Thursday Night: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Sunset is when the fun begins in Santa Barbara on Thursday night. (Photo: Corbis Images)
Santa Barbara, a coastal city about 95 miles north of Los Angeles, has multiple personalities. It’s a destination for the wealthy and established — old-money types who look at art downtown and enjoy ocean views from a gorgeous stretch of the city known as the Riviera because it brings to mind tony towns in the Mediterranean. But Santa Barbara is also a raucous college town, where downtown bars are packed with 21-year-olds on the make.
Couture-clad crowds and coeds collide in the city’s diverse eateries, which include classic taquerias, modern canteens from famous chefs, and the vendors at a new, ultra-hip public market. Grown-up fun comes in many packages here, especially on Thursday night.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art downtown is free every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. And during downtown’s regular 1st Thursday gatherings, art galleries stay open late for events that might include lectures, live music, and wine tastings.
The wine flows freely at the Santa Barbara Public Market (Photo: Bruce Caron/Flickr)
Food and wine lovers, though, are celebrating a different kind of artistry at the Santa Barbara Public Market, which opened in April. The airy, industrial-chic downtown space with high ceilings boasts a variety of vendors, including some of Southern California’s top artisanal food purveyors. Many locals come in to shop for fancy groceries, but it’s much more fun to drop by for a pre-dinner snack and drink.
Related: See This, Skip That: Santa Barbara
Sit at the counter at Santa Monica Seafood for some raw oysters, or grab Belcampo Meat Co.’s spectacular dry-aged grass-fed burger and take it to the on-site wine and craft-beer bar. You’ll see happy-hour crowds standing and mingling at the simply named Wine + Beer, where by-the-glass options can include local wine-country favorites like Stolpman Vineyards Syrah and sparkling French indulgences like Michel Olivier Cremant.
The line at La Super-Rica Taqueria is worth the wait. (Photo: ohocheese/Flickr)