Santa Barbara has a long, storied history as a destination for romance. Couples have been falling in love and saying “I do” on The American Riviera® for well over a century. The city’s aesthetic beauty, natural charms and sensual atmosphere create a prime setting for wooing, whether you’re renewing vows or getting down on bended knee. With engagement season upon us, consider popping the question at one of these memorable locations where countless love stories have begun, time after time.
If you’re going for the full dramatic effect complete with epic photo ops, opt for one of Santa Barbara’s most iconic settings. Stroll hand-in-hand out to the end of Stearns Wharf, where you can turn back to face the classic view of the dramatic Santa Ynez mountain range, cityscape and palm-lined Cabrillo Boulevard.
For something more elevated and action-oriented, hike to the top of Inspiration Point at sunrise or sunset and get a bird’s eye perspective of the entire city, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands offshore. Another perk? You’re likely to have plenty of privacy in the wilderness at 1,800 feet above town.
Right in the heart of downtown, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse clocktower offers an equally swoon-worthy 360-degree view that feels very Mediterranean given the sea of terracotta red-tiled roofs rolling out towards the waterfront. The ground level sunken gardens and stone archway are equally photogenic locations to get down on bended knee at the Courthouse. With another architectural landmark in the background—the regal “Queen” of California’s missions—the grassy knoll around the A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Garden presents a fragrant and colorful setting for an elegant yet down-to-earth proposal.
Ask for your loved one’s hand in marriage while cruising the Santa Barbara coastline as the golden sunset light turns the sights of the city and the Harbor into silhouette. There’s nothing quite like feeling the fresh sea breeze on your face as you snuggle up close watching the dolphins frolic—with glasses of local sparkling wine in hand! You can either join a public cruise or make special arrangements for a private charter with outfitters like the Santa Barbara Sailing Center, Sunset Kidd and Celebration Cruises, each offering a variety of boat sizes and styles.
Santa Barbara abounds with public parks and gardens full of picturesque nooks, trails and perches ideal for intimate proposals. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a 78-acre natural wonderland where you can choose from diverse native landscapes that run the gamut from a towering redwood forest and meadows filled with wildflowers to fragrant chaparral and creek-lined canyon trails. Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens is a manicured parked filled with thematic gardens including a tactile sensory garden designed for the visually and physically impaired. The butterfly garden, Koi pond and gazebo are other peaceful parts of the popular downtown park.
Sand in Your Toes
Of course, Santa Barbara beaches are pretty darn romantic, too. You’ll be spoilt for choice here with Santa Barbara County’s 100 miles coastline. Butterfly Beach and Hendry’s Beach are two primo locations for a stunning set-up in the sand. Upgrade your beach romance game with a “Proposal Picnic” impeccably styled by Santa Barbara Picnic Company. They pull out all the stops to ensure everything looks fabulous and is very comfortable, between the blankets, accent pillows and florals—and after he/she/they has said “yes,” you won’t have to worry about packing or cleaning up because it’s all handled for you. If you want to DIY your beach picnic, Slate Catering can prepare an attractive gourmet picnic spread that will surely impress your soon-to-be-betrothed and keep your leg work to a minimum.
For a touch of country flavor, head over the hills to Santa Barbara Wine Country where you and your amour can sip and swirl amongst the vineyards. In the Santa Ynez Valley, take advantage of the picnic area on the grounds of the bucolic Gainey Vineyard, or relish in the romance of the Provençal-style Sunstone Winery which has hosted many a celebrity wedding.
If you and your love adore pinot noir, visit one of the wineries in the cooler climate Sta. Rita Hills growing area. Picnic among some of the oldest vineyards in the region at Sanford Winery, or cozy up in the stylish, eclectic converted barn at Babcock Winery & Vineyards.
In the Santa Maria Valley, Presqu’ile Winery offers an elevated tasting experience complete with table service. And with their emphasis on sparkling wines, Riverbench Vineyard & Winery could not be a more fitting venue to pop the question with a bottle of celebratory bubbly at the ready.