Arts & Culture
History and legacies abound in Santa Barbara County. With roots reaching back over two centuries, the spirit of Santa Barbara's Chumash, Spanish, Mexican, and American heritage still flourishes today. From ballet to the opera, the symphony to modern dance, Santa Barbara is a kaleidoscopic cultural adventure. Live theater, world-renowned lecturers, writing and storytelling conferences, interactive museums, and more make up Santa Barbara County's vast array of cultural offerings.
Embark on the "Red Tile Walking Tour" in downtown Santa Barbara's historic arts district. Begin at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, a graceful 1929 example of Spanish-Moorish architecture surrounded by meticulously landscaped sunken gardens. Inside, historic murals, carved doors, imported tiles, and wrought-iron chandeliers exemplify Old World splendor. The spectacular view from atop the 80-foot clock tower features the iconic American Riviera® panorama of Santa Barbara's red-tile roofs, the mountains, and the sea. Next, cross the street to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, home to a comprehensive collection of fine art, including the only intact mural in the United States by world-renowned Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Continue the tour with lunch at an outdoor café in El Paseo, the oldest freestanding shopping center in America, which is built around the historic de la Guerra homestead and exhibits Moorish-style tiles and calming fountains. Next, visit the Santa Barbara Historical Museum to see unique artifacts, art, photographs, furnishings, and textiles dating back to the 15th century. Then, explore the very sight where Santa Barbara began over 200 years ago, at the Presidio Fort.
Afternoon & Evening
After dinner in the historic arts district, take in a show at the Lobero Theatre or The Granada Theatre. The Lobero is California's oldest, continuously operating theatre. Originally founded in 1873 and rebuilt in 1924, it is recognized as one of Santa Barbara's architectural jewels and a State and City landmark. The Granada is where art and history converge, a grand theatrical tradition that adds immeasurably to the spirit of our city. The Granada is a year round, multi-purpose venue for music, theatre, dance, opera, musicals, films, lectures and conferences.
Don't miss Mission Santa Barbara, the tenth of the California Missions founded by the Spanish Franciscans and the only one to be continuously occupied and used since its founding in 1786. Self-guided tours begin in the gift shop and explore eight restored rooms, the cloister gardens, chapel, historic cemetery, and beautiful Moorish fountain and courtyard. Its beautiful setting, unique twin bell towers, and lovely façade have earned it the title "Queen of Missions."
Let Art Tours by Dorothy and Jane serve as your step-on-guide. They offer tours of over 60 artists' studios throughout the area and a unique chance to interact directly with the artists. Santa Barbara Studio Artists also offers opportunities to interact with local artists.
Afternoon & Evening
Step into the past at the romantic Arlington Center for the Performing Arts, a theater that reflects the glamour of the 1920s. The dramatic interior, with its sparkling ceiling, arched doorways, and elegant balconies, gives the impression of an exterior courtyard. The theater is home to the Santa Barbara Symphony, Community Arts Music Association (CAMA) events that bring the finest classical musicians from around the globe to Santa Barbara, and The Broadway Series.
Continue to Lompoc, to view the city-wide Lompoc Murals Project. More than 60 murals decorate public spaces throughout town, establishing Lompoc as the "City of Murals in the Valley of Flowers."
Afternoon & Evening
Enjoy professional Theater hosted by Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, the only resident theater company located between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Its two-year conservatory training program boasts alumni including Robin Williams. PCPA presents year-round professional theater in Santa Maria at the Marian and Severson Theatres, and during the summer, at the open-air Festival Theatre in Solvang.
Seasonal Events & Additional Activity Options
Santa Barbara International Film Festival includes galas, panels, post-film discussions, and world premieres attended by world-wide film-makers and celebrities.
Presidio Days is a three-day celebration of Santa Barbara's birthday and multi-ethnic heritage at historical El Presidio.
I Madonnari Street Painting Festival is an annual Italian Street Painting Festival always the first weekend in May on the grounds of Mission Santa Barbara.
Summer Solstice Parade celebrates the longest day of the year with fantastic costumes, music, and dance.
PCPA Theaterfest Summer Season offers festival theater in Solvang and Santa Maria.
Old Spanish Days Fiesta is a five day festival featuring a grand parade, Spanish marketplaces, a carnival, rodeo, and exciting nightlife.
Santa Barbara International Jazz Festival showcases music of the Americas.
Additional Adobes to Visit:
Hill-Carrillo Adobe, El Cuartel Adobe, Orena Adobe, Lugo Adobe, Rochin Adobe, Santiago de la Guerra Adobe, Covarrubias Adobe.
For more information on arts & culture activities, contact the Sales Department at:
Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission