DISCOVER SANTA BARBARA
To us, culture is more than something you see. It’s something you feel. It’s a song that grabs your heart, a museum that starts you thinking and a performance that leaves you in awe. It’s exploring Santa Barbara and finding something that moves you around every corner. Culture 101 is a celebration of that journey and what happens when you let your passion be your guide. Come find what inspires you. Our culture is all within reach, and just off Highway 101. Explore on foot, or hop on Line 22-our local bus route that makes stops at many of Santa Barbara’s favorite cultural finds.
The best way to experience Santa Barbara’s culture is to have unique Santa Barbara experiences. Simple enough because our attractions let you do more than look. They invite you to get involved, to try new things and to always set your own pace. That’s the embodiment of California’s true character and these attractions help bring it to life on a daily basis.
Santa Barbara Trolley Company
Much more than a ride, a ticket on the Santa Barbara Trolley buys you a fully narrated tour to and from some of Santa Barbara’s most visited sites. Butterfly Beach, Sterns Wharf, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse – stop off where you like, then hop the next trolley that comes along. That same ticket is good all day.
Many species of whale migrate near the California Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. The goal of the Condor Express is to get you as close as safely possible while filling the trip with information on whale migration, marine life and the fascinating history of the Channel Islands themselves.
Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club
A stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean sits the third oldest polo facility in the United States and just maybe the finest. Three, lushly manicured fields host a variety of competitions at every skill level throughout the year. In fact, this venue’s history and beautiful grounds are so enticing that the Duke and Duchess made a stop to play a few rounds and stomp some divots during their 2011 California tour. Whether you play or not, polo is definitely a spectator sport packaged in excellence and integrity.
Santa Barbara Zoo
Founded in 1963, the Santa Barbara Zoo and its 160 species of reptiles, birds, insects and large mammals have become as much a part of the community as this lush and seamlessly integrated natural space. Towering four-legged friends such as giraffes and elephants enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean while African lions laze in the sun and penguins dance in their salty waters. The Zoo’s open-air setting is uniquely intimate and is made complete with interactive exhibits, playgrounds and picnic tables. Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Circle Bar B Guest Ranch & Stable
Part working ranch, part vacation getaway, guests at the Circle Bar B have the run of riding trails, nature hikes, newly updated facilities, the pool and a dinner theatre. For romantic rendezvous, weekend getaways or daytrips, ride through the rustic Santa Ynez Mountains to find gorgeous waterfalls or other spectacular views. Then ride off into the sunset.
Nobody knows Santa Barbara cuisine quite like Laurence Hauben. Since moving here from France, she has dedicated her culinary career to introducing people to Santa Barbara’s regional bounty. Take her demonstration class and prepare for a hands-on experience that begins with a trip to Santa Barbara’s fruitful farmers market to source local ingredients before preparing a great meal in even better company.
Are you interested in nurturing your own inner artiste, developing a new talent or going behind the scenes? Santa Barbara offers an array of unforgettable artistic adventures that will tap into your creative side and leave you feeling inspired. Whether you want to paint, dance or meet fellow artists, get carried away by the “alma” of Santa Barbara and immerse yourself in our free spirited creative haven with these unique hands-on activities.
A picture’s worth a thousand words, or in this case, a thousand flavors. Join the crew at Eat This, Shoot That! and explore Santa Barbara’s culinary scene from behind the lens when you take a tour of great dishes and hone your foodie photographic skills at the same time. Post-picture savoring encouraged.
Combine your artistic ambition with a love of world-class wine during a session at The Painted Cabernet in Santa Barbara. This special studio offers pours of Santa Barbara County wines while an art instructor guides you through the recreation of a featured painting!
Find out why Santa Barbara is a serious international destination for the arts by meeting with professional artists firsthand. You can actually witness artists working in their art studios, which are open to the public year-round by appointment through Santa Barbara Studio Artists.
