Santa Barbara: Top Attractions

Another perfect day ends in Santa Barbara  (courtesy, Santa Barbara CVB)

Four Seasons Biltmore
This dazzling Spanish colonial-style gem is among Santa Barbara's most illustrious hotels. Every detail speaks of refinement—from the giant flower bouquets in the lobby to the cushy rooms with rain-shower baths and plasma-screen TVs. The dining room's chef has racked up some serious culinary accolades. With its enchanting beachfront location, stress-melting spa, and plenty of recreation options, this hotel leaves few wishes unfulfilled.

San Ysidro Ranch
Like a fine wine, some things only get better with age. Such is the case with this magical 110-year-old ranch snuggled serenely into the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. A recent redo added new-millennium comforts and amenities (including wood-burning fireplaces and outdoor showers) without compromising the ranch's rustic magic and historic flair. The cottage, where John and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned many moons ago, is among the most requested.

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort
Time at this delightful 10,000-acre working cattle ranch, which is best explored on horseback, seems to move a bit slower than elsewhere. You'll be charmed by the Old-West flair, challenged by the two premium golf courses, and seduced by the pinot noirs of the nearby Santa Ynez Valley. The delightful cottages offer the full gamut of creature comforts but—how liberating—no TV or telephone.

The Spa
When it comes to luxe pampering, the Spa at the Four Seasons Biltmore pulls out all the stops. Walk in the door and you're transported to an exclusive island of tranquility. The treatments are all top-notch and best enjoyed in a private suite complete with ocean views and fireplace. Can't decide? Try "Four Seasons in One," whose unique combination of scrubs, wraps, and massages will quickly catapult you to a state of bliss.

The Wine Country of Santa Ynez Valley
About one hour north of Santa Barbara, there is the kind of idyllic setting that needs to be savored, not downed in one gulp. Take your sweet time meandering along the undulating country roads of the Santa Ynez Valley, made famous in the Oscar-nominated movie Sideways. Follow a lazy lunch at the hamlet of Los Olivos with a hazy afternoon of vineyard-hopping on your own personal quest for the region's best pinot noir.
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Sandpiper Golf Course
A favorite place to tee off in town, Sandpiper is an ingenious alchemy of good looks and challenge. It boasts a gorgeous seaside location and a clever links-style layout designed by William F. Bell that makes it a joy for everyone from novice to expert. The 18-hole, 72-par, 7,000-yard course has a championship rating of 74.2 and hosts several professional tournaments, including the PGA Tour Tournament Players Series.
Sandpiper Golf Course: 805.968.1541,

Santa Barbara Sailing Center
You don't have to be a salty type to enjoy excursions offered by the area's top ocean-going outfit. Even those without sea legs will enjoy a trip aboard the stable, multi-hulled Double Dolphin catamaran, which sets sail for exciting whale-watching, romantic sunset spins, and palate-pleasing dinner cruises. Those with experience can charter their own boat, while those with none can quickly learn the "lines" from affable instructors at the well-respected sailing school.
Santa Barbara Sailing Center: 805.962.2826,

Santa Barbara Mission
Don't leave Santa Barbara without paying your respects to the "Queen of the Missions," a state historic landmark perched with primness and dignity in the hills above town. The distinctive twin-towered stone structure dates back to 1820 and was the fourth structure on this site after earthquakes ravaged the earlier adobe incarnations. A small museum has exhibits on mission life, including the role played by the local Chumash Indians, thousands of whom are buried in the church cemetery.
Santa Barbara Mission: 805.682.4149,

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Leap from desert and redwood forest to mountain meadow and misty canyon on an easy stroll through this fragrant and colorful wonderland in the hills north of town. Established in 1926, this botanical bonanza is considered among the finest native plant gardens in the nation. The best time to visit is in spring during the wildflower season. If you want to learn more about distinguishing iris from lilacs, join a daily docent-led tour.
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: 805.682.4726,

La Marina
Wrought-iron chandeliers, thick carpets, and a muted color palette form a suitably swank backdrop for the out-of-this-world California cuisine dished up at this perennial favorite inside the Four Seasons Biltmore. Master chef Martin Frost has a knack for turning fresh, seasonal ingredients into attractive dishes that will pamper your taste buds. The ever-changing four-course tasting menu is perfect for sampling his talent, while the sumptuous Sunday champagne buffet brunch draws devotees from near and far.

Published: 26 Apr 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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