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Santa Barbara See And Do

Condor Express (Whale Watching)
301 West Cabrillo Boulevard
Santa Barbara , California
93101
Tel: 805 882 0088
www.condorcruises.com

"Whale watching with a guarantee" is the motto of Condor Express—that's what they all say. But the waters off Santa Barbara are home to one of the world's largest concentrations of migrating blue and humpback whales, plus orcas, minke whales, dolphins, and other finned mammals throughout the year. Best time to see blues and humpbacks: May through September. Dolphins can be seen throughout the year, and orcas surface occasionally between late February and March. Catch the gray whales during their winter migration to Mexico between December and March, or between February and May, when they head north with their newborn calves. Condor Express offers two-hour coast cruises and half-day tours of the Channel Islands, depending on whale migrations. The only time that spotting a whale is not guaranteed is during the fall.

Douglas Family Preserve
Linda Road
Santa Barbara , California
93101
Tel: 805 564 5418

A hefty donation from actor Michael Douglas saved the Santa Barbara Coastal Bluffs—now called the Douglas Family Preserve—from being developed into housing. The 70-acre grassy mesa sits above the popular Arroyo Burro Beach, and a walking trail meanders from the entrance on Linda Road to a bluff overlooking the water. Dogs are permitted off-leash within designated areas, making it a favorite for local dog lovers.

Open sunrise to 7 pm.

Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara (Kayaking)
117B Harbor Way
Santa Barbara , California
93101
Tel: 805 899 4925
www.kayaksb.com

See the flip side of Santa Barbara from a sit-on-top kayak. Paddle Sports offers a range of guided day trips along the coast; full-moon tours departing from the harbor just before sunset; kayak and bike combos; and day trips and multi-day kayaking trips in the Channel Islands, where you can paddle into mammoth sea caves and coves, encounter dolphins and seals, see spectacular blowholes, and even camp overnight at Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz Island.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
1212 Mission Canyon Road
Santa Barbara , California
93105
Tel: 805 682 4726
www.sbbg.org

You don't have to be from the green-thumb club to love this 78-acre garden in the foothills of Mission Canyon. Wander more than five miles of trails through desert, mountain, redwood forest and arroyo habitats, or take a guided nature tour at 11 a.m. on the weekends and every day at 2 p.m. The garden also has a Japanese teahouse; retail nursery; garden shop; classes in such subjects as Japanese tea traditions and botanical illustration; nature cruises on Lake Casitas; and overnight field courses in the Channel Islands.

Open daily 9 am to 6 pm March through October, 9 am to 5 pm November through February.

Santa Barbara Courthouse
1100 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara , California
93101
www.santabarbaracourthouse.org

Rebuilt after the 1925 earthquake that destroyed much of downtown, this working courthouse with Spanish-Moorish architecture, hand-painted ceilings, wrought-iron chandeliers, imported tiles, painted murals, and a sunken tropical garden is a National Historic Landmark. Make sure to climb the steps to the 85-foot-high tower for a 360-degree view (it closes early, so arrive before 3:30 p.m.). Free guided tours of the courthouse are offered Monday through Saturday at 2 p.m., and Monday, Tuesday, and Friday at 10:30 a.m.

Santa Barbara Mission
2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara , California
93105
Tel: 805 682 4149
www.santabarbaramission.org

Even if you avoid church tours like the plague, head for this hilltop landmark—the view and historical experience are worth it. Built in 1815 after an earthquake destroyed the original building, this pink sandstone mission with red-tile roof and twin bell towers is the most beautiful of California's 21 missions, and the only one in continuous use since its founding in 1786. Tours are given daily.

Open daily 9 am to 4:30 pm.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State Street
Santa Barbara , California
93101
Tel: 805 963 4354
www.sbmuseart.org

Founded in 1941, this museum has a surprisingly strong permanent Asian art collection, which includes earthenware Chinese zodiac figures dating back to the sixth century. It also houses American and European art from the 18th century onward (including works by Matisse, Singer Sargent, and Picasso) as well as more contemporary works, from pop art to the current day. In addition, there's an interactive gallery for kids and a variety of visiting exhibits, which have included new photography and video from China, and "Garbo's Garbos," 90 vintage photographs from the actress's private collection.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 11 am to 5 pm.