Meet your own inner artiste at Artiste Winery & Tasting Studio, a combination art studio/gallery and wine-tasting room in Los Olivos. Take a paintbrush in one hand to dabble on canvas, while holding a wine glass in the other.
Art From Scrap will make you rethink the way you view discarded materials. Partake in hands-on art activities and walk through the AFS Gallery to discover creative and artistic solutions for recycled “scraps”. One man’s trash truly becomes another’s treasure here!
Have a penchant for photography? The world-renowned Brooks Institute of Photography offers weekend workshops.
Unearth your inner garden designer and master gardening techniques with inspiring classes and workshops offered by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The Garden also offers a painting class that teaches how to capture the structure and beauty of native wildflowers in vibrant watercolors.
The Art of History
Santa Barbara’s history is visible everywhere. From the red tile roofs to the beautiful grounds and vistas of Old Mission Santa Barbara, this setting has always inspired people to live passionately. Because of it, art happens and history lives in the present as much as it does in the past. Here are a few of our favorite places where you’ll feel it most.
Santa Barbara Art Association, Gallery 113
In a town full of true originals, a gallery filled with only original works. Located in the picturesque La Arcada, Gallery 113 showcases local artists and also hosts exhibitions with tile-lined walkways, fountains and sidewalk cafés provide the perfect backdrop.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Rather than simply viewing art, this Santa Barbara museum encourages visitors to integrate art into their lives. To help, more than 5,000 years of human creativity are on display. One of the 27,000 pieces is bound to speak to you.
Santa Barbara Historical Museum
Throughout its history, many different cultures have helped make Santa Barbara unique. The Santa Barbara Historical Museum explains how and why. Featuring relics from Chumash, Spanish, Mexican, Yankee and Chinese cultures, the museum houses artifacts, photographs, furnishings and textiles that date from as far back as the 15th century.
Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative
To grow and flourish, an artistic community needs cultivating. Thankfully, Santa Barbara has the Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative, an inclusive group of local artists and arts supporters committed to sustaining and growing all art forms through a series of unique exhibits, symposiums and other events.
College of Creative Studies Art Gallery
Adding a little college spirit to the artistic spirit of Santa Barbara, The College of Creative Studies Art Gallery is designed to showcase the original work of up-and-coming student artists. Who knows? Maybe you can say you knew them before they became famous.
Santa Barbara’s cultivated artistic environment has inspired new ideas and nurtured creative energies dating back to the Chumash era. With a vibrant history as an artists’ colony and currently home to more than 60 galleries, it’s impossible to absorb Santa Barbara’s rich visual arts scene in just one visit. So we’ve created a stimulating gallery jaunt to whet your appetite for art and inspire many happy returns!
Marvel at renowned masterpieces like Monet’s Waterloo Bridge and Van Gogh’s Outskirts of Paris at Santa Barbara Museum of Art, one of the nation’s Top 10 regional art museums. The museum features nationally recognized collections and special exhibitions of international merit. Just 100 steps away from the museum doors, you’ll find Artamo Gallery. If contemporary abstract art is your passion, you’ll want to stop into this hot spot, which represents accomplished local, regional, national and international artists.
Wander through halls lined with decades of art history at Sullivan Goss, which houses more than 6,000 works, from 19th-century pastels to photos of tattoos. This distinguished gallery has encapsulated the essence of American art for 25 years and has even featured the iconic surfboard paintings of Hank Pitcher, a native Santa Barbara artist and art educator. Relish in an artful lunch at the gallery’s own Arts & Letters Café. Modeled after the walled gardens of Spain, the café is nestled in a beautiful courtyard in the heart of Historic Arts District in downtown Santa Barbara.
Stay on trend with the latest avant-garde expressions at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum. This ultramodern gallery has gained the reputation as Santa Barbara’s leading showcase for noteworthy local, national and international contemporary works of all mediums.
