Santa Barbara is the idyllic California city. It enjoys warm weather almost year-round, palm trees, a relaxed atmosphere and is one of the few places in the United States where you can stand in the ocean and turn around and see the mountains. Today, with the help of inLife (www.inlife.co), a local discovery tool designed to help you discover your city, we bring you the top 5 tourist attractions any visitor to Santa Barbara should be sure to check out.
1. Stearns Wharf
Without a doubt, the heart of Santa Barbara is State Street, the main thoroughfare that cuts right through the middle of the city. It slopes gently downward, finally ending in a wooden pier known as Stearns Wharf. Named for its creator John P. Stearns, Stearns Wharf was built in 1872 for the benefit of the passenger and freight shipping industries as well as one of the first railroads to reach the west coast. Today, it stands as one of Santa Barbara’s hottest tourist attractions, offering a spectacular view of the ocean, coast, and beach.
2. Santa Barbara Mission
It is always important to know the history behind a location, since that is what gives a place its character. The Santa Barbara Mission is an ode to the Spanish heritage of the city. Originally founded in December 1786 by the Franciscan Order, the Santa Barbara Mission was created for the purpose of religious conversion of the indigenous Chumansh-Barbareño tribe of Native Americans. Today, it is the only mission that still remains under Franciscan Friar leadership, as well as the only California mission with two matching bell towers, making it even more unique among an already small group.
3. Monarch Butterfly Preserve
The butterfly preserve is truly a sight to behold. No where else can you see the sheer volume of butterflies that flock to only a few trees during the months of November through February. Over 40,000 butterflies arrive on average, perching themselves in large clumps on a select few trees just outside the city at the Ellwood Mesa. Be careful not to disturb them; if they leave their perch, they will never return to it.
4. Santa Barbara Courthouse
Located conveniently just off State Street, the Santa Barbara Courthouse is the prime example of Santa Barbara’s early adoption of Spanish Colonial Revival as its primary architectural style. It also just happens to offer the best view in the city. You can take an elevator up to the 85-foot-tall clock tower “El Mirador” and get a full 360° view of Santa Barbara, even including plaques to tell you more about what you’re seeing.
5. West Wind Drive-in Movie Theater
While this isn’t a tourist attraction in the traditional sense, it’s still a unique find. Straight out of the ‘50s and ‘60s comes the West Wind Drive-in, showing two movies back-to-back for $6.50. You arrive as the sun’s setting, pick a spot in the open lot facing the screen, tune your radio to the appropriate AM station to hear the audio, and relax right in your car. It’s an affordable and unique way to cap off the day with friends or on a date.
This city is full of excitement and wonder, and the best way to experience it all is just to get out there and discover it. The year-round nice weather makes doing that even easier, so there’s no reason to miss out on any of these adventures! Happy trails!