105 Reasons to Live in the 805
By David Michael Wieger
1) Santa Barbara beaches. They are clean, easy to reach, with lots of parking and come in all kinds and shapes — wide and flat for volleyball, lined by cliffs for walking, boarded by lawns and shaded by palm trees, and best of all, sheltered and vacant. Being an ocean-swimmer myself, and having grown up in Marin (up near San Francisco) where the water temperature remains in the mid-50s, the ocean in Santa Barbara is in the 70s a good hunk of the year, which means I can swim in the ocean 8 months a year without a wetsuit. Then there is the added bonus of seeing a dolphin, which I consider akin to seeing a shooting star; something that happens far more often than you might think.
2) A mountain trail, or a beach is never more than a 10 minute drive away. That’s with traffic, or a lack thereof. That’s 10 minutes from wherever you are in Santa Barbara to standing in the surf. That’s 10 minutes to reaching a trailhead that leads you to a stunning vista. That’s 10 minutes to a field of wild mustard, or a grove of oaks. Ten minutes….
3) Even during a downturn in the economy, Santa Barbara is considered one of the “gold standards” in property values, and over time, most homes in the area have appreciated in value more quickly than the DOW 500. So not only do you get to live here, but you get to invest wisely in living here. Not bad.
9) The Municipal wine tasting room. Funky and fine. Years ago, “The Funk Zone” was where you went to buy a new surfboard at Al Merrick’s Channel Island Surfboards or went to purchase a plank of exotic wood at Soboba Wood Company, but now you can dine well at The Lark or go to one of many wine tasting rooms and still pick up your board, and your board, but that’s after.
21) Coffee houses. While Santa Barbara isn’t Seattle, or Portland, folks around here take their coffee pretty seriously. The Handlebar and The French Press are two of the best. Having said that, discussing “best coffee” with a stranger — you — is a more volatile subject for a conversation than politics, but I don’t care. Drink coffee and vote.
22) Lotusland. Madame Ganna Walska, a well-known Polish opera singer and socialite, purchased the estate in 1941 and spent the next 43 years creating Lotusland. In order to do so, she also kept marrying wealthier husbands which, in part, allowed her to create a collection of exotic plants throughout her dramatic and whimsical 37-acre property. After her death in 1984, Lotusland became a nonprofit botanical garden and opened to the public in 1993. As a young man I used to skinny dip in the abalone lined pool on full moons, but please don’t tell anyone. Now I keep my clothes on and enjoy the magical gardens during daytime tours.
26) Cold Springs Tavern. A short drive up the (San Marcos) Pass, but when you arrive at this old stagecoach stop from the 1800s, you will feel transported in time and place. Then there’s the local music and the tri-trip sandwiches on Sundays! My favorite memory is having a huge, hairy, bare-chested, long-haired, bearded Harley-dude, approach me with an emotionless stare and gesture the beer bottle in front of me: “You done with that?” It was only then that I saw the giant plastic bag in his free hand. He was collecting bottles for recycling. So much for first impressions. Same thing with Cold Springs Tavern. It may look like a funky beer-joint, but there’s a lot going on under the rustic veneer.
51) “Flatbreads” in Los Alamos. Also called Full of Life. I don’t know what it is about my love of places that have two names (see: Hendry’s Beach & Arroyo Burro Beach, and The Wilcox Property & The Douglas Preserve.) but upon (brief) reflection, I think it has something to do with the fact that the place/s are so dang fabulous, who cares what they’re called? Back to Flatbreads/Full of Life — years ago I lived in a tiny town in Italy and learned how to make, and eat, enormous amounts of exquisite pizza. Clark, the chef at F/FOL does it right. Not only is the crust perfect, but all of his ingredients are local.
52) Sunstone Winery. Drive 35 minutes north of Santa Barbara, and become transported into the French Provincial countryside. Now that you’ve saved yourself the airfare to Europe, have a glass of wine in the lavender and rosemary scented courtyard. And enjoy knowing that Sunstone has been committed to growing their grapes without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fungicides (the only “cide” I want when drinking my wine with is a “side” of cheese and crackers!)
87) UCSB Arts & Lectures. Santa Barbara may not be New York, or Los Angeles or San Francisco, but the cultural events the folks at UCSB Arts & Lectures have been able to attract over the years are truly amazing.