Santa Barbara’s educational institutions also offer impressive collections and thought-provoking exhibitions. From Tibetan sand paintings to psychedelic dance concert posters, University Art Museum at the University of California, Santa Barbara has a national reputation for culturally diverse exhibitions. If you adore architecture, the museum’s impressive design collection includes more than 750,000 drawings and sketchbooks. Santa Barbara City College’s Atkinson Gallery and Westmont College’s Reynolds Gallery showcase outstanding exhibits within institutions of higher learning as well.
To remember your artistic venture, pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir at Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show, where you’ll find original paintings, hand crafted jewelry, wall hangings, vintage posters, hand-painted silk scarves and woodcarvings.
Little known fact: before Hollywood, there was Santa Barbara. Home to California’s first and largest movie studio of the time, the silent film era was launched here. And we’re still making magic on stage and on the screen with an impressive assortment of historic performance theaters, music venues and good old-fashioned movie houses. The red carpet awaits you.
The beautifully restored Granada Theatre is in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. It’s a landmark theater and year-round performing arts venue featuring some of the finest entertainment in the region.
Santa Barbara Bowl
Built in 1936, the Santa Barbara Bowl is the largest outdoor amphitheater in Santa Barbara County. But even though it seats 4,562, it retains its intimate ambiance. It’s a great place to enjoy a concert while soaking in some fresh Santa Barbara coastal air.
The Arlington Theatre
The Arlington Theatre, the largest movie theater and principal performing arts venue in Santa Barbara, was built in 1930 in true Mission Revival Style. The theater even still contains a famous Robert Morton pipe organ and the iconic ceiling is filled with twinkling stars. Not to be outdone, today’s stars fill the Arlington each year for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Originally founded in 1873 and rebuilt in 1924, The Lobero is California’s oldest, continuously operating theatre. And since its earliest days, it’s been a grand stage for community and professional modern dance, ballet, jazz, opera, classical and contemporary music performances.
Center Stage Theater
A relatively recent addition to Santa Barbara’s theatrical landscape, this cozy black box theater features weekly performances by a variety of artists and companies. It’s located in the heart of the downtown Santa Barbara culture district, Paseo Nuevo.
Santa Barbara’s culture is always on full display, and quite often it’s also in full bloom. The hospitable climate here does wonders for flora, fauna and for the many green spaces that politely request you to stop and smell the flowers. By all means, start with these suggestions.
It took 43 years for Madame Ganna Walska to create a version of heaven on earth on her 37-acre estate. The resulting Lotusland is a spectacular collection of exotic plants and horticultural marvels ranging from ferns and succulents to orchids and cacti. It’s a garden by which all others are measured.
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
The drive up Mission Canyon alone is worth the price of admission (although admission is nicely priced under $10). But once you arrive, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden pays you back in full. The 78-acre living museum is dedicated to the research, education and conservation of native California plants and features historic landmarks, nature trails and a retail nursery. Guided tours are available.
Santa Barbara Zoo
Founded in 1963 by community volunteers, the Santa Barbara Zoo is home to 160 species of reptiles, birds, insects and mammals such as elephants, African lions and penguins. Who else has an oceanfront view other than the giraffes? Other “must-see” attractions include the Western Lowland Gorilla and the California Condor. The zoo is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily.
The largest privately funded park in America might also be the most diverse. Elings Park is a 230-acre community treasure featuring sports fields, ultimate Frisbee, tennis, RC car and BMX racing, paragliding and hang-gliding and festivals and events. The park’s views of the ocean aren’t bad either.
Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens
Once the site of an elegant hotel, this block-sized green space is considered by some to be the crown jewel of city parks. Follow the meandering walkway to discover a large botanical collection, koi pond, sensory garden and low-water-using demonstration garden.
Santa Barbara inspires people not just to follow their passions in life, but to share them with others. As a result, the community has founded and fostered a number of festivals that highlight the very best our culture has to offer. Art, food, wine, film, lemons – all are good enough reasons to celebrate. Just match your passion to ours and come join the party.
