Earthy and Glamorous: The American Riviera

Santa Barbara Harbor

Santa Barbara Harbor. Photo courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara


The American Riviera®

Meetings in Santa Barbara aren’t just meetings, they’re an experience that enriches the mind, strengthens the body and inspires the soul. Santa Barbara has been considered “The American Riviera®” for over a century. A self-contained paradise conveniently located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Santa Barbara is a vibrant community surrounded by undeveloped coastline with the Channel Islands National Park offshore and the Los Padres National Forest inland. The city’s signature red-tile roofs, white-washed buildings and lush gardens are nestled between a dramatic mountain range and the sparkling sea, evoking the topography and architectural aesthetic of the European Riviera—with a distinctly Californian twist.


Santa Barbara is a place to revive for meeting attendees 


Equal parts earthy and glamorous, The American Riviera® is truly a place to revive for meeting attendees with unique team building opportunities, and diverse experiences that will re-charge clients on both a professional and a personal level. Simultaneously sophisticated and bohemian, easygoing and energetic, Santa Barbara offers big city-caliber arts and entertainment in intimate, historic venues and a robust year-round lineup of colorful events and cultural festivals. The city is celebrated for its walkability and revered for its refined collection of resorts and hideaways, well-curated shops and abundant outdoor adventures on land and at sea. Add a thriving wine country world-renowned for its pinot noir and a hyper-local culinary scene fueled by local fisheries, farms, ranches and artisan purveyors, and there’s no denying that Santa Barbara is a destination where living well has become an art form.

Santa Barbara Mission
The Santa Barbara Mission is known as the Queen of the California missions.


Why Santa Barbara?

Meeting planners love Santa Barbara for its abundance of lodging options. Choose from over 70 properties ranging from affordable motels, beachside hotels equipped with meeting space and boardrooms, or luxury resorts. It’s easy to find an option that accommodates meeting needs and budget.

Santa Barbara has new and unique openings to choose from, including the Santa Barbara Inn, which recently reopened after a multi-year renovation. For corporate meetings and social functions, the Inn’s 1,200-square foot Montecito Room is ideal, accommodating up to 80 guests.

The Hotel Californian, opening this summer, will be the new center of Santa Barbara’s waterfront. Incorporating the façade of the original 1925 Hotel Californian, this 121-room coastal destination features a rooftop pool and event deck providing panoramic views of the coastline and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Located steps from the beach, one block from Amtrak station and adjacent to Santa Barbara’s vibrant Funk Zone, Hotel Californian includes a luxurious Moroccan-inspired spa, a high-end boutique, distinctive dining venues, a best-in-class ballroom and stunning al fresco settings.

On the horizon are the openings of Goleta-based hotels, the Hilton Garden Inn Goleta anticipated for this spring and the Residence Inn by Marriott expected to be complete fall 2017. The luxury beachfront estate, Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito, with 124 guestrooms and 37 suites, 12,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, including a 6,000-square-foot ballroom, is expected to open in 2018.


Shopping at La Arcada. Photo by Jay Sinclair. Used with permission.
Shopping at La Arcada. Photo by Jay Sinclair. Used with permission.


Planners enjoy the manageable and pedestrian-friendly size of the destination and the diversity of venues and activities that can be worked into programs. Venues pay tribute to Santa Barbara’s rich cultural heritage with options ranging from boutique vineyards that offer private tastings, to chartered catamarans and yachts, to recreation facilities that appeal to the golfers or polo enthusiasts in the group.


View of the city and coastline from the courthouse. Photo courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara


Plan a special event in one of the area’s many historic buildings, ranging from the Santa Barbara Historical Museum to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse or at one of its newest venues like MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Science + Exploration, a new science and technology museum with one of the best views of the city from its rooftop Sky Garden. Or add a natural element when planning a meeting at an indoor or outdoor facility, which range from ornately landscaped plazas to waterfront pavilions with views of The Channel Islands and the Santa Ynez Mountains.

The close proximity to beaches, world-class artistic and cultural offerings, which include some 50 museums and galleries and a wide range of performance venues, and award-winning wine country (just a 45-minute drive north of the city), help planners create memorable experiences. Santa Barbara has evolved into a formidable food center where seasoned and up-start chefs alike create fine cuisine based on seasonal local ingredients, accompanied by superb Santa Barbara County wines — world-class vintages from the world’s most diverse viticultural region.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Photo by Mark Weber. Used with permission.


“Here in Santa Barbara, it’s common to find a winemaker from a local vineyard educating meeting attendees at a reception – infusing the local story into a palatable experience. Known for its rich agriculture and seafood, Santa Barbara hotels are offering Santa Barbara locavore “farm-to-table” type events, curating local produce and seafood (like Santa Barbara sea urchin or uni),” said Michelle Carlen, Director of Sales at Visit Santa Barbara. “Instead of typical meeting breaks, attendees are refreshing with healthy food offerings in a Farmers Market style setting.”


“Here in Santa Barbara, it’s common to find a winemaker from a local vineyard educating meeting attendees at a reception – infusing the local story into a palatable experience.”


About 36 tasting rooms alone are located in downtown Santa Barbara, the popular Funk Zone and along the Urban Wine Trail. If wine tasting is on the itinerary, host an unforgettable experience at tasting rooms in The Wine Collection, located in a historic paseo in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, and where many of the most respected names in wine have their tasting rooms. The possibilities are endless – Santa Barbara County has more than 200 wineries and more than 170 tasting rooms.

Getting to the Destination

For meeting attendees, Santa Barbara is remarkably and conveniently accessible. Located just 92 miles north of Los Angeles and 332 miles south of San Francisco, on the Pacific coastline, visitors can arrive via scenic Highway 101, by Amtrak train or bus or by flying into Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA) or Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Santa Barbara Airport is an 8 mile drive north of downtown and offers multiple daily non-stop flights from seven major hubs (Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle). Once in town, visitors can bike, walk, or even take a water taxi or pedicab to their next destination.

The Visit Santa Barbara sales team acts as a one-stop shop resource for all your planning needs including itineraries, accommodations and transportation options. Whether sourcing an RFP, exploring Santa Barbara for a site visit or making final preparations in arrival of a program, the Visits Santa Barbara team can offer a customized, consultative approach to ensuring your planning efforts are streamlined. The team’s expertise in the destination gives an extra edge in making sure Santa Barbara meetings go off without a hitch.

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The Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region – Santa Barbara Visitor Center