Santa Barbara Natural History Museum
2559 Puesta del Sol Road
Santa Barbara , California
93105
Tel: 805 682 4711
www.sbnature.org

On 11 acres in Mission Canyon, the museum covers the region with exhibits on local birdlife, insects, mammals, and marine life, plus Chumash Indian artifacts, planetarium shows, and nature trails. Outside the museum, a 72-foot-long skeleton of a blue whale gives you a sense of the giant mammals that migrate through Santa Barbara's waters. The maze of galleries can be difficult to navigate, so make sure to pick up the map.

Open daily 10 am to 5 pm.

Segway of Santa Barbara
24 E. Mason Street
Santa Barbara , California
93101
Tel: 805 963 7672
www.segwayofsb.com

Hopefully you'll fare better than President Bush, who took a tumble during his first ride on a Segway, the self-balancing electric-powered human transporter. It's really a no-brainer, and the most fun way to tour downtown Santa Barbara. You can rent a Segway on a per hour or per day basis, or opt for a two- to three-hour guided tour of Old Santa Barbara or Montecito.

Open daily 10 am to 6 pm.

Ty Warner Sea Center
2011 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara , California
93101
Tel: 805 962 2526
www.sbnature.org/seacenter/

A cross between an aquarium and a laboratory, the Sea Center, run by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, makes it possible to play marine scientist for a day. Volunteer staff show how to collect water and sea-life samples from the ocean's bottom (they lower oceanographic equipment into the sea through a trapdoor in the floor). You'll also learn to safely handle little sea creatures like starfish, sea urchins, and even miniature sharks in a special tank with wave action that mimics the ebb and flow of the tide.

Open daily 10 am to 5 pm.

Walking Tours
Santa Barbara , California

After the 1925 earthquake destroyed downtown, Santa Barbara was rebuilt in Spanish colonial style, and these old landmarks are part of the town's charm. Start at the Santa Barbara Courthouse and follow the self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour via a map from the Santa Barbara Visitor Center (1 Garden Street; 805-965-3021; www.santabarbaraca.com), with stops at 22 historic tile-roofed buildings in a 12-block area of downtown, including the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the 1870s-era Lobero Theatre, and late-18th-century sites from the Presidio. For guided historical walks, the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara leads tours on Saturdays at 10 a.m. (unless it's raining), departing from Plaza de la Guerra (805-965-6307; www.afsb.org); downtown art and architecture walks start from the public library on Sundays at 10 a.m.

Wine Country
Santa Ynez Valley , California

Sideways put Santa Barbara's pinot noir in the spotlight, but let's not forget the award-winning chardonnays and great cabernet. Wine country is only 30 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, with 80-plus wineries to choose from—unless you have a willing designated driver, take a tour. Cloud Climbers' Back-Country Wine Tour has a terrific young staff and six-passenger open Jeep Wranglers that make vineyard-hopping fun and easy (805-646-3200; www.ccjeeps.com). For the vine huggers out there, Sustainable Vine Wine Tours offers guided tours of organic and biodynamic wineries in a soybean-powered van (805-698-3911; www.sustainablevine.com). Then there's Wine EdVentures, an educational safari of the Santa Ynez Valley in a plush van (805-965-9463; www.welovewines.com). All pick you up in Santa Barbara and offer private tastings of six to eight vinos at a minimum of four different wineries each day, plus a gourmet picnic lunch. Don't have an entire day to devote to wine? You can always explore Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail on foot. The self-guided tour leads you through eight wineries and tasting rooms conveniently located downtown. Key stops include Cellar 205 Winery & Marketplace, Santa Barbara Winery, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, and East Beach Wine Company. There's even a tasting room on Stearns Wharf. Most wineries offer wine purchase drop-offs at local hotels as well as maps to guide you through your grape adventure.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.