By Linda Ballou
NABBW’s Adventure Travel Associate

Ballou Santa Barbara Botanical GardensCruise up Highway 101 overlooking sweeps of white sand beach framing brilliant blue on a sun-filled California day to Santa Barbara. Take Mission Canyon Road inland to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Stroll miles of garden paths that meander through meadows of wildflowers, other worldly succulents, and deep into a shady redwood glade.

Share a picnic lunch with butterflies and bluebirds flitting among the aromatic sage. Want to take a piece of the garden home with you; stop at the Garden Store where indigenous plants and more are for sale.

On the way out of the Garden don’t miss the Porter Path through the Ceanothus section that affords views of Channel Islands.

Stop at the Old Mission Santa Barbara Museum and Garden just down the hill from the Santa Barbara Gardens. The Mission, founded in 1784, forms a courtyard around the Sacred Garden graced with a lovely fountain. The original purpose of the mission was the conversion of the Chumash Indians to Christianity.blue dolphin

Look closely in the Cemetery Garden for the plaque of Juana Maria buried in 1853. She was “rescued” by priests from her 18-year isolation on San Nicolas Island and died shortly after making contact with civilization. Her story inspired the classic novel Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.

While you are in the neighborhood take in the Museum of Natural History,  graced with a 72-foot skeleton of a blue whale at the entrance. There you will find the most complete collection of native birds in California. The new Bird Hall features nearly 500 bird mounts – both old favorites and new specimens – that are arranged by ecological foraging guilds.

This innovative arrangement allows visitors to learn how birds co-exist and thrive in the many habitats found in Santa Barbara and the Central Coast. The new hall has information about avian evolution, flight dynamics, and reproductive strategies, as well as the Museum’s treasured bird habitat dioramas.

Ballou SB state st Jay SinclairFrom there roll down to State Street and take a left if you want to browse the charming Spanish paseo’s draped in brilliant magenta bougainvillea with a plethora of eateries and trendy shops to explore.

Be sure and stop at the Court House while you are in center of town. Take the elevator to the top and enjoy the sweeping view of red tile roofs of the city, the mountains that back Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands in the distance.

Just blocks away you can rest a spell in enchanting Alice Keck Park. A sweet little oasis with paths winding beneath giant oaks sheltering a myriad of plants fringing a pond fed by a chatty creek.

If you are in the mood for a more laid-back afternoon turn right on State Street and roll down Los Positas Street to Arroyo Burro Beach. AKA, Hendry’s beach is a local favorite on the north end of town away from Stern’s Wharf where most tourists congregate.

Enjoy a delicately prepared seafood dishes in the patio of the Boat House on the sand overlooking the sequined Pacific. A leisurely stroll down the wide sandy strand below the chalky bluffs makes a memorable ending to a beautiful day. Spread a blanket on the sands and settle in for the sunset.

Ballou Sandman InnIt’s easy to “chillax” in Santa Barbara which is beautiful any time of year. I stay at the Sandman Inn located on upper State Street because it is an economical oasis near all of the sites I have recommended. I look forward to relaxing under the stars in the outdoor spa and a dip in the pool after a day of adventures. A full breakfast provided in the “Fifties Diner” gives me a good start on another day of explorations in my favorite California staycation.

LindaBallou1-e1291171190437Linda Ballou says her mission is to experience as many beautiful places on our planet as she can, before they are no more. “Travel tales relating my experiences while kayaking, horseback riding, sailing, birding and hiking about the globe have appeared in numerous national magazines. I had a great deal of fun collecting travel stories, and profiles of people I have met in “naturally high places” for my newest book, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales. For a complete bio as well as published on-line clips with photos go to my website www.LindaBallouAuthor.com. Your reward, aside from learning about me and my work, will be to discover the secret to youth! Follow my blog or friend me on Facebook to keep up with my latest adventures.”