Waves, Fun and shopping what else do you need? The county is famous for its beautiful beaches, most of which lie along a unique south-facing stretch of coastline that affords beach visitors sun all day long and more shelter from winds and surf. But there's far more here than beaches. The county encompasses enormously varied terrain: Nearly one-third of its total acreage is set aside in the Los Padres National Forest, which includes the rugged San Rafael Wilderness Area. Santa Barbara County's topographical diversity creates a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities in a relatively compact area. Snuggled between the 4,000-foot-high Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara's 200,000 residents enjoy some of California's best weather, earning it the title "American Riviera."
Santa Barbara is famous for its beaches, and visitors spend their time pedaling bicycles and quadricycle surreys or walking along Palm Drive, browsing the weekly Sunday arts and crafts fair and visiting Stearns Wharf and Sea Center. State Street, a tree-shaded thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants leads north from waterfront to city center.
Old Mission Santa Barbara is one of California's best-preserved and most beautiful Spanish missions, its facade designed from a book on Roman architecture. El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park gives a glimpse into a Spanish soldier's life in early California.
Nearby Santa Ynez Valley is Santa Barbara's wine country, home to vintners such as Zaca Mesa, Fess Parker, Firestone, Byron and Cambria.
Befitting its long history as getaway for the rich and famous, Santa Barbara's top digs are priced to match their reputation. Inn of the Spanish Garden's 23 rooms take top honors, followed by San Ysidro Ranch, a popular romantic refuge since newlyweds John and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned there in 1953. On the eastern waterfront lies Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel, famous for its lavish Sunday brunches. More affordable but still centrally located, the West Beach Inn and Marina Beach Motel offer comfortable, clean lodging.
Carlito's Café y Cantina serves excellent Mexican cuisine, Arigato dishes up top-rated sushi and Chad's is a popular spot for a romantic repast, but judging from persistent lines outside Brophy Bros seafood restaurant, a seat on their balcony overlooking the marina is one of the hardest in town to come by. Speaking of lines, there's almost always one outside tiny taqueria La Super Rica, waiting to order the inexpensive, authentic, fresh Mexican food that made it one of celebrity chef Julia Childs' favorites.
A few miles outside Santa Barbara, nineteenth-century stagecoach stop Cold Spring Tavern is a charming spot for steaks, drinks and impromptu Sunday afternoon concerts, its clientele an eclectic, convivial mix of motorcycle riders and luxury sedan drivers.
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