Yes, there really is such a place as Santa Barbara but no, it is not home now (nor was it ever), to the infamous Capwell family of the long-running soap opera, "Santa Barbara". Daytime drama aside, this region can claim true fame for its local wines, its appealing climate (think Mediterranean temperatures within driving distance of Los Angeles), historic architecture and culturally savvy populous, not to mention balmy beaches, major universities and good surf. Sheltered by the Santa Ynez Mountains and set oriented east-west on the Central California coast, this city of roughly 89,000 draws a steady stream of vacationers for the aforementioned reasons, but lures in an additional crowd of outdoors enthusiasts bound on by boat or plane for Channel Islands National Park, due south.
Santa Barbara itself is readily identifiable by its red-roofed Spanish-Mediterranean style buildings, its broad boulevards shaded by breeze-blown palms which only further this destination's reputation as the "American Riviera". Though wine tasting and beach basking are two of the most popular area activities, its worth whiling away an afternoon in the city to catch local cultural highlights before steering northwest for the vineyards or south towards the sea. Sights of note around town include historic Mission Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park (once a Spanish fort). There's also a maritime museum and a kid-friendly sea center (Ty Warner Sea Center) near the waterfront, a zoo and a lush botanic garden good for a leisurely wander on one of Santa Barbara's famously fine days.
There is a fine list of beaches to chose from when the time is right, including East Beach, West Beach and to the south, Carpinteria State Beach. Scuba Divers, as well as hikers, and wildlife watchers, will find it relatively easy to book passage (by plane or boat) on to the Channel Islands, a national park comprised of eight islands, which also boasts a selection of sandy beaches as well as inland trails and snorkeling hot spots.
Wine country takes in rolling vineyards and more rural landscapes that, dotted with tasting rooms, is increasingly the haunt of urban oenophiles in search of the season's best beverage. Organized tours are easy to arrange for those groups short a designated driver.
Santa Barbara is located on the southwest California coast, about 90 miles west of Los Angeles.