By Aaron Feigenbaum
Just an hour and a half’s drive northwest of Los Angeles, on a south-facing section of coastline, between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and alongside the Pacific Ocean, lies the beautiful coastal city of Santa Barbara. Often referred to as the “Riviera of the West,” Santa Barbara features a balmy Mediterranean climate, a rich cultural history, and abundant sightseeing and shopping opportunities.
The area now known as Santa Barbara City was originally a collection of Native American Chumash villages until the region was conquered by the Spanish in the 1780‘s and converted into a mission town. The Spanish left in 1822 and the town didn’t rise to prominence until the discovery of oil in the 1890‘s. In the early 20th century Santa Barbara became home to the largest silent film studio, the Loughead Aircraft Company (precursor to Lockheed), and Marine and Navy installations. G.I.s returning from WWII built up this sleepy backwater of a town into what would become one of California’s most popular and most prosperous cities.
What to Do and See:
Stearns Wharf: One of Santa Barbara’s most popular attractions, the Wharf features shops, entertainment, and a waterfront shuttle that takes you out to the harbor and back. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous you can take a whale-watching cruise or even charter a private yacht.
Santa Barbara Zoo: Consistently ranked as one of the country’s best small zoos, the S.B. Zoo will treat you to the sights and sounds of 600 animals representing over 180 species. Get the opportunity to feed a giraffe, treat your kids to a train which circles the whole zoo, or work as an honorary zookeeper for a day. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for kids.
Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens: For $10 per adult and $6-$8 per child, these gardens offer some truly spectacular native California flowers set in finely landscaped surroundings. There’s also a redwood forest, a canyon, a lush meadow, a small dam, and cliff-tops that give you majestic views of the Channel Islands.
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Once visited by Albert Einstein, this prestigious museum features a plethora of fascinating exhibits including the story of the California grizzly bear, an aquarium with mini-sized sharks, a planetarium (no extra charge for daytime shows in March and April), and a garden full of over 1,000 butterflies. Adults can get in for $12 while children and teens are $7 and $8 respectively. No charge for infants.
Karpeles Museum: This manuscript library museum has locations throughout the country, but the Santa Barbara branch is especially notable because it hosts the world’s largest private collection of important documents. You can lay your eyes on original documents written by such figures as Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, Charles Dickens, and Mozart. One of the most valuable items in the collection is an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. Admission is free!
Solvang: About 45 minutes northwest of Santa Barbara lies the Danish-themes village of Solvang. Visit the Elverhoj Museum to get some info on Danish history and culture. Then stop by the museum dedicated to one of Denmark’s most famous sons, Hans Christian Andersen, author of such classic fairy tales as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” While Solvang is somewhat on the touristy side, it’s still a unique and fun experience that’s great for the whole family.
Eat and Daven:
There are no kosher restaurants in Santa Barbara. The closest one is Tierra Sur/Herzog Winery in Oxnard. There are numerous markets which carry kosher items including Ralph’s, Gelson’s Albertson’s, and Trader Joe’s. Otherwise, you can contact Rabbi Mendel Loschak of Chabad of UCSB at firstname.lastname@example.org and he might be able to arrange to pick something up for you.
For frum shuls, there are three options:
1. Chabad at UCSB (805-685-3348)
2. Chabad of Santa Barbara (805-683-1544)
3. Young Israel of Santa Barbara (email@example.com)
By car take the 405 to the 101 until you hit S.B. You can also catch a ride on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train or take the Santa Barbara Airbus (sbairbus.com). If you’re really in a hurry, Santa Barbara has its own airport. The cheapest round-trip ticket costs around $260.
-Santa Barbara experienced a devastating 6.8 earthquake in 1925 which destroyed much of the city and cost taxpayers $8 million ($108 million in today’s dollars).
-On Feb. 23, 1942 the Japanese submarine I-17 fired 16 shells at the Ellwood Oil Field just 10 miles west of Santa Barbara. It was the first enemy attack on the U.S. mainland since the War of 1812. While it only caused minimal damage, many residents fled and property values sunk.