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Exploring Santa Barbara’s Cultural Side

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Exploring Santa Barbara’s Cultural Side
In Santa Barbara, waves and wineries both come with a heady dose of culture and history. Old Mission Santa Barbara (est. 1786) was one of 21 missions founded by Franciscan priests along the California Coast. Beyond their enduring legacy of Spanish Colonial architecture, you’ll also find a thriving performing arts scene, anchored by the historic downtown Theatre District. Attractions like the hands-on MOXI Museum, the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, and the Santa Barbara Zoo ensure there’s enough to keep everyone in your crew entertained.
Sponsored by Visit Santa Barbara
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    Glimpse Into the Past
    Santa Barbara’s Spanish colonial heritage is omnipresent in the city’s architecture, which was inspired by the iconic Old Mission. For a 360-degree panorama of Santa Barbara’s rooftops and cityscape, there’s no better view than from the Clock Tour at the Courthouse. Every August, the annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta celebrates the city’s heritage with free concerts, flamenco and rodeo performances, and parades.
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    Cultural Night Out
    Opera, theater, jazz, dance, symphony orchestra, live concerts—you can experience it all in Santa Barbara’s historic downtown Theatre District, comprised of three performing arts venues. The Granada Theatre, a former movie palace (and the city’s tallest building) reopened as the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts in the eighties. The Lobero Theatre, California’s oldest continuously operating theatre, is known for jazz, dance, and musical acts, while the Ensemble Theatre Company holds court at the New Vic Theater on Victoria Street. Check the calendar—there’s bound to be something coming up.
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    Fun for All Ages
    Part of Santa Barbara’s family-friendly appeal lies in its cultural institutions that engage, entertain, and educate while promoting conservation. You can meet locals of all stripes and spots at the Santa Barbara Zoo and the Natural History Museum Sea Center. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum on Stearns Wharf features a 1,500-gallon tide pool as well as historic artifacts, while the MOXI Museum combines science and creativity for three stories of hands-on fun.
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    Legacy of the Sport of Kings
    When the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club was founded in 1911, the grand “sport of kings” found its home on the West Coast. In the years since, the third-oldest polo facility in the U.S. has seen its fair share of polo legends and royalty. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, played a charity match here during his California tour with Duchess Kate in 2011. From April through October, the club is open to visitors on Fridays for happy hour and on Sundays for polo matches—“derby attire” encouraged.
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    A Shopping Break
    With temperate weather year round, it’s a pleasure to lose yourself in Santa Barbara’s neighborhoods, browsing at both indie boutiques and major brand shops. Be sure to make it to two major downtown shopping hubs: Paseo Nuevo, featuring design elements inspired by Spanish-style architecture, and La Arcada (pictured), whose charming courtyard and alleyways date back to 1926. They’re now full of art galleries, specialty boutiques, tasting rooms, and restaurants with plenty of patio seating for toasting your successful shopping jaunt.