Santa Barbara is a California city located along the Pacific Coast about 85 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It is bisected by Interstate Highway 101, which links the city to the rest of the Central Coast area. The coastal region comprising southern Santa Barbara County is often called the “American Riviera” due to its Mediterranean climate. For most of its history, Santa Barbara was a quiet agricultural community, but in the second half of the 20th century, it evolved into a robust, well rounded city. A great deal of the city’s architecture is Spanish Colonial in style, in keeping with its Spanish heritage. Santa Barbara has passed strict ordinances in order to maintain this image, including restrictions on billboards and limits on the appearance of business signs. Tourism is a major industry in Santa Barbara, which is renowned for its warm climate, downtown beaches, beautiful views of the Santa Ynez Mountains, and Spanish architecture. There are literally dozens of wineries in the region, which has earned a reputation in particular for high-quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Santa Barbara wine grapes command prices which are among the highest in the state of California. Many early movies were filmed in Santa Barbara, and because of this it was known as the first “Hollywood of the North”. Santa Barbara houses a vibrant artistic community, and features a large permanent art collection at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Another art venue is the University Art Museum on the UC Santa Barbara Campus. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History offers outstanding exhibits and includes a modern planetarium. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, located on the waterfront, is another outstanding attraction. There are many parks in Santa Barbara, ranging from small to large, semi-wilderness areas. Some notable ones located within the city limits are: Elings Park, Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, De La Guerra Plaza, Skofield Park, Parma Park, Shoreline Park, Douglas Family Preserve, East Beach, Leadbetter Beach, West Beach, Hendry’s Beach, and Andree Clark Bird Refuge. A notable Santa Barbara event is the annual Fiesta, celebrated every August. Originally begun in the 1920′s as a tourist attraction to draw business into town, it has evolved 80 years later into a several-day-long bash of Mexican food, Spanish dancing, and parades. Another annual event, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, is held in late January, runs for 10 days, and draws over 50,000 attendees including a wide variety of celebrities (many of whom reside year-round in Santa Barbara). The annual Summer Solstice Parade, held on the first weekend after the solstice, is an event which draws up to 100,000 people annually.
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