The Outdoorsy Reader’s Guide to Santa Barbara
by Rachel S
I had the idea for this post a week or two ago, when I happened to be sitting outside in the objectively lovely Santa Barbara, CA. I like reading, but I also really like existing next to nature while I’m doing solitary activities, so I decided to put in a little legwork and add to my already decent list of nice outdoor places to enjoy a book in Santa Barbara. Someone has probably done this before, but I honestly just got too excited about the idea to pass it up.
*My only credentials for writing about this topic are that I’ve lived in the area since I was 9 (barring four years away at university), and really really enjoy reading outside comfortably.*
This list is going to cover the larger Santa Barbara & Goleta area, as there are a great many people (normal folk and UCSB students alike) who essentially live in both places at once. It is also in no particular order. All the photos were taken by yours truly.
The Sunken Gardens
The Sunken Gardens is the official name for a large green area tucked in the L-bend of the Santa Barbara Courthouse (the big, pretty one). It’s typically quiet, and on any given day with nice weather you’ll come across not a few tourists taking photos of the building and gardens, as well as others just there to enjoy the weather or eat their lunch. I used to work in the area, and since it was close to the SBMTD Transit Center I’d often come here to read for a bit before my shifts started. It’s directly across from the public library (if you are in dire need of reading material), and is kitty-corner to a nice cafe where you can go get refreshments as needed.
There is almost always shade on the main sets of stairs coming out under the arch facing Anacapa St., as well as in the corners in the Gardens with more trees. This is only important if you’re sensitive to sun, and/or get easily fatigued by sitting in direct sunlight for too long. Or you could wear a hat, but be forewarned!
Alice Keck Park
I’m using Alice Keck to refer not only to Alice Keck
Park proper, but the two lovely parks that are adjacent and kitty-corner to this park as well. Alice Keck has the most varied landscape (who doesn’t love a good duck pond, shady gravel paths, and a rolling lawn?), while the other two (whose names escape me) are a bit more flat and grassy, but have ample shade and usually will have office workers from nearby eating lunch and enjoying the inevitable sunshine. If you’re a parent, one of these is also home to Kid’s World (if it has another, “official” name I’ve never heard a local call it that), an enormous wooden playground.
Anyway, the area is pretty peaceful, usually has copious amounts of shade, and plenty of room to spread out.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Specifically, the front steps of the SB Museum of Art that lead down to State Street. I was here a few days ago, just about noon, and some trees on the street provided some lovely shade to read under. The steps were also largely vacant, with occasional passersby walking up to enter the museum. If you like people watching and generally being in the thick of it while you’re doing solitary activities, this is a good one! It’s also very close to the Public Library and the Courthouse, if you’re in town for touristing and want a bit of a break. If you don’t have a car (good for you), it’s also within easy walking distance from the SBMTD Transit Center. State Street, also has numerous bars, cafes, and restaurants if you get peckish (La Arcada, directly behind and to the South of the Museum, has some allegedly tasty places).
This would not be a good list if there was not mention of the beach somewhere on it. The beaches are what most people seem to like about Santa Barbara (aside from the over-saturation of fancy restaurants and aesthetically pleasing Spanish-style architecture). And really, I don’t need to reinvent the wheel and do a comprehensive go-over of all the beaches in the area. I’m pretty sure someone else on the internet has done that. For most visitors, though, East Beach is the easiest to reach — just at the end of State St., alongside Cabrillo Boulevard. It also has a pier (we call it a “Wharf” because we think we are fancy), if you’re into piers. And now that I’m thinking about it, East Beach is also very large. But really, probably because I’m from California I find that it’s hard to recommend beaches, everyone likes their own thing. If you have dogs, Hendry’s Beach is really nice because they have a bit of shore where you’re allowed to have dogs off-leash. Goleta beach is very relaxed, and also has a pier if you’re into that. But you really can’t go that wrong with a beach.
Enjoy panoramic ocean views but aren’t really into the idea of sand getting in your pants? Go to Shoreline. It’s high up on a bluff overlooking the ocean, Santa Barbara harbor, and the popular Leadbetter & East Beaches. There’s also beach access via a staircase under a Torii gate in the park, in case you change your mind about the ocean. I scoped out the place, and it is long, thin, and littered with trees along the cliffside and benches, as well as plain old grass if that’s more your style. In short, it seems like there’s sufficient shade at almost all hours of the day, a gorgeous view, and some nice breezes for those of us that overheat quickly.
Anyway, that’s it for this week!