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20 Things to Love About Santa Barbara

October 27, 2020

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Two California pelicans on the Santa Barbara pier.

It seems like a bit of a disservice to list only 20 things to love about Santa Barbara. Enumerating all the great things residents enjoy here, however, would take up a great deal more space than this blog post allows. So here, in no particular order, are what many area residents, including me, consider the top 20 reasons for living in Santa Barbara:

  1. The weather
    Few places have a temperate climate like Santa Barbara. Due to its central, protected location, Santa Barbara enjoys an average of 300 days of sunshine a year and hardly has to worry about storm clouds appearing on its horizon (the average annual rainfall here is no more than 18 inches).

    Vintage filtered picture of wooden lifeguard tower at sunset, beach in California, USA.
  2. The beaches
    The area has been dubbed the American Riviera for good reason. There’s no shortage of creamy, sun-kissed beaches here. The three largest ones within the city itself are East Beach, West Beach, and Leadbetter Beach. Plus, non-surfers may not know this, but Santa Barbara has long been a surfing mecca. Some of the best places to catch a wave are Rincon Point, Hammonds Point, and Leadbetter Point.

    An example of one of the thigs to love about living in Santa Barbara: a home featuring the area's famous Spanish Colonial Architecture
  3. The Spanish Colonial architecture
    Santa Barbara’s collection of white stucco houses and buildings with red tile roofs and intricate wrought iron detailing is one of its defining features. Take the spectacular home pictured here, for an example. Public examples include the Old Mission Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Courthouse, and other historically and architecturally significant landmarks.
A photo of Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, CA

Stearns Wharf. Creative Commons

  1. Stearns Wharf
    Stearns Wharf is the oldest working wharf in California and dates back to 1872. Now home to a vibrant array of shops and restaurants, it’s one of the things to love about Santa Barbara, and one of the city’s most notable landmarks. It's also one of the best places to get a good view of the coast and one of the best places to enjoy fresh seafood. The Santa Barbara Harbor has more than a thousand boat slips.
  2. Downtown Santa Barbara
    This is the cultural and commercial heart of the city and is immensely walkable, especially since much of it is closed to traffic these days. Take a stroll on the new Santa Barbara State Street Pedestrian Promenade where shops (quite a few of which are one-of-a-kind), and restaurants (featuring a variety of cuisines), have taken over. There are farmers markets aplenty as well.

    An example of one of the wide variety of home styles and superb features of Santa Barbara homes
  3. The homes
    The wide variety of styles and superb features of homes themselves is definitely one of the things to love about Santa Barbara. One example is the European-Inspired Montecito Contemporary Estate pictured here, the former residence of celebrated comedian Jonathan Winters and his wife. Or perhaps you’d like to live near the downtown area, or up in the hills, in your own retreat in Montecito. The sky is truly the limit for living in Santa Barbara!
  4. The cultural scene
    The arts are very much alive in Santa Barbara and you can spend days gallery hopping here and nights enjoying theatrical performances, concerts, and more. Among the most notable venues is Sullivan Goss, The Arlington Theatre, Granada Theatre, Gallery 113, Lobero Theatre, and more.
  5. The wines
    The vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley are no more than a few miles away and there are many wineries and tasting rooms in downtown Santa Barbara. Many of these are in The Funk Zone, which also boasts microbreweries.
  6. The Backcountry
    The great outdoors is never too far away in Santa Barbara and if you’re not in the mood for the beach, you can always head to the hills and up the Santa Ynez Mountains. Hike, bike or ride a horse into the San Rafael Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest.
  7. The University of California, Santa Barbara
    UCSB is in the Goleta area and is the main reason why Santa Barbara has a young, energetic vibe even at its most serene. It is ranked among the best universities in the country and the world.
  8. Santa Barbara City College
    SBCC has been named the #1 Community College in the nation by the Aspen Institute. And for the third year in a row, Value Colleges rated SBCC the #1 Community College as “a flawless investment.”

