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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Santa Barbara: Downtown places that locals love attitude, a point of view, a design perspective from healthy living blogger, writer, editor and university instructor Alexander Williams.   Known for her wit, attempts to make the perfect baguette, and love of the color orange, Alexandra writes the blog Fun and Fit with her twin sister Kymberly. You can follow her on Twitter , Facebook, Instagram, You Tube.

Today's city slant:

Downtown places that locals love.
Santa Barbara, CA

Take it away, Alex! 

I live in a resort community, and know some of the best places to recommend to visitors. To me, the word “best” means a combination of popular tourist spots and local favorites. So in this post you’ll get just a sea-salty whiff of some of the downtown places I prefer.

Everyone stops at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, and you should too. It’s a working courthouse and you can take an elevator all the way to the clock tower. Cultural events, festivals, public demonstrations, weddings, holiday celebrations - all are held in the expansive garden area. I got married in this corner of the garden in 1992.

C’est Cheese imports cheese from around the world; from mild to super stinky. Around the corner from the Presidio, you can get just cheese to take home or for a picnic, or you can order lunch and eat outside in the sun. The owners will happily let you practice your French on them. It’s gotten so popular that it’s expanding to take up the entire corner. Bring on the Stink!


I was walking from the courthouse to get a picture of the Arts & Letters Cafe inside Sullivan Goss-an American Gallery , when I stopped to snap this building. It looks like a combination condo/ office building, yet what intrigued me was that it’s actually the front of a parking structure. Kind of fancy, and a clever use of precious downtown space.


Besides the fact that the owners of the art gallery (with the cafe tucked inside the gallery, yet actually outdoors - got that?) are my next-door neighbors, I enjoy this spot because owner Frank Goss is a genius at putting on exhibits. Andrew Wyeth is going on display in a few days. Who wouldn’t want to eat in this spot, surrounded by engaging art?


Directly across the street from Sullivan Goss is the public library. The exterior isn’t exactly my style, but it is impressive. And lest you think S.B. is provincial, the library is HUGE.


Next door to the library, on State Street (worth a walk just to window shop and people-watch. It’s the main road in downtown), is the Museum of Art. Yup, we do love art here! While you’re doing that walk down State Street, look carefully at the buildings. This door is just one example of the Spanish heritage we have here. As you can see, lots of courtyards are tucked away here too.



After this quick romp through Santa Barbara, drive over to the Daily Grind for coffee and breakfast or lunch. Of course, as you can see from this empty bottom shelf, they sell out quickly. I got the last cranberry streusel muffin to complement my vanilla decaf latte. You will find yourself surrounded by locals here, as visitors tend to stick to the chain coffee spots on State Street. You’ll also find plenty of parking!


If you ever come to Santa Barbara, take an Architectural Walking Tour of the Historic downtown area. I took it a few years ago and was fascinated by the history and diversity of the buildings. Besides, the guide was an architect, so you’d get a more “official” version of downtown than I just provided.

Photo credits: Alexandra’s iPhone

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