August 30 2011 by Jason Fogelson
I've been using Santa Barbara as an escape from Los Angeles ever since I was in college in the 1980s. The rich and famous have been drawn to Santa Barbara since the 1920s, as the area is uncommonly beautiful and temperate. Santa Barbara County has been called "The American Riviera," and looking at the way that the shore communities are carved into the hilly coastline, it's easy to see why. Santa Barbara is heaven for motorcyclists, with great roads in every direction, and fantastic attractions in town when the riding day is done.
Like many Southern California coastal towns, Santa Barbara really started to take shape during the late 1700s when Father Junipero Serra established the Old Mission Santa Barbara. The classic Mission is still home to a community of Franciscan friars, and is open to the public for tours and activities. The Santa Barbara Mission is considered the classic Mission in the California chain. A building from the 1780s in California qualifies as an absolute antiquity!
State Street is the downtown tourist and shopping district of Santa Barbara, stretching from Anapamu to Stearns Wharf. Park your bike, and explore cool vintage stores mixed with high-end chains and outlets, all tucked in to classic Spanish architecture. Drop in for a gander at the significant collection at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. When it's time to eat and drink, sidewalk cafes abound, and the people-watching is world class.
The Santa Barbara Zoo covers over 30 acres, and provides a lovely home for over 500 animals. The views of the Pacific Ocean will make you feel a little bit envious of the fantastic location -- I wonder if the three-toed sloth appreciates it?
Speaking of the beach, the Santa Barbara beaches are beautiful, wide and clean, with great white sand and plenty of room for everyone. The water on the California coast is a little chilly for swimming most of the year, but people still brave the surf. I love to park my bike along a beachfront drive and sit and look out at the ocean. It's very peaceful.
There are three BEST WESTERN Hotels in Santa Barbara, and two nearby in Goleta and Carpinteria. You can choose between sleepy beachside and bustling downtown lodging, and tailor your Santa Barbara experience to your own taste.
Santa Barbara beckons, and the world answers. I hear it calling right now -- I think I'll load up my saddlebags and take a ride.