Santa Barbara Harbor at duskFaria County Beach Park is a great surfing area for beginners (we offer lessons, of course), with reliable winds and gentle waves.

As for dining around Santa Barbara, favorites include Bouchon (not related to Thomas Keller), as well as the fresh California cuisine of Sea Grass Restaurant, and Brophy’s Bros. Restaurant & Clam Bar for great seafood right there in the harbor.

Last, but not least, definitely check out the Farmers Market, which takes place every Tuesday in downtown Santa Barbara.

Edited by Sarika Chawla for Photos courtesy Santa Barbara CVB.

Check out the guests from Peter’s radio show in Santa Barbara.

Learn more about the region with our California travel section.

And get the scoop on a great roadtrip with our One-Tank Trips: Los Angeles to Santa Barbara County.

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