Thanks in large part to a cheesy but beloved soap opera that continues to broadcast in bizarre corners of the globe, Santa Barbara is synonymous with civic beauty, from natural vistas that extend from mountaintops, across the sea, and toward the Channel Islands to the red roofed Spanish architecture that gives our town its “American Riviera” nickname.
But we aren’t just another pretty face — we’ve got bona fide culture to complement our good looks, whether you’re a fan of world-class restaurants and a Hollywood-celebrated wine country or prefer to peruse the countless galleries, explore the many museums and alternative art spaces (CAF), and attend one of our regular happenings, be it an opera at the Granada Theater, a play at the Alhecama, the First Thursday art party, or an old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl. Sure, we’re a quaintly small town of about 100,000 where you might run into a friend on every corner, but we enjoy the cosmopolitan comforts of a much bigger city, which is why jet-setters from all over the world have been moving to mansions in the surrounding hills for the past couple centuries.
And oh yea, we really like to party, which is why the lower reaches of State Street is dominated by bars and we shut down the whole town twice a year — during Summer Solstice in June and the Old Spanish Days Fiesta in August — just to let loose. As such, you’ll find our bartenders knowledgeable in the traditional and the foofy, our drinks generally stiff (try Joe’s Café if you’re having trouble), and our wine lists better stocked than most of Manhattan’s. In short, we enjoy having a good time, and take pride in ensuring that our visitors do too. So get your conference smarts during the day, and prepare to let loose at night.
As you plan out your New Noise days and nights, here are a few helpful hints on making your visit to Santa Barbara all that it should be.
LAY OF THE LAND
State Street is Santa Barbara’s main drag, and cuts all the way from Goleta — where it’s known as Hollister Road — to Stearns Wharf, where it ends with a splash in the sea. The addresses are pretty basic, starting at the ocean and moving up by 100 each block. Hotels and restaurants in the 200 block and below can be found on the oceanside of Highway 101, most bars and clubs rock the 400 to 600 blocks, and you can walk pretty easily all the way up to Micheltorena Street, which is at the 1500 block, and somewhat beyond. Restaurants and shopping opportunities are everywhere.
You may quickly find that our geography is a little screwed up. You know that elbow you see when you look at a map of California, that’s where we are, so when we look out over the ocean, we’re looking south. So what you might think of as north, we call west, and so forth. If you’re really smart, you just might be able to find a place where you can watch the sunrise over the ocean and the sunset over the mountains. There’s only one other place where you can do that in America, and it’s called the East Coast.
Now that we’ve got that straight, here’s some helpful lingo for visitors:
Upper State: This refers to the areas on State Street above Las Positas Road, where there are plenty of more affordable hotels and even more restaurants.
The Harbor: This is where they keep the boats, and can be seen easily from the waterfront. It’s also home to great places to eat and drink, and worthy of an sunset or sunrise stroll.
West Beach: The charming little neighborhood is located west of State Street toward the Harbor and Santa Barbara City College. Packed with smaller inns, it’s also got some locals-fave eateries.
The Funk Zone: This is the heart of what’s being dubbed the ‘Urban Wine Trail.’ It’s also the location of the New Noise Block Party (Saturday, November 9th; 11a-5p, Mason St. @ State). This neighborhood is home to wine tasting rooms, art galleries, and assorted surf and eclectic retail shops most with an eye for the creative.
The Eastside: Centered around Milpas Street, this is where people line up for the best Mexican food.
The Westside: Mostly a residential zone centered around San Andres and San Pascual streets, you probably won’t need to go here.
The Mesa: Also mostly residential, but also has a commercial core with bars, some restaurants, and shops. Great parking spot to check out secluded, cliff-protected beaches, such as Arroyo Burro, which everyone in town calls Hendry’s Beach. Check out The Cliff Room if you dig dive bars.
Your Feet: Santa Barbara is an amazingly walkable city. Take advantage of that and smell the seaside air. It takes less than three minutes per block at a good pace (if you haven’t been ‘over-served’, so you can make it from the State Street bars on the 400 block to the Arlington, on the 1300 block, in about 15 minutes or so at a good clip.
Shuttle: There’s a inexpensive electric shuttle that runs the length of State Street from Micheltorena to the water. It’s convenient and easy.
Taxis: There’s so many taxi cabs in Santa Barbara that the drivers have nearly been led to a riot. That’s good news for riders, though, as they can be hailed pretty easily whenever and wherever. And the fare, if you’re just rolling around the downtown area, shouldn’t exceed $10. Check out Low Rider cab if you wanna roll in fashion.
WHERE TO STAY
Check out our hotels page.