Santa Barbara’s location is a strip of land that, at one end, borders the Pacific Ocean; on the other, it climbs into the sudden, steep Santa Ynez Mountains. These two regions are differentiated not only by topography but also by the north-south running U.S. Route 101, the only freeway in the vicinity, but an important one that brings life to the area as it makes its way from north Los Angeles to Washington state’s blustery Olympic Peninsula.
East of U.S. Route 101, visitors bid adieu to checkerboard street plans and any semblance of sensible road design. Neither can be found when driving into Santa Barbara’s hills. A best bet is to purposefully meander the forested slopes dotted with impressive homes. Many find themselves wishing they lived this affluent life, until they’ve seen the other styles of driving offered in Santa Barbara, which arrive in the form of a molasses slow 101 during rush hour and stress-inducing parking most anywhere. Both nearly made me lose my faith in SB.
Alas, west of the freeway is a Midwestern tourist’s delight: shopping in the form of both chain stores and boutiques, restaurants and bars, beaches and parks, the Santa Barbara Zoo and a selection of hotels. Most attractions lie along the city’s famous State Street; conversations with locals revealed that, outside of State Street, little remains to be discovered. I differ in opinion as I think of the city’s enchanting southern suburbs of Montecito, Summerland and Carpenteria, which have instilled in me more interest than Santa Barbara proper has managed to summon.
The city is charming enough for a long weekend; I picture myself visiting with future family, but perhaps sticking to hidden Butterfly Beach of adjacent Montecito or embracing slow-paced days strolling nearby Carpenteria’s Santa Claus Lane. But I will return, nonetheless.
Learn more about Santa Barbara here.