Out and About Close to Town
For those of you who'd like to explore areas closer to town, including our many open space areas like Ellwood Mesa, More Mesa, Elings Park or Parma Park — and even the sidewalk routes that will take you through town and our local neighborhoods — town walks provide information about places to go that are practically at your doorstep.
Our area has a rich tradition of Chumash, Spanish, Mexican and American history that can often be found by exploring the streets in the downtown area and in the surrounding hills. Whether exploring Santa Barbara's unique archtecture, as typified by the Courthouse, an extended neighborhood walk to explore areas like the Riviera, or one of our open spaces you don't need to go far to have a great walk.
Plus, many of them are great for family outings!
Viewed from above, the open spaces along the ocean bluffs and along the foothills are easy to spot: in the springtime they are like emeralds, the rich green colors sparkling in the afternoon lighting. There are many of them: Ellwood Bluffs, Santa Barbara Shores, More Mesa, Lake Los Carneros, the Douglas Family Preserve, and the Carpinteria Bluffs — most of them saved by the active participation of the community, some of them like More Mesa still in danger of being developed.
These are the places where you can go to spend a few minutes or an hour or two depending on the time available to you. More important than what these areas provide for us is the wilderness corridor they offer for the animals, birds, and especially the migratory species with which we share the land. We have changed much and it is important we preserve as much as what we have left.
An interesting irony about living in Santa Barbara is that we have such a rich architectural and historical past and yet few of us know much about it. Events like the Old Spanish Days Fiesta hint at a past history and a walk through most any part of downtown Santa Barbara offers glimpses of our past — the Courthouse, Arlington Theatre, the Lobero, the Old Mission, or the Presidio — and many other buildings, historical landmarks and interesting places to visit, offer an opportunity to learn about who and what we are. Look for a selection of walks that will take you through our urban areas and neighborhoods and in the porcess provide an up close look at Santa Barbara past and present.
Perhaps Santa Barbara's most prolific writer, through his many books, Walker Tompkins provided a fascinating look at our past that is must reading for history buffs. Most his sixty-year writing career was focused on Santa Barbara, during which time he penned eighteen local history books including: Santa Barbara’s Royal Rancho, California’s Wonderful Corner, Goleta: The Good Land, Santa Barbara Past and Present, It Happened in Old Santa Barbara, Stagecoach Days in Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara History Makers.
Tompkins also provided an in depth look at each of Santa Barbara's local neighborhoods through a series of small booklets called "The Neighborhood" series. If you'd like to read them we've provided the text from the series here.
Names and Places
Santa Barbara street and place names reflect the diversity of our historical past, ranging from the Chumash through the Spanish and Mexican periods and post Civil War when Santa Barbara became more an more Americanized. Check out the link to our Street Names for a peek at how many of them came to be named.