A Weekend in Santa Barbara

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Drive Time: Located 466 mi from Phoenix, getting to Santa Barbara is almost an 8-hour car ride.

See and Do:

More than 200 years after it was established, Old Mission Santa Barbara (2201 Laguna St., 805-682-4713) is still a central cultural landmark and continues to have an active and engaged parish. The "Queen of the Missions" was the tenth California mission to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans, but just because the Mission is older doesn't mean it can't have some fun. Inspired by the tradition of 16th-century artists depicting the Madonna on pavements outside of churches, street painters recently transformed the Mission plaza. Using pastels, the artists created rich and vivid, large-scale images during the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival. This year, the festival took place from May 26-28, so the drawings are still relatively fresh.

For an easygoing horseback ride through the Santa Ynez Mountains, stop by the Circle Bar B Guest Ranch and Stables (1800 Refugio Road, Goleta, 805-968-1113). If you arrive early, you can chat with one of the wranglers before a cowboy leads you through the fern-lined trail through small creeks, past a waterfall and up to lookout points of the Channel Islands. The 1 ½ hour rides are priced at $50 while the half-day rides are $90.

On a day that is too foggy or too toasty by the beach, explore the shaded Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (1212 Mission Canyon Rd., 805-682-4726), the oldest California garden that is devoted to preserving and showing diverse native flora. Five and a half miles of public trails wind through the 40 acres, featuring over 1,000 different types of plants. What can also be seen are the remains of the Mission Dam and aqueduct built in 1807 and the Japanese Teahouse ShinKanAn, which is used for chanoyu tea ceremonies.

Shop: State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara features distinctive specialty stores as well as more recognizable retailers. Filled with a variety of galleries, jewelry stores and gift shops, the shopping sections El Paseo (at the 800 block near De la Guerra St.) and La Arcada (off of Figuroa St.) are one of the most convenient places to meander and absorb some of the Southern California atmosphere. While strolling through outdoor plazas and brick-lined sidewalks, note the fountains and bronze statues that adorn the Spanish-style courtyards. When you're done shopping, continue down to Santa Barbara's most visited landmark, Stearns Wharf, located at the bottom of State Street and marked by a three-dolphin fountain at the entrance.

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Mary Richardson