|Given its relatively conservative, quietly affluent reputation,
surprising that Santa Barbara has a sizeable gay community. Best known in the UK
because of the 80's daytime tv series, this is actually a blissful place to live or visit no
matter what your sexual orientation. The integrity of the architecture and landscaping is a
consistent strength. Gracious sandy beaches fringe the city's southerly
coastline, and rugged mountains form a northerly backdrop. Year-round,
climate is extraordinarily conducive to happiness - 320 days of
humidity, and cool breezes. Best of all you can fly from the UK with just one stop at either LA or San Francisco.|
The overall gay presence in Santa Barbara has boomed, particularly in
years and as is often the case in
lands, the old guard here claims that Santa Barbara has become
"discovered" and less appealing. While this may be true to a
the city still looks green, clean, and quite striking without feeling
tourist-ridden or over-developed.
No visitor to Santa Barbara passes through without spending time along
waterfront, particularly around Stearns Wharf, which has numerous shops
restaurants. A paved bike trail (also good for blading) runs along the
shoreline, passing close by the Andree Clark Bird Refuge - a lagoon
popular ground for more than 220 varieties of bird - and the Santa
State Street is the city's main commercial drag. It's narrow,
bicycle-friendly, and lined with a great variety of shops and
Take note of the city's small but reasonably impressive Santa Barbara
of Art, whose highlights include French Impressionist, German
and regional American works, plus numerous antiquities.
Nestled just at the base of the Santa Ynez Foothills, the Santa Barbara
Mission has one of the most dramatic exteriors of any in California.
walk through the church and amid the lush grounds, which include a
|Everybody who visits Santa Barbara seems to talk about the glorious
and dining. Santa Barbarans, on the other hand, talk more about the
There is much to see and do in the omnipresent mountains and rivers.
surfing, and kayaking are extremely popular pastimes, and the region
famously picturesque and tidy beaches. Just about any stretch of sand
area is lively and fun, but the most popular spot for gays is Padaro
People often think that California's better wines are produced only in
and Napa counties; in fact, Santa Barbara County's considerable wine
is growing in volume and respect every year. Top vintners include
Sanford, and Santa Barbara's own Santa Barbara Winery. The majority of
(there are more than 30) are northwest of Santa Barbara, around the
Santa Ynez and Solvang. For a map and information on specific wineries
their hours, contact the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association.
And after all that wine-tasting, it's entirely appropriate to sample
Santa Barbara's exceptional cuisine. Consider starting off with a visit
the Wine Cask, a rarefied dining room set across a shaded courtyard
esteemed Wine Cask Store. Inside, diners sample fine pinot noirs and
alongside stellar regional American fare like roasted Iowa pork chop
succotash and a crispy apple-risotto croquette. Nearby Downey's is a
softly lit, art-filled eatery where contemporary American food is the
offering. A typically enticing entree is king salmon with fresh
leeks, and potatoes in a thyme broth.
Arigato Sushi serves super-fresh and creative sushi. The restaurant
an airy and attractive space on State Street.
In the back of the shopping center inland in ritzy Montecito, Pane e
a great little Northern Italian trattoria, either for a meal or a snack
out sightseeing. An immensely popular spot for breakfast, lunch, or
with a light menu and a cheerful arboured terrace, Paradise Cafe serves
omelettes, soups, salads, and creative sandwiches. The simply named Roy
of the city's great bargains, offering an inexpensive three-course
of modern Californian and Italian dishes. Sojourner Cafe, the city's
(and to a lesser extent gay male) central, has great natural foods,
desserts, and fine coffees - but come here to mingle and meet locals as
as to munch on great food.
