This stretch of coast along southern Santa Barbara County is often referred to as the "American Riviera" because of its Mediterranean climate and amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands. Santa Barbara is located about 80 miles WNW of Los Angeles, along the Pacific coast. The Santa Ynez Mountains, an east-west trending range, rise dramatically behind the city, with several peaks exceeding 4,000 feet. Covered with chaparral and with sandstone outcrops, they make a famously scenic backdrop to the cultrually rich town. The domestic architecture of Santa Barbara is predominantly California bungalows built in the early decades of the 20th century, with many Victorian homes adorning the “Upper East” and Spanish style homes spread throughout the Santa Barbara, Montecito, and Hope Ranch areas. The city has also passed ordinances against billboards, regulating outdoor advertising so that Santa Barbara remains relatively free of the advertising clutter found in most American cities.
Santa Barbara County is also the historical home of the Chumash Tribe, whom are the Native American group of people that inhabited the vicinity of what is now San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, extending from Morro Bay in the north to Malibu in the south. They also occupied three of the Channel Islands: Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel. The Chumash were hunter-gatherers and were skilled at fishing.
Santa Barbara County was formally established during the Presidio period, even though there is evidence that as many as 150 tribes occupied the area for the previous ten centuries.
When Sebastian Viscaino sailed into the Channel of Santa Barbara on December 4, 1602, he named the city in memory of Saint Barbara, the Spanish virgin and martyr, because the 4th day of December is sacred to the famous Saint, which translates in Spanish to Santo, or in this case, Santa.
Father Junipero Serra founded the Santa Barbara Presidio in 1782, adding the Mission four years later. The Presidios were military posts for the protection of missionaries, established in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey and San Francisco. Their twelve-foot high adobe walls enclosed barracks, store houses, a church and the residence of the commandant.
Currently, Santa Barbara is home to many cultural events including “Old Spanish Days” or “Fiesta,” which celebrates the Spanish culture and history of the settlers that laid the foundation here in Santa Barbara and “I Madonnari” which is an Italian street painting festival that takes place at the plaza of the Old Mission during Memorial Day weekend. Santa Barbara also hosts the Santa Barbara International Film Festival which features a large array of films, spanning from independent films to nationally featured movies, for over a week long period. If you love to shop, State Street is home to the outdoor shopping mall “Paseo Nuevo” which is filled with boutiques as well as large department stores. State Street continues all the way down to the beach front and Sterns Warf serves to be a great place to spend the day in the down town area. Many of these amazing events and venues attract a large population of tourists every year, paired with a beautiful setting, good weather, the beach, and supreme food, Santa Barbara provides for the optimal place to visit or relocate.