A Santa Barbara Break

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A few days ago we returned from a week in Santa Barbara, Calif.

It is located 90 miles north of Los Angeles. It claims 95,000 residents in the city proper and some 300,000 in neighboring communities. It is sometimes referred to as the American Riviera. It has beautiful beaches, majestic mountains and a colorful culture that make it a premier resort destination.

It features world-class accommodations and fine dining.

There is so much to do here you will rarely be bored. Artist galleries abound, golfing is available at several very fine courses, tennis and water sports are here for the asking as well as horseback riding. You can also take hikes, swim in the Pacific Ocean and get a tan on the almost perfect beaches.

Nightlife is available with various forms of live music being played and there are performances by the Santa Barbara Symphony and Opera Company.

Sightseeing around the area would include the Santa Barbara Harbor, which is loaded with fine yachts and boats; wave runners and jet boats are available for rent. The long pier jetting out over the ocean is Sterns Wharf — the place to fish — dine at Moby Dick’s and view abundant marine mammals and sea life. You can see fishermen unloading their catch and take a harbor cruise to become more familiar with the area.

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Photo by Bernard Gagnon

Mission Santa Barbara

There is a Trolley Bus that offers tours around town plus you can purchase an all-day pass for $19 allowing you to get on and off at various points of interest. You can get off at the Historical Museum, Botanic Gardens, and a whale-watching point, the Maritime Museum, the Natural History Museum, Santa Barbara Zoo plus many shopping locations. The Trolley also stops in front of five varied menu restaurants. This saves you the trouble of finding a place to park. It begins at the front of Sterns Wharf.

Being located off Highway 101, which runs north and south along the coast, you can also take day trips to many various locations of interest.

You can also purchase tours to the Channel Islands National Park, which includes a brief channel crossing to Santa Cruz Island, which is California’s largest. Here, you can dive, go kayaking and explore the almost unpopulated island.

The weather in Santa Barbara is ideal. Cool winters and moderate summers. It never gets too cold or too hot here.

On one day you can drive to the Santa Ynez Valley with its rolling, caramel-colored hills dotted with dark green valley oaks, grazing cattle, horse ranches and vineyards. Wine tasting and vineyard touring is also available.

A trip to near-by Solvang is always interesting. It resembles a typical Scandinavian village and is loaded with shops, bakeries and hotels. You can have lunch Swedish style.

As long as you are in the area, Pea Soup Andersen’s restaurant is in nearby Buellton.

I am a rail fan and on one day I took the Surfliner train north to San Luis Obispo. It’s a two-and-a-half hour ride up the coast. The tracks are located on the cliffs overlooking the surf. It’s a beautiful ride and worth the time. I did a turnaround on the train and was back in Santa Barbara at 4:30 in the afternoon.

One morning have breakfast at Henry’s Beach restaurant. You can dine inside or outside. The menu is good and the prices fair. Locals walk their dogs in the morning along the beach as well as the surfers going into action with the waves.

Another great place for breakfast is the Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel which is now a Four Seasons property and one of the most luxurious in the region. Sit at a window facing the ocean and enjoy dining in a regal atmosphere.

And, the original Sambo’s restaurant is located very near the Sterns Wharf entrance. They still make great pancakes and waffles.

Plan at least five days or a week here, you’ll be glad you did. You can fly non-stop from Phoenix to Santa Barbara daily if you choose not to drive.

Contact the visitor center and they will be happy to give you several pamphlets and flyers you will find helpful. It is located near the beach near the wharf, the phone number is (805) 965-3021.

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