BY: JANET STEINBERG
its lush, year-round Mediterranean climate, 100 miles of
sweeping prime Pacific coastline, an annual average of 300+ days of
sunshine and fresh ocean breezes, burgeoning wine country, and Santa
Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara is one of America’s best-kept secrets..
Its unique east-west coastline (the only one from Alaska to Cape
Horn) Riviera provides soothing year-round southern exposure and
perfect temperatures ranging from 60 to 70 degrees
Fahrenheit throughout the year.
STEARN’S WHARF, CALIFORNIA’S OLDEST WORKING WHARF
Since the 1930s and 40s, when the Duponts and Rockefellers arrived
via private rail car, word spread that Santa Barbara was an
untapped Shangri-La. From the sparkling sea to the Santa
Ynez Mountains, this city of just 95,000 quickly evolved into a
haunt for the rich and famous.
Like the French and Italian Rivieras, seductive Santa Barbara
exudes romance. Given its isolated location, 92 miles north of Los
Angeles, Santa Barbara quickly became an ideal escape for celebrities
seeking to slip out of the spotlight.
Celebrities who have tied at least one of their knots in the
Greater Santa Barbara area include: JFK and Jackie O, Laurence
Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Julia Roberts, Debra Messing, Gwenyth Paltrow,
Mira Sorvino, Jim Carrey, Will Farrell, Heather Locklear, Halle
Berry, Courtney Cox and David Arquette. Little wonder that my husband
and I chose Santa Barbara as the place to celebrate one of our
County-wide, Santa Barbara offers an eclectic lineup of nearly 100
unique properties ranging from budget to deluxe. At the time of
our visit, our lodging choices included such off-beat accommodations as:
bedding down in a Mongolian yurt, a simple domed structure with
wooden floors, canvas walls, and built-in heaters; packing our bags
for a sleepover at a non-denominational, mountain-top, retreat
complete with Benedictine monks; or cuddling up in a traditional
Conestoga covered wagon, one of ten set in circular groups
around campfire rings.
|HOP A TROLLEY TO ACQUAINT YOURSELF WITH THE CITY|
However, with all due respect to eclectic excitement, I chose to cuddle up
in a romantically enchanting hideaway. So enchanting was my
choice, a cozy inn tucked away on 7 lush acres, that it is actually
called EL ENCANTO (The Enchanted). One of Orient-Express Hotels
magical properties, El Encanto offers the sophistication
and luxury of a world-class resort, combined with the charm
and intimacy of a romantic hideaway on the American Riviera.
been a premier California retreat for the past century. At
this historic (1915) hotel, carriage trade from the East Coast
mingled with the likes of Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, and Hedy
Lamarr who motored up from Los Angeles to escape the rigors of
stardom during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Sipping some bubbly
in our fire-placed bungalow, we delved into another place in time,
when Gatsby-clad couples sipped champagne around a
wisteria-ringed lily pond.
From the restaurant’s outdoor terrace, we captured spectacular views
of the lights of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean while feasting
on exquisite cuisine. In this lush, sun-drenched, city,
seductively nestled between Los Angeles and San Francisco, one can
embark upon a culinary safari at every meal.
the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort, in adjacent, exclusive Montecito,
it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from the wine to the waves.
Four Seasons Biltmore Resort is a Spanish Colonial treasure whose red
roof tiles, ivory adobe, and gentle archways, grace Butterfly
Beach. This classic example of Spanish Colonial
Revival architecture, which typifies the acme of Santa Barbara’s
gracious living, was designed by architect Reginald Johnson.
Many of the city’s 70+ designated landmarks are enjoyed via the self-guided Red
Tile Walking Tour. Encompassing a 12-block area
of downtown, the tour highlights the city’s most fascinating red tile
roof landmarks, including the Santa Barbara County
Courthouse, Casa de la Guerra, El Paseo and Lobero
|WALK THE TREE-LINED, RED-ROOFED STREETS OF SANTA BARBARA|
The most visited landmark in the city, Mission Santa Barbara,
was founded in 1786 by the Franciscans. The “Queen of the
Missions,” as it is known, was designed by
architect Antonio Ripoll. This
masterpiece showcases the best of Greco-Roman architecture and is the
only California mission to have twin towers. The grand
edifice stands on an elevated plateau that commands a view to the
ocean, framed by the Riviera and mesa areas. Visitors tour
the Mission museum, lush gardens, courtyards, chapel, and cemetery
where 4,000 Chumash Indians are buried.
the Mission Santa Barbara in overall architectural significance, is
the Spanish-Moorish Santa Barbara County
Courthouse (1927-29), designed by architect William Moser. It
has an 80-foot clock tower and the interior includes hand-painted ceilings,
giant murals, rare art ,and imported tiles.
|HISTORIC SANTA BARBARA COURTHOUSE|
Barbara is veritable feast of museums, galleries, gardens, world-class
performing arts, dance, civic light opera, a show-stopping symphony,
and festivals that have buoyed the American Riviera into
a coastal cultural empire.
The Maritime Museum at Santa Barbara Harbor offers an in-depth look
at the region’s maritime roots. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art
boasts an outstanding collection of American, Asian and European art.
The Museum of Natural History is nationally renowned, with an
enormous whale skeleton marking the entrance. University
Art Museum, Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, the Historical Museum
and the Carriage Museums are also great bets.
WHALE SKELETON MARKS ENTRANCE TO MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
You can delve into acres of orchids and tropical plants at one of the
areas gardens or public parks. Top picks: Alice Keck Park
Memorial Gardens, Casa del Herrero, Lotusland, the Santa Barbara Botanic
Garden, Santa Barbara Zoo and Santa Barbara Orchid Estate.
Shopping is great on State Street, Santa Barbara’s main artery
layered with boutiques and red-tiled landmarks that runs from the Pacific
Ocean through town. Tap into Persian rugs,
rustic Mexican furnishings and locally crafted jewels set off by
tiled sidewalks, a profusion of palm trees and the soft curves of
white adobe architecture. Nearby, the cities of Montecito
and Summerland and the wine country jewels of Los Olivos, Santa Ynez
and Solvang offer a wealth of shopping opportunities.
Paseo Nuevo, a favorite California shopping center, includes a Nordstrom
and a Macy’s plus a variety of unique shops and restaurants nestled
within winding paseos (walkways) and Spanish courtyards.
|A PEEK INTO PASEEO NUEVO|
STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer and a Travel
Consultant affiliated with The Travel Authority,
Mariemont/Cincinnati, Ohio office.