    Mission Santa Barbara was the tenth of the California missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. It was established on the Feast of St. Barbara, Dec 4, 1786.
  9. Santa Barbara Mission
    The renowned Santa Barbara Mission, known as the “Queen of the Missions,” was established in 1786: the tenth in a line of more than 21 missions was originally used to Christianize the Indians and to teach them farming and other skills. The mission has evolved into its beautiful appearance of today, famous for being the only mission with two bell towers.
  10. The History
    In a recent blog post, I shared The Richness of Santa Barbara History. That history began approximately 13,000 years ago when the first Native Americans arrived. The Spanish came in the 18th century to occupy and Christianize the area, which became part of Mexico following the Mexican War of Independence. The City was among the first in America to understand the cultural and economic value of preserving its historic buildings. Because of this early intervention, original Spanish Colonial and Mexican-era adobe structures still exist, providing a window to the City’s past.

    Leonardo Dicaprio at the SBIFF Honors Leonardo Dicaprio and Martin Scorsese, Arlington Theater, Santa Barbara, CA 02-06-14
  11. The Festivals and Celebrations
    Residents of Santa Barbara know how to celebrate! Leading our cultural festivals is the Old Spanish Days Fiesta, featuring music, crafts, dancing, and plenty of food and drink. There is also the Santa Barbara International Film Festival that draws super stars to our city. Kick back and relax at the California Wine Festival or the Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest Festival. The Santa Barbara Harbor and Seafood Festival showcases fresh-off-the-boat seafood of every kind. And nature lovers will enjoy the Ocean Awareness Festival and the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival.
  12. The Funk Zone
    Over the past couple decades, this district, which spans the area between the ocean and Highway 101, adjacent to the Amtrak station, has enjoyed an up-swell of boutique tasting rooms, cafes, galleries, and shops that cater to Santa Barbara’s contemporary side. Converted warehouses and buildings decorated with graffiti murals and contemporary art pieces set the tone for this hopping section of town.
  13. The Locals
    Those of us living in Santa Barbara value our active, friendly, trendy, relaxed neighbors. Diverse in age, ethnicity, and background, most locals have a thing for surfing, hiking, cycling, kayaking or any of our many year-round outdoor activities. That fact makes this one of the most athletic cities in the country. By the way, Santa Barbara is also known as one of the least stressed cities in the United States. Plus, the American Riviera is a green city. Every way you turn here has a garden or is a garden.
  14. The Cosmopolitan Ambiance
    A city is said to be cosmopolitan when people from different countries, regions and cultures live in it. Our cosmopolitan ambiance is provided by the wonderful mix of cultures, languages, and heritages. Santa Barbara’s South Coast residents tend to be well-educated and affluent. The Santa Barbara metro area attracts a mix of families, retirees and college students, as well as recent graduates. 
  15. The Media
    The media is diverse here as well. In addition to the mainstream corporate television, newspaper and radio outlets in Santa Barbara, there’s the Santa Barbara Independent, Montecito Journal, Nexus (UCSB student newspaper), Noozhawk, Edhat, and the award winning Santa Barbara Magazine which celebrates the area’s rich and colorful lifestyle with editorial on Santa Barbara people, homes and gardens, architecture, food and wine, history, arts, escapes and more.
  16. The Museums
    The arts are very much alive in Santa Barbara and you can spend days gallery hopping here. Among the most notable venues are:
  1. The Botanic Garden
    Widely regarded as a model botanic garden, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has long been celebrated as one of the things to love in Santa Barbara, and for the distinctive marriage of its landscape design and natural setting. This historic landmark’s collections-based research preserves California native plants and displays them in a beautiful, breathtaking setting. This living museum is a member of the American Alliance of Museums, dedicated to research, education, and conservation of California native plants.

Would you like more information on living in Santa Babara? I’m happy to discuss everything I love about the area. Or if you have something to add to this list, call (805) 886-9378, or email me at You can also contact me if you’re interested in Santa Barbara real estate. Start by exploring my comprehensive website and schedule a consultation with me at your convenience.

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Client Reviews

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch