With 300 days of sun, gorgeous natural surroundings, and the Pacific Coast right on its doorstep, it’s no wonder Santa Barbara is called the American Riviera. No shortage of tourists visit this picture-perfect spot and travelers are tempted to stay forever. Planning a move? Here are ten things you should know before moving to Santa Barbara.
1. Small town vibes
As soon as you arrive, you’ll see Santa Barbara is definitely no big city. There’s great population density for its size, bringing a sensation of space and a strong community feeling that permeates throughout the streets. The good vibes even extend to the local pooches: It’s not uncommon to see a bowl of water put out by store owners for pets to sip at as they go on their daily walks.
2. Not a party town
Of course, these small-town vibes go hand-in-hand with, let’s just say, a relaxed sort of leisure culture, featuring countless galleries, boutiques, cultural sites, restaurants, and cafés. While this is part of Santa Barbara’s charm it does mean that if you suddenly want to go on a mall-style shopping spree or party all night long, it’s probably time for a little road trip to Los Angeles or San Francisco.
3. The 101
Speaking of traveling to and from Santa Barbara, there’s only one easy way to do so: Highway 101, more frequently referred to as The 101. This is the route that runs right through the city, linking Santa Barbara to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. Road trip anyone?
4. Naturally beautiful
But boy oh boy, there’s an ideal balance of nature and development in Santa Barbara. Somewhat wedged between the ocean and the base of the Santa Ynez mountains, the city literally can’t spread out into an uncontrollable urban sprawl. The locals take advantage of lazy weekends and afternoons getting out of town, pedaling the bike routes and hiking the trails that run through the surrounding hills.
5. Surf’s out
Mild tides and moderate ocean temperatures mean surf culture is big in Santa Barbara County. Grab your board and head over to one of the region’s best surf breaks: Beginners can head to Leadbetter Point and Campus Point, while experienced surfers will find ample challenge at Sandspit and El Capitan.
6. Cost of living
While beautiful, Santa Barbara is not a place for skimping and saving. Rent makes a particular dent in a monthly budget. However, everything they say about the Santa Barbarian personality is true: while you are there, you’ll make some of your life’s best friends.
7. Distinctive architecture
Harking back to its Spanish and Mexican colonial days, Spanish revival architecture is well and truly a feature of Santa Barbara. To maintain the city’s look and feel, all buildings in the planning must pass through the Architectural Board of Review. So while the road to obtaining permissions is quite slow, it does mean locals are able to enjoy a city free from the mass-produced and overly replicated buildings you see in other American cities.
8. Be water-wise
California is a drought-prone state and Santa Barbara is no exception. While there, be sure to make extra effort to save water. Cool and use your vegetable cooking water to water the plants, turn off the water while brushing your teeth, fully load the washing machine, and forget about the full-flush on the toilet (it’s not necessary anyway!). This is especially important during the super dry summer months when forest fires can flare-up.
9. Wine country
Santa Barbara wine country was made famous by the film Sideways and still wears that crown with pride today. The valley has the perfect conditions for cooler-climate grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. With wineries within 30 minutes of the city and tasting doors downtown, wine appreciation is a real past time on the American Riviera.
10. Hands off the avocados
Since avocados were introduced from Mexico in 1871, Californians have been in love with this simply delicious fruit (yep, it’s a fruit). But remember: Those you may see happily growing on trees are not for public picking. (Seriously, people have been charged with felony grand theft for stealing avocados…albeit after many thousands of dollars of them). Your best bet? Ignore the trees and eyes on the footpath: if you happen to see an avocado that fell of natural causes, go ahead and pick it up.