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A Santa Barbara City Guide – perfect white beaches, artistic attractions, and a touch of Mediterranean flair

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Set on a long, sandy stretch of beach, with palm trees and clear seas, Santa Barbara is a vacation paradise that attracts surfers, sun seekers, and wine lovers. Often nicknamed the American Riviera, the city has a distinctly European atmosphere, with a busy cultural calendar and red-roofed Spanish-style architecture. There's even a warm Mediterranean climate that makes it ideal for growing grapes, and a rolling landscape of lush green valleys full of wineries.
Arts and culture



Santa Barbara is more than just a place to soak up the sun and bask by the sea. A major draw for culture vultures is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Step inside it's strikingly white Mediterranean inspired facade and you'll find a wide selection of classic and contemporary artworks, including Modern masterpieces by Matisse and Braque, along with plenty of exciting exhibitions taking place throughout the year. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is another popular attraction, while if you prefer the performing arts, try the New Vic which hosts an eclectic selection of plays.


Wine community



The warm Mediterranean climate of Santa Barbara is perfect for ripening grapes, and surrounding the city you'll see endless green vineyards growing the next harvest. If you've been inspired to take a tour by the movie Sideways, then you can pick up a map of filming locations, or simply make your own tour route. It can be fun to drive through the mountain landscapes finding unique wineries, but if you'd rather not drive then the Urban Wine Trail in Downtown gives you the opportunity to enjoy tasting rooms of some of the most popular wineries, all within walking distance, with no designated driver required.


Where to eat



Santa Barbara is a gastronomic delight, with chefs using locally grown, seasonal ingredients to create fresh and unique dishes. There are many fine dining establishments scattered around the central district serving freshly caught seafood in stylish settings, as well as plenty of more casual dining options where you can enjoy a perfectly grilled burger, or some authentic Mexican food after a long day on the beach.


Where to stay



The Montecito area of Santa Barbara is where many celebrities own homes, and as you drive along the coast you'll see many grand mansions and stylish vacation houses. The Mesa has a laid back beach vibe which makes it a popular spot for vacationing families and couples, and there's a small town atmosphere in this charming neighborhood. It almost goes without saying there are also plenty of hotels in East Beach – sun-worshippers will be in their element.