Santa Barbara, California


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What's it like to live in Santa Barbara?

What is it like to live in Santa Barbara, CA?

I loved Santa Barbara but I can’t afford to get back there. I went there because of UCSB. I was just stunned to read the bios of the faculty in my field. Every single one was involved in cutting edge research. The campus is right on the ocean — often students go to class in their wet suits. And one of the don’t miss classes is Oceanography no matter what your major is. At one point I rode my bike to campus through an avocado orchard.

Santa Maria is just up the road over the Santa Ynez mountains and I lived there before I went to Santa Barbara. It was the thing back then to take flying lessons at Allan Hancock Jr. College — which had been a WWII flying school.

Later I lived on Cliff Drive in Santa Barbara (near City College) which overlooks the ocean. We took sailing lessons which is another a great way to enjoy the ocean and the mountains at the same time.

Back then it was 70 degrees F year round. I remember planting a garden on Christmas vacation. LA is about an hour a way, and in the other direction (North) you can get to Monterey and San Francisco in an afternoon. And to the east you can spend a day in the Anza Borego desert. Its not far either, to take a day to drive through northern Mexico or down the Baja peninsula.

If you pay attention, you can watch the whales migrating off the coast.

The old Spanish courthouse covered with purple bougainvilla is still in use. And its not far to visit the old Spanish missions — some still occupied by working priests and nuns.

Santa Barbara is as close to paradise as I’ve ever been.

What is it like to live in Santa Barbara, CA?

I lived there from 1997–2000, while in college at UCSB. In a nutshell: it was nice, but I didn’t realize how good I had it.

The main thing is the year-round mediterranean climate. I didn’t wear a jacket the entire time I was there, although perhaps a handful of days it would have been welcome. Although the cost of living is generally expensive, it’s easy to live a student lifestyle on a student budget. There’s no shortage of cheap, yet delicious Mexican restaurants around. In fact, the food in Santa Barbara was so good, that I literally couldn’t eat fast food when I went back home.

Skip the following two paragraphs if you hate digressions about fast food.

After my first few months at UCSB, I went back home to my native Las Vegas. I soon ran into my old group of friends who often socialized at a fast food restaurant across the street from UNLV. I returned to Vegas a conquering hero, so naturally someone offered to buy me a burger. What a luxury! In fact, I had a not-so-strange craving for a Western Bacon Cheeseburger, not having had one for several months. I took a bite, but really couldn’t take a second bite.

I thought for sure there was something wrong with that burger, so later in the trip I went to another location of that same restaurant. Alas. It was just… gross. But just three months earlier, these things were practically mana from heaven! I think the only reasonable explanation is that UCSB really raised my standards.

Okay, back to Santa Barbara.

The entire downtown area smells like tropical flowers. The main drag, State Street, is lined with fig trees. The ocean is there, the mountains are there, etc etc.

As far as downsides, there are actually quite a few homeless people. (Who could blame them? Homeless in Santa Barbara beats middle class in a lot of places.) Most of them weren’t aggressive or anything besides an eyesore, but occasionally things escalated beyond “can you spare any change?”.

As a kid who grew up in Las Vegas, I was kind of horrified at the after-hours scene in Santa Barbara. There was a token one or two places that stayed open 24 hours, but it wasn’t much to speak of.

Culturally, Santa Barbara epitomizes Southern California. Moreoso than Los Angeles, in my opinion. People were laid back to a fault. Lots of hippy/new age stuff. (Funny story: I once accompanied my friend, a chemistry graduate student, to an herbal/organic/woo woo store so he could buy a certain spice in bulk. Like, 10 pounds of it. The nice lady ringing him up commented that he must really love cinnamon (or whatever it was). He laughed, but explained that he’s a chemistry graduate student, and he’s going to have the students in an upcoming lab extract a certain chemical from the spice. She recoiled in horror: “I don’t think you understand, everything we sell is organic! There are no chemicals in any of it!”

What is it like to live in Santa Barbara, CA?

What is it like to live in Santa Barbara, CA? Let me answer this question from a teenager’s point of view.

There is no doubt in my mind that my home, the place where I was born and raised, is beautiful, but I never realized that until I got older. There's no doubt that our weather cannot be beat. I also didn't realize that until much more recently. Not to be ungrateful or anything, but really the only thing I noticed growing up was Santa Barbara is boring. At least from a kids perspective.

Growing up as a competitive gymnast, I was always competing out of state. The first question people asked me when they found out where I was from was “do you go to the beach everyday?” And the answer is NO. I'm a teenager. I go to school. I do my homework. I lead the average teenage life just in a beach front community. My friends and I always meet unable to think of anything to do as we live in a retirement community. Here's how our conversations often go while trying to make plans: “ice skating?” “we’ done that like 2 times this month.” “downtown?” We were there yesterday” “beach?” “eh. Maybe. If we can’t think of anything else to do.”

I know, I know, how could one of the prettiest places in the world have so little to do? Well because it's not a place for teenagers. Yes we surf, and yes we love the beach, but aside from that there is wine tasting, wine tasting, and other stuff involving a substance we cannot yet drink.

This city falls asleep at 9pm except on the occasional saturday night when the college kids are out making a scene and downtown is overflowing with drunk kids partying (it's quite the sight in case you were wondering.)

These past few paragraphs have made it seem as though I don't love my home, but I do. It's my home. My point is living in Santa Barbara, is no different from life anywhere else. Little things like like trips to the beach or hiking through our mountains don't change the fact that we go to school, we do our homework, we make our livelihoods, we go grocery shopping, and we do chores, etc.

Life in the 805 is great. The weather is topnotch and the people even better. I love living in a community where healthy isn't a word, it’s a lifestyle. Where the town isn't too small to the point where everyone knows everyone, but not too big either. I visited San Francisco recently and a simple compliment I gave to the checkout lady almost brought her to tears. I love living in a place where that isn't the case. Everyone is polite and kind (give or take a few) and we don't live that fast pace, never stopping, never truly enjoying life, lifestyle.

Interested in moving to Santa Barbara and want to know the vibe…

So first of all you might want to search this sub - this question is pretty common.

I find in general the answers are along the lines of

The cost of living is absurd (maybe close to NYC, I haven't done the research)

It's hard to date here (I think this is more true if you grew up here, for sure a smaller pool than where you're coming from)

People here are slow to make friends

For you specifically - the ocean is much colder than you're expecting and full of tar

We wish the food was better

I personally love it here. I moved nearly 20 years ago for grad school. I was single, had no friends and was broke as a joke. I SUP year round, camp all the time (most recently last weekend) play a few team sports and am happily married. I don't walk a lot of places but I do ride my old rusty beach cruiser everywhere. Surfing isn't great all the time because the islands block the swell but if you're into kayaking you can just do that. I like a lot of the food here but obviously there's more variety in LA or the Bay. I think it's fair to say that people slow to make friends with people who have just moved here. You have to find a group and go from there. With all the things you want to try it should be a snap.

Currently there's a pretty big housing crisis so if you are serious about moving make sure to find a place.

Should I Move to Santa Barbara? 🏠 | the PROS & CONS of Living in Santa Barbara