The gay nightlife scene in Santa Barbara has waxed and waned over the
years, with many bars coming and going. The only gay establishment currently in
Santa Barbara is Hades. It is exclusively
gay and caters to a younger crowd than the old and defunct Gold Coast which closed in
2001 and it's closer to the beach and hotels. The rowdy, collegiate-oriented Zelo is
mainstream, the management is quite gay-positive. Most nights draw a
hip bunch - and they also serve decent American food here. Your
second-closest gay-exclusive option is Paddy McDermott's, with a very
and lively gay and lesbian dance crowd - but it's 30 miles down the
downtown Ventura. GaySantaBarbara is an all volunteer organisation who produce
the annual Pride celebration, and their website has up-to-the minute scene info.
Santa Barbara has some of the fanciest resorts and inns in Southern
California, but also a wide array of discount motels - while there are
gay-exclusive properties, a few have a strong "family" following. If
a budget, consider Ivanhoe Inn, a funky old Victorian relatively close
downtown; it's not fancy but filled with quirky furnishings and
The gardens outside are overrun with greenery and flowers, and the
sort of a '60s free-love feel about it. Also reasonably priced, the
is an attractive Spanish-style hostelry that's close to the beach. The
rooms are decorated individually with a range of antiques and
all have microwaves, refrigerators.
The city's world-class resort is the Four Seasons Biltmore is one of
America's top such establishments. You simply can't beat the setting,
on a green slope just steps away from Montecito's shoreline. It's quite
and the restaurant is first-rate.
Often a host of Gay Pride Festival attendees, and the Radisson Hotel
Barbara is one of the most distinctive Radissons you'll ever find.
typical of those in upscale chain hotels, but the public areas of this
imposing 1930s Spanish Mediterranean-inspired hotel are quite lavish.
all, the beach is right outside the door. Finally, if you're wanting
ultimate splurge, look no further: After many years of building and
the ultra-posh Bacara Resort and Spa opened in September 2000 to
acclaim. This stunning $240 million facility occupies 78 acres that
2-mile beach, an acclaimed tennis center, a pair of 18-hole golf
a 42,000-square-foot spa. There are 360 rooms, all with DVD players,
high-speed Internet, robes and slippers, and Kiehl's bath amenities. Updated March 2003.
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Andree Clark Bird Refuge (1400 E. Cabrillo Blvd.).
Arigato Sushi (1225
Bacara Resort and Spa (8301 Hollister Ave.,
or 877-422-4245, Website).
Downey's (1305 State St.,
The Eagle Inn (232 Natoma Ave., 805-965-3586,
Seasons Biltmore (1260 Channel Dr., 805-969-2261 or 800-332-3442,
Hades (235 W. Montecito St.,805-962-2754 Website).
Ivanhoe (1406 Castillo St., 805-963-8832 or
Paddy McDermott's (2 W. Main St., Ventura, 805-652-1071).
Cota St., 805-962-5393).
Pacific Pride Foundation (a gay & lesbian
center; 126 E. Haley St., Suite A-11, 805-963-3636,
Pane e Vino (1482 E. Valley Rd., Montecito 805-969-9274).
Anacapa St., 805-962-4416).
Radisson Hotel Santa Barbara (1111 E.
Blvd., 805-963-0744 or 800-333-3333, Website).
W. Carillo St., 805-966-5636).
Santa Barbara Botanical Garden (1212
Canyon Rd., 805-682-4726).
Santa Barbara Convention and Visitors Bureau
(805-966-9222 or 800-549-5133, Website).
Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association (805-688-0881, Website).
Mission (2201 Laguna St., 805-682-4713).
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
State St. 805-963-4364).
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (2559
del Sol Rd., 805-682-4711).
Santa Barbara Zoological Garden (500 Ninos
Sojourner Cafe (134 E. Canon Perdido St., 805-965-7922).
Cask (813 Anacapa St., 805-966-9463).
Zelo (630 State St.,
Andrew Collins authored Fodor's Gay Guide to the USA, the Connecticut
Handbook, and six regional gay guides for Fodor's. He can be reached
here at OutUK or direct at GayFodors@aol.com.