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!”