Often the center of activity and life, State Street is home to an abundance of shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Locals often differentiate "upper State" from "lower State" to describe the variation occurring along this long stretch. Upper State Street is a residential and commercial district that includes numerous professional offices and homes, Lower State Street (also known as the Funk Zone) stretches along the waterfront and is very popular among tourists. Lower State Street is where the nightlife thrives and is the main location for celebrations such as the Old Spanish Days Fiesta. In this area alone, the diversity of Santa Barbara is represented and a true taste of the area's culture can be experienced.
In 1941, a well-known Polish opera singer named Madame Ganna Walska, purchased an estate in Montecito and spent the next 43 years creating Lotusland. The incredible collection of exotic plants throughout the property alludes to Walska’s whimsical and dramatic character as the 37-acre property is a wonderland to walk through. Upon her death in 1984, Lotusland became a nonprofit organization and was open to the public in 1993. It is currently being used to serve and educate the community as a prime example of innovative horticultural practices on display for garden-enthusiasts around the world. These gardens include the aloe, Australian, blue, bromeliads, butterfly, cacti and euphorbias, cactus, cycad, fern, Japanese, orchards, parterre, succulent, theatre, topiary, tropical, water, and the water stairs and cypress allee. These tucked away grounds truly are a rare sight everyone ought to see.
For anyone interested to see how Santa Barbara began, the Old Mission Santa Barbara is the perfect place to start. It is a Spanish mission founded by the Franciscan order under Padre Fermín Lasuén on December 4, 1786 and was the tenth mission intended for the religious conversion of the indigenous Chumash-Barbareño tribe of Native Americans. It is the namesake of the city of Santa Barbara and for Santa Barbara County and consistently amazes those who visit its grounds. Whether you chose to walk through the large and small rooms that ebb and flow with history or simply sit in the rose gardens delicately decorating the grounds outside, the historically extravagant Santa Barbara Mission has something in store for everyone.
Located in the harbor in Santa Barbara, California, it was completed in 1872 and became the longest deep-water Wharf between San Pedro and San Francisco. It was named after local lumberman John P. Stearns who built the wharf to serve the passenger and freight shipping needs of California’s South Coast. Activities may involve taking a ride on a Water Taxi, checking out some marine life at the Sea Center, eating some of the best seafood in Santa Barbara on the ocean, finding souvenirs, treating yourself to Ice Cream at the Great Pacific Ice Cream Company or candy at Mother Stearns Candy Ship, and finding unique shells at Nature’s Own Gift Shop. The smell of salt, view of the shore, and vibe of the ocean will truly make any experience on or around Stearn’s Wharf a truly memorable one.
Located in downtown Santa Barbara on State Street, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art was founded in 1941 as a small art museum. It is home to both permanent and special collections from Asian, American, and European roots spanning 4,000 years of history. The museum presents carefully chosen shows highlighting names such as Degas, Leonardo, Picasso, Rothko, and Van Gogh. It has been, and continues to be, an incredible pioneer to the exhibition of emerging regional artists and seeks to present contemporary art of national and international importance. Its mission of integrating art into the life of the community is made visible in its over 40 education programs that reach over 40,000 people each year. The rich repertoire it contains reaches the entire community in creative, innovative, and beautiful ways. It is here that Santa Barbara’s local talent and creativity can be most directly accessed.
Built by Spain in 1782, El Presidio, otherwise known as the Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara is a former military installation with the mission of defending the Second Military District in California. The Presidio currently serves as a popular tourist attraction across the street from several cafes and coffee shops in an active area downtown. It currently functions as a museum and still active archeological site for El Presidio de Santa Barbara Historic Park. It contains an original adobe structure called El Cuartel, and is the second oldest surviving building in Santa Barbara. This Presidio has the distinction of being the last military outpost built by Spain in the New World. It became a California Historic Landmark in 1958 and was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1973.