You don’t have to go far to find obvious treasures from Santa Barbara’s past. A walking tour of El Pueblo Viejo district — the designated historic downtown area — reveals many examples of the red-tile roofs, decorative ironwork, and whitewashed walls that are a link to the city’s heritage. But there are also other notable, not-to-be-missed sights that will provide memorable moments for visitors.
The fantastic Spanish-Moorish-style Santa Barbara County Courthouse, for example, delights the eye with exuberant displays of brilliantly colored tiles and cinematic murals in some of its historic rooms. Above it all the clock tower observation deck offers a spectacular panorama of the city, the mountains, and the harbor. Visible from the tower are a host of other Santa Barbara landmarks as well.
Close at hand, for example, is the spire of one of several historic theaters that are still performing arts venues. The architecture and interiors of these theaters provide interesting backdrops for the music, plays and dance presented there.
Toward the hills are two pink-tinted towers of the centuries-Old Mission Santa Barbara, hailed as the “Queen of the Missions” for its iconic beauty. It was founded by Franciscan fathers in 1786 as a church and community for the conversion of the native Chumash. Don’t forget to stop by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for a lesson on the Santa Barbara region’s unique and diverse natural history.
Stretching to the ocean is State Street, which ends at the wharf — with its own contingent of shops and restaurants — that recalls the days before easy land access, when visitors and goods arrived by boat and docked there. Along the way is the Presidio Neighborhood, named for the fort that became the heart of European settlement here.
In fact, all throughout downtown, historic buildings tell the story of the people and events that shaped today’s Santa Barbara and make it such a welcoming stop on so many itineraries.