Photography Fieldtrip; Santa Barbara, California, “The American Riviera”

Being from Southern California, I grew up experiencing places and doing things many people around the world plan for their dream vacations.

I admit, when I was younger I took it all for granted. Nearby beaches, mountains, deserts, museums, theme parks, Hollywood, and world class dining. Where else can you surf, and snow ski the same day?  But, as I started to travel around this wonderful world of ours, I came to realize how lucky I am to live right here.

I want to share some of California and my future travels with you, through my lens. And where else to start, but in my own backyard, Southern California.

Now, I know there’s some argument about where Southern California actually starts coming from the north.  What I can tell you for sure, is that it ends south in San Diego at the Mexican border. My starting point for Southern California is Santa Barbara. Which is where we’re going for a short, day trip.

Most visitors go to Santa Barbara to relax along the beach. But when they don’t have their feet in the sand, there are many other cool things to do in this part of California known as the American Riviera.

From where I live, the drive to Santa Barbara takes a little over an hour. As you get closer the scenery builds your excitement and anticipation.

Santa Barbara Mission

This day trip fittingly begins where Santa Barbara itself began. The Santa Barbara Mission. It offers a glimpse at the city’s early origins. The grounds are set on a hill with a spectacular view sloping down the city toward the coast.

Founded in 1786, this mission was one of ten established in early California. It was Spain’s attempt to colonize the region and convert the native inhabitants to Roman Catholicism. Still a functioning church, the Santa Barbara Mission boasts a museum filled with colonial artifacts and early photographs of the area.

Also known as the Queen of Missions, the mission grounds also feature a garden that showcases Spain’s agricultural influence on the California landscape, housing plants dating back to when the mission was established.

The mission is a must-see for history buffs.  Although we didn’t have time on this trip, there are tours offered that provide in depth information and more to see.

SB County Courthouse

Not far from the mission is the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Why would anyone visit a courthouse? Boring!

On the contrary. This is actually a must-see sight that exceeds expectations.

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse epitomizes the Spanish Colonial style of architecture that is found across the city. The complex impresses with its intricate tile mosaics, colorful gardens and spectacular view of the city and ocean below.

Take the stairs or elevator to the top of the 85-foot “El Mirador” clock tower for a spectacular view and take a few photos.

State Street

One block from the courthouse is the north end of State Street. It’s nearly impossible to miss with its shops, art galleries, theaters and museums.

It’s a must to take a stroll down Santa Barbara’s most famous avenue.

State Street is the heart of Santa Barbara, and the experience exploring the shops and dining outdoors can feel like a European open air market.

After a few hours of shopping with more than 300 shops and some upscale stores, visitors can slide into a chair at one of the 160 local restaurants to refuel.

State Street cuts through downtown and leads right onto Stearns Wharf.

You can grab a ride on the electric shuttle for 50 cents, but walking will let you truly appreciate the ambiance.

Stearns Wharf

At the end of State Street in Santa Barbara is Stearns Wharf. We ended up here as the last spot on our day trip.

Built in 1872, it became the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco. This city landmark is more for visitors now featuring stores and restaurants.

It is a prime spot for spectacular views of the harbor, and the mountains behind the town of Santa Barbara.

It’s a relatively low-key tourist attraction, with a few shops.

It can be a nice place to have a leisurely lunch while enjoying the view out over the ocean and surrounding beaches. Most visitors simply come here to walk and have a look around.

Though we saw quite a bit on this day trip of a few hours, there is so much more to see and do.

I definitely plan a return trip to explore more of this charming part of California. I believe you could easily spend a few days here and still not experience everything Santa Barbara has to offer.

If you’re planning to make this a destination on your travel bucket list and would like more information, hit me up in the comment section below.

Bye for now


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