Manicured green spaces and charming hotels in a sophisticated town.
Santa Barbara: America's Riviera
Credit: Jessica Schwartzberg

Unlike L.A., its flashy, oversized neighbor to the south, this coastal community of Spanish Mission-inspired mansions, posh cafes, and boutiques has a timeless elegance.

San Ysidro Ranch

No wonder this was JFK's honeymoon spot: The 500-acre property, which got a $150 million re-investment in 2011-2012, gives the impression of stretching on forever (even if a few neighboring mansions creep into the picture), and when you arrive at the long driveway lined with olive trees and lavender, you have the sense of being on the frontier, at the last citrus grove before civilization gives way to the scrubby Santa Ynez Mountains. All of the 41 private cottages and suites have decks and most have hot tubs. The resort sits less than an hour south of the Santa Ynez Valley, a perfect daytrip for wine tasting.

Santa Barbara Mission

Catch up on early California history at the beautiful, centuries-old Santa Barbara Mission.

Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens

Check out the Japanese teahouse and wander through the 65 acres of over 1,000 species of plants and flowers.

Café Buenos Aires

A steak with chimichurri sauce and a bottle of Malbec pair well on the shady patio of this Santa Barbara staple that serves South American cuisine.

Bouchon Bakery, Santa Barbara

Sample the freshest area produce and meats, including wild boar and colorful local heirloom tomatoes, escargots, pepper-crusted venison.