Santa Barbara Mission shot
Mission Santa Barbara "Queen of the Missions for its graceful beauty"

1. Shop till you drop

The shopping never ends in Santa Barbara, but here are a few standouts: Rooms and Gardens, with its wooden floors, high ceilings and shelves of soap, candles and tabletop d├ęcor; Maison K, catering to contemporary tastes; and Brostrom's, for the antique collector who loves browsing for Asian-inspired gems.

2. Red-tile tour

Park the car and follow the red tiles for 12 blocks past 22 historic buildings, including the Spanish colonial county courthouse (be sure and climb the clock tower for its sweeping view), the Spanish deco-style post office, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and Plaza de la Guerra, where the first city council met in 1850.

Brostrom s
Haute hotels

A longtime Hollywood haven, Santa Barbara and its resorts are legendary. Old World elegance is the hallmark of the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore, set on lush grounds with a spectacular view of the ocean. A must-stop is the Ty Lounge for Oprah's Pomegranate Martini, named for the talk show host who stayed at the hotel while house hunting in the hills above town. B&B fans will like the Victorian Cheshire Cat just a short walk from restaurants and boutiques.

4. Acres of orchids

One of the largest orchid-growing regions in the country, Santa Barbara is the place to find that special cymbidium or phalaenopsis. Among the top growers are Gallup & Stribling, Cal-Orchid and Santa Barbara Orchid Estate, all open to the public for buying a bloom as a souvenir of your visit.


5. Divine dining

With seven-figure homes the norm, it's no surprise that fine dining is de rigeur here. French fare can be found at Bouchon Santa Barbara, boasting a Wine Spectator award of excellence wine list. Seagrass is the first coastal cuisine eatery, dishing up spiny lobster, oysters and seared giant sea scallops. And for great service at great prices, head to the Cajun-inspired Palace Grill, a hit since it was founded in 1988.