What’s New in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2021
Home to breathtaking beaches, majestic mountains, world-class wineries and a variety of acclaimed outdoor dining outlets, Santa Barbara, Calif., is welcoming in 2021 with the unveiling of new and renovated hotels, new air service from Southwest Airlines, a city-wide bike share program and more. Below are just a few of the region’s new and upcoming developments to inspire travelers to dream and plan their escapes in the new year.
Like most of the state, leisure travel is temporarily restricted in Santa Barbara at the moment, but these restrictions are likely to be lifted in the first quarter. For the latest information on travel conditions and ways to travel more safely in Santa Barbara, go to Visit Santa Barbara’s travel advisory page.
Southwest Airlines will begin year-round service to Santa Barbara Airport (SBA), with new flights starting April 12, 2021. The new routes are bookable as of January 21, 2021 and include three daily flights from Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport (LAS), one daily flight from Denver International Airport (DEN) and one daily flight from Oakland International Airport (OAK). It’s the first time the popular carrier has connected to Santa Barbara’s regional airport, which is currently serviced by Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines.
NEW: Palihouse Santa Barbara: Spring 2021 will welcome the arrival of Palihouse Santa Barbara, a 24-room hideaway with a design aesthetic of “vintage preppy meets the American Riviera,” tucked in the heart of the historic downtown Presidio Neighborhood. Complimentary Linus bicycles, a pool with cabanas, Peloton bikes and a Pawlisociety pet program are among its amenities.
RENOVATIONS: Motel 6 Santa Barbara – Beach: Near Santa Barbara’s East Beach, the nation’s very first 52-room Motel 6 has been updated with bright, colorful retro furnishings inspired by its 1962 origins (when rates were only $6 per night) and will celebrate its grand reopening in early 2021. Amenities include ’60s-style mini fridges, upgraded linens and luxury mattresses.
Mar Monte Hotel: Part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, this lifestyle boutique hotel has reimagined its 200 guest rooms, inspired by the 1930s Vista Mar Monte once in its place. The hotel’s fall 2020 transformation resulted in elegant, modern design with a muted, earthy color palette and natural textures, new eateries (costa and Café Lido) and creative guest programming, from silent disco yoga to an in-house smoothie and juice bar.
Mason Beach Inn: Owned by Season 3 “Bachelor” Andrew Firestone, Mason Beach Inn’s newly renovated 45 guest rooms incorporate chic and contemporary design in a boutique property just steps from the waterfront. Banana-leaf wallpaper, rattan furniture and light oak floors are the perfect backdrop for a beachy getaway. Renovations were completed in late summer 2020.
ANNIVERSARY: Upham Hotel: The oldest continuously operating hotel in Southern California, The Upham Hotel is celebrating its 150th anniversary, having opened in the fall of 1871. Promotions will be announced soon to honor the Victorian hotel’s anniversary all year long.
ATTRACTIONS & ACTIVITIES
Santa Barbara Bike Share: The City of Santa Barbara and BCycle have started installing docks for a new fleet of electric bikes downtown. The system will include 250 electric bikes, which the public will be able to unlock from an app on their phone and return to dock locations across the city. PeopleforBikes, an independent advocacy organization, recently ranked Santa Barbara as the fourth best bicycling city in the U.S.
Santa Barbara Zoo: In summer 2021, the Santa Barbara Zoo plans to open the Australian Walkabout, a 15,000 square-foot habitat designed to transport guests “Down Under,” where they can walk among the wallabies, kangaroos, emus and native birds.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art: In spring 2021, the museum will reveal a new, multi-floor wing, housing new photography and contemporary art galleries, as well as renovated galleries, as part of its multi-year, $50 million renovation. Kupiec Architects’ Bob Kupiec got his start working on projects at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Times Square, Bryant Park and more. The museum also celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2021. Exhibits and programming will be announced in early 2021.
State Street Pedestrian Promenade: Santa Barbara’s temporary mile-long, 10-block State Street pedestrian promenade has revitalized the downtown corridor, lending a festive, European atmosphere to the city, with outdoor restaurants and bars expanding into streets, sidewalks and curbsides. Adjacent street dining areas have also cropped up, including Victoria Street, Coast Village Road near Montecito and the Funk Zone. Note: While area dining is temporarily paused, the promenade is expected to reopen once COVID-19 restrictions lift and will remain open at least into the spring.
La Paloma Café: Acme Hospitality (The Lark) has opened a neighborhood café and bar that pays tribute to the 1940s-era restaurant of the same name. La Paloma takes a page from Californio and ranchero cuisine, the foodways of early California settlers and ranchers who incorporated Spanish and Mexican influences into their cooking, from Santa Maria-style oak-grilled barbecue to the original café’s beloved Capirotada “bread pudding.” Weekly Saturday Specials benefit an emergency grant fund for Acme staff.
Venus in Furs: A new concept by Good Lion Hospitality in collaboration with Barbareño, Venus in Furs is a 1960s-swanky natural wine bar serving wine cocktails, wine by the glass and small-plate Santa Barbara regional cuisine with decor and music inspired by the Velvet Underground and its ’60s and ’70s cohorts. Pop-up Barb’s Pie’s offers its wildly popular oval-shaped sourdough pizzas at this location.
SALTY at the Beach: In a prime spot at the Santa Barbara Harbor, SALTY at the Beach, perched above CHOMP on the Rocks (see below), provides dockside diners and drink enthusiasts with “stellar coastal views and swell times.” The cocktail-centric bar and eatery focuses on California-style tavern cuisine with a curated wine list and breezy cocktails, including the iconic “Endless Summer Mai Tai.”
CHOMP on the Rocks: A retro-inspired diner, CHOMP focuses on traditional crowd-pleasers such as Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and dressed-up burgers like the “Chompasaurus” (a half-pound American Kobe beef patty) and the “Wrangler” (with hickory barbecue sauce and double bacon, topped with onion rings), as well as old-fashioned ice cream parlor treats like handmade shakes and sundaes.
Cabrillo Pavilion: The Cabrillo Pavilion is an iconic Santa Barbara landmark dating back to the 1920s (formerly Cabrillo Arts Pavilion). The renovated space will now feature a new oceanside restaurant, La Sirena, helmed by chef Budi Kazali (Ballard Inn), which will serve up traditional and trending fare, with spacious outdoor seating and a mermaid motif reminiscent of its namesake. The renovation includes an updated events space overlooking the ocean (capacity 215) and bathhouse changing rooms. Opening dates are pending.
Third Night Free hotel promos: When travelers are ready to visit again, Visit Santa Barbara’s Third Night Free deals (https://SantaBarbaraCA.com/Savvy) will provide a compelling reason to linger longer, with two dozen hotels throughout the region—from luxury five-star properties to economy lodging—offering a third night free for every two nights booked through June 2021.
ABOUT SANTA BARBARA
Santa Barbara has been called “The American Riviera” by travelers for nearly a century. Nestled between mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and surrounded by undeveloped coastline, Santa Barbara is a self-contained paradise. The city’s distinctive Spanish-influenced architecture and lush landscape evoke the topography and aesthetic of the European Riviera with a carefree California spirit. Simultaneously sophisticated and bohemian, easy-going and energetic, Santa Barbara welcomes visitors with relaxing resorts and hideaways, outdoor escapes, world-class wineries, arts and cultural attractions, and a hyper-local food scene.
Santa Barbara is located just 92 miles north of Los Angeles along California’s Central Coast. Visitors can arrive via scenic Highway 101, train, bus or by flying into Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA) or Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). For travel information and to request a free visitor magazine, visit SantaBarbaraCA.com.