California Wine Festival
Being that some of California’s finest vintages are made nearby, Santa Barbara is no stranger to a good glass of wine. This is the event that salutes this simple pleasure, plus food, music, the sea and the sun. Held annually in July, the largest outdoor wine festival in California is worth planning a trip around.
California Avocado Festival
AVOFEST™ for short, the California Avocado Festival features three days of peace, love and guacamole. Why? Santa Barbara County happens to be the third largest avocado producer in North America. Occurring every October in the heart of downtown Carpinteria, the festival features fabulous food, terrific music and great family fun.
Earth Day Festival
Did you know that Santa Barbara was home to the first Earth Day celebration back in 1969? That’s right, this eco-minded community is the birthplace of a one-day celebration that spurred a year-round environmental movement. Today, the Earth party continues every year at Alameda Park. From a cutting-edge green car show to over 200 exhibitors, Santa Barbara’s Earth Day Festival draws thousands of Earth-loving folks.
Santa Barbara’s celebration of cuisine, libations and culture could hardly be limited to a long weekend, or even a week, which is why the month of October becomes a community-wide extravaganza that features food and drink festivals, cooking classes, winemaker dinners, seasonal menus and epicurean-inspired art exhibits. Additionally, many local hotels sweeten the deal with special offers!
Consider yourself a Francophile? Then don’t miss the largest French fest west of the Mississippi, right here in Santa Barbara! Each July, more than 20,000 people head to Oak Park the weekend closest to Bastille Day to feast on scrumptious crepes while Can Can dancers kick up their heels!
Goleta Lemon Festival
Enjoy food, a family atmosphere and several entertainment and activity options with a twist of lemon at the Goleta Lemon Festival. Held every October to celebrate California’s lemon crop, the weekend also includes the Goleta Fall Classic Car and Street Rod Show, pie-eating contests and arts and crafts vendors.
I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival
Every Memorial Day, hundreds of locals and artists gather at Old Mission Santa Barbara for a type of festival rarely seen this side of Florence. During the I Madonnari Street Panting Festival, more than 400 artists transform the Old Mission plaza into a patchwork of 200 chalk paintings turning the “Queen of the Missions” into even more of a work of art.
Old Spanish Days Fiesta
Santa Barbara’s Spanish roots run deep-and celebrate passionately! Recognized as one of the five best regional festivals in the United States, “Fiesta” has been a cornerstone celebration of the area’s Spanish and Mexican heritage for over 80 years. Today, it is a five-day soiree of festive Spanish and Mexican dance, song, tradition, food and even real gauchos at the live rodeo. Baila! Canta! Fiesta!
Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Festival
Wine lovers from near and far flock to Santa Barbara for this annual oenophile event. World-class wines are accompanied by the viticulturists who make them so if meeting the winemaker is just as important as sipping the wine, don’t miss this April weekend event.
Santa Barbara International Film Festival
With our close proximity to Los Angeles, and not to brag, our knack for predicting Academy Award® winners, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has established itself as one of the industry’s finest. Now on its 28th turn down the red carpet, past Outstanding Performance of the Year awards have gone to Viola Davis, James Franco, Helen Mirren, Heath Ledger, Kate Winslet and Angelina Jolie.
Santa Barbara International Orchid Show & Festival
Just in time for spring, this blooming festival displays hundreds of gorgeous flowers and orchid plants from all over the globe. After 65 years, this event is now considered the premier orchid show in the country.
Summer Solstice Celebration and Parade
In a town that enjoys a true endless summer with over 300 days of sunshine annually, it’s only fitting that an entire festival is devoted to ringing in the longest day of the year and the first day of this beloved season. For a long weekend, Alameda Park erupts into a bounty of vibrant costumes, live world music, dancing, food, arts and crafts, and children’s festival. Experience the culmination of it all during Saturday’s Carnival-like parade down State Street.