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You've probably driven by the Funk Zone-or maybe even through it-not knowing you were in the midst of one of Santa Barbara's newest revitalization's. On a recent Friday, I ventured down to the district to take advantage of two things: a gorgeous 70-degree January afternoon and the traditional gyros served at Metropolis Fine Foods Merchant only on, you guessed it, Fridays. (Sidenote: I'm particular to the favorite Greek dish, but this quaint fine foods market is worth hitting up Monday through Saturday for a fresh sandwich, boxed lunch or assortment of unique wines and cheeses.) What I saw was not a scene the name would imply, but instead, the furthest thing from it. Local artists created masterpieces of public art. Others wandered into local wineries, such as Kunin and Municipal Winemakers, for an afternoon tasting on a warm winter day. People chatted on storefront steps as they soaked up the sun. It was obvious that the Funk Zone is fast becoming one of SB's hot spots, even when not coupled with a seventy-degree day.
Located between the Pacific Ocean and the 101, the Funk Zone got its name years ago for being just that: a somewhat desolate section of downtown that had all but been forgotten. But in recent years, the area has undergone a slow but steady facelift, catering to Santa Barbara's roots with winemakers taking up shop, entrepreneurs opening new doors and longtime locals refurbishing the historic buildings, which now house an eclectic mix of stores, restaurants and other contemporary culture.
The area doesn't have a funk so much as it has a vibe. The New York Times thinks so, too. A recent NYT Travel feature highlights the new Funk Zone flavors-all of which offer a fun paradox of modern trade housed in historic architecture. Aged warehouses and forgotten scuba stores are now flush with winemakers, surfboard shapers, textile shops and inviting eateries. The article will get you excited to visit, but the vibrancy of the Funk Zone is what is sure to keep you coming back for some of Santa Barbara's truest colors.
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