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Essential Food and Wine Experiences in Santa Barbara

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Essential Food and Wine Experiences in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara anchors a wine-growing region with one of California’s preeminent terroirs, thanks largely to the Santa Ynez Mountains, which run parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Not only do they make a dramatic backdrop for the city, but they also create microclimates where grapes thrive. As a result, touring area wineries is one of the highlights of any Santa Barbara getaway. But you don't need to travel far to get a taste of Santa Barbara’s vintages. Downtown is full of tasting rooms, working wineries, and wine bars, along with restaurants that have top-notch wine lists and serve up refined cuisine, too—entrées inspired by the seasons and featuring daily fresh-caught bounty from the sea.
Sponsored by Visit Santa Barbara
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    A DIY Downtown Wine Tour
    With more than 20 tasting rooms and working wineries, downtown Santa Barbara is an oenophile’s dream. The Urban Wine Trail has mapped out downtown’s tasting rooms, making it a breeze to plan a self-guided tour. Destinations are primarily clustered in two neighborhoods: the Funk Zone, with such gems as Les Marchands wine bar (pictured), and the Presidio Neighborhood, Santa Barbara’s pretty-as-a-postcard historic core. Here, tasting rooms are clustered along Anacapa Street and El Paseo.
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    A Wandering Feast on State Street
    You’ll find it’s impossible to walk along palm-lined State Street without stopping—and stopping again. The downtown thoroughfare is lined with restaurants including Loquita (pictured), casual cafés, ice cream shops, and other enticements. In its final stretch, State Street crosses into the Funk Zone, a reclaimed industrial area now home to taco shops, breweries, bakeries, and coffee shops, too. By the time your toes touch the sand, you might find yourself in a food coma, ready for an afternoon siesta on a lounge chair in the sun.
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    Local Is What’s On Tap
    Santa Barbara’s craft beer scene is thriving, with breweries and taprooms across the city serving up everything from pale ales and pilsners to seasonal offerings from nearby Central Coast breweries. At Funk Zone newcomer Lama Dog, the draft list changes daily, and the bottle shop features roughly 350 different bottles. Kicking back on the patio with friends and a couple of pints, soaking in Santa Barbara’s golden rays—now that’s a perfect pairing.
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    An Epic (and Easy) Day in Wine Country
    Picture this: Not even an hour’s drive northeast from Santa Barbara and you’re in the heart of one of California’s most reputed wine growing regions, the Santa Ynez Valley. Deciding to make the trip feels like a no-brainer; the trick is not to over-schedule your wine country excursion. Pick one or two wineries to visit, such as Sunstone Winery (pictured) and leave the rest up to spontaneity. Or put your itinerary in the hands of professionals at companies like Santa Barbara Wine Country Tours or Rooted Vine Tours.
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    The Catches of the Day
    It doesn’t get fresher than the rock crab, squid, halibut, California spiny lobster, and sea urchin (uni) still in its prickly black shell available at the Saturday Fisherman’s Market. Strolling through here is truly a feast for the senses. Luckily, there’s no need to wait until Saturday as Santa Barbara’s bounty from the sea can be enjoyed every day. Whether its poke bowls or uni shooters at the Santa Barbara Fish Market in the harbor, sunset dinner at one of the elegant waterfront restaurants or a seafood feast at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company at the end of Stearns Wharf, you know it’s going to be good.