Beaches, wine, contemporary food and modern hotels only begin to describe Santa Barbara, California.  Known in the past for being a surfing city with palatial homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the “American Riviera” is inviting to vacationers.   

Usually I drive right by this town on Hwy 101 which is 2 hours North of Los Angeles, but it has become even more of a must stop destination.

I was excited to start my outing on the hop on hop off Santa Barbara Trolley Tour.  It was a good way to get oriented with the city.  Drivers encouraged passengers to jump off at two Spanish styled and historical sites, the Santa Barbara Mission and the County Courthouse.  The beautiful courthouse with its 80 ft clock tower is perfect for panoramic picture taking.  And there is much more to see on the trolley tour, the zoo, the beautiful waterfront with Stearns Wharf and museums.  Visitors can see it all and have each stop explained along the route.  

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Santa Barbara County is home to 200 wineries and some of the wineries called my name as I exited the trolley in the Funk Zone.  Lined with wine tasting rooms on both sides of the street, the Funk Zone is a multi-block area with artists’ studios, restaurants and craft breweries. I zipped between wineries, sipping local wines and learning about the varietals from a few of the wineries. I’d say this booming zone was planned just right in the downtown area.

A glass of Santa Barbara wine

My modern and efficient lodging, Hotel Indigo on State Street, is located on the main street downtown.  It’s boutique style and offers many amenities big hotels offer.  Very impressive how well thought out the property is by using small spaces, including a rooftop sitting area with plenty of fresh air and hanging local art.  Guests walked through with their dogs, sat on the couches in the lobby and enjoyed the complimentary wine and cookies. Urban chic and bicycles to use, too. Many varieties of accommodations dot this coastal community including resorts offering romance and luxury relaxation.

Hotel Indigo’s relaxing rooftop

Creative dining choices are available in this celebrity studded and college town, and new on the list is Spanish restaurant, Loquita.  I watched as meats were grilled over the open fire and I must say, my prime hanger steak was tender and very flavorful.  Artful presentations are a plus with cheeses and seafood designed in authentic and traditional Spanish ways.  Millennials and baby boomers alike shared these small plates with dining companions and drank intriguing drinks. 

LoQinta's Spanish treats

Loquita’s Spanish treats

Santa Barbara is easy to reach by Amtrak train, in fact, Santa Barbara participates in the Car Free project by partnering with businesses for discounts and suggestions to make your stay hassle free. has more information about the special benefits of travelling car free by using Amtrak trains. #VisitSantaBarbara                          

After my visit, I realized it’s true, Santa Barbara is America’s Riviera.

Disclaimer-I was a guest of Visit Santa Barbara, as always, my opinions are my own.