Santa Barbara Thanksgiving Activities

Although Santa Barbara’s fantastic climate can often trick us into thinking summer is a year round affair, the holiday season has arrived, whether we’re ready or not!  Fortunately, Santa Barbara is packed with fantastic holiday activities for people of all ages this time of year. Here are a few highlight of some of the area’s best events and activities. With Turkey Day fast approaching, the guides at Santa Barbara Adventure compiled a short list of must-do activities for you and your loved ones over the next couple of weekends:


1)      Looking for a way to get the kids and in-laws out of the house on Thanksgiving Day? Send them to the Santa Barbara Zoo for their Thanksgiving Day Pumpkin SmashAt 10:00 AM on November 22nd, the SB zookeepers are going to give many of the animals, including the elephants and gorillas, pumpkins to play with, just to see what happens! This is sure to be a hit, and will undoubtedly add a new and fun twist to the already incredible experience that is visiting our beautiful local zoo.

2)      After the holiday is over, take a break and let someone else do the driving, thinking, and meal prep for a day by signing up for a Santa Ynez Valley wine country tour! You can rest assured knowing we were recently voted as Finalist for the best ‘Santa Barbara Wine Tour Company’ by readers of the Santa Barbara Independent, and have a variety of wine tours that fit any taste and personality. For those hoping to enjoy the crisp fall air, exploring the wine country by bicycle is a fantastic opportunity for the whole family, especially those trying to burn off that third serving of stuffing. However, if you are looking to treat yourself to a unique wine tour, check out the Tasty Cupcake and Wine Tour, where participants enjoy great wine, world-class wineries, and the best cupcakes this side of the Mississippi.


3)      Holiday shopping at its best – Santa Barbara will host its first-ever European-style Christmas night market! Santa Barbara Night Market is beginning November 23rd, with State Street full of holiday themed décor, live music, carolers, food, beverages and all the best products the Central Coast has to offer. 4-10pm.

4) If you are looking for a restaurant to enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner while visiting Santa Barbara, there are quite a few options. A few of our favorites: The Wine Cask, The Stonehouse and Bella Vista at the Four Season Biltmore. There are several other options but restaurants do tend to book up quickly for the holiday, so make your reservation early.

5) For the adventurous at heart, you may opt for a holiday of excitement with turkey sandwiches and ocean mist in your face. For an amazing day at sea, the Channel Islands National Park is just a few miles off the coast of California. Ferry boats and kayaking tours are available throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The island offers hiking, bird watching, snorkeling and much more. Call our office to check available tours and island camping options.

Photo by

Photo by

6) Head over to the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens for a lovely fall-time stroll. The garden’s 78 acres encompass a variety of displays as well as natural coast live oak and riparian woodlands. Their November events include a morning bird walk, gray water 101, yoga in the garden and more.

7) While you won’t be skiing down the slopes of Santa Barbara this holiday season, you can still get in the spirit of winter by attending a film at the Lobero Theater: Face of Winter, the 69th installment from Warren Miller Entertainment presented by Volkswagen, will bring new and veteran athletes alike in this exciting ski and snowboard movie. Tuesday, November 27th, 7:30pm.

Click here for article details

Photos courtesy of: Zoo Borns, Active Rentals, UC Berkley ,

Do you know anyone who is looking to sell or buy a home on the American Riviera? 


Royalty Visits Santa Barbara

The first royal visit of note occurred in December 1882, when the Marquis of Lorne and his wife, Princess Louise, arrived. The marquis was governor general of Canada, and Louise was a daughter of Queen Victoria of England. The couple stayed at the Arlington Hotel, which spared no expense in seeing that the visitors enjoyed the very best. The royal retinue had six adjoining suites on the second floor, redecorated with new furniture, carpeting, draperies, and wallpaper. The couple enjoyed clear views of the Old Mission in one direction and the blue Pacific to the east. Servants were housed in an adjoining wing of the hotel.


During their visit to the Old Mission, Louise was allowed to enter the garden, which at that time was off-limits to women. They took carriage trips out to the Mesa, the beach, and Montecito. They attended performances at the Lobero Theatre and made the social rounds. Their 13-day stay remains the longest royal visit to Santa Barbara.

More than 500 people greeted King Kalākaua of Hawai‘i when his train arrived in January 1891. Three carriages elegantly decorated with golden harness transported the royal party to the Arlington. The king visited the Ellwood Cooper ranch in Goleta and was fascinated by its olive oil processing plant. A formal dress ball was held in the king’s honor at the Arlington with the crème de la crème of Santa Barbara society. Tickets went for three dollars. The king had taken ill earlier that day and only stayed through the first dance. He decided to cut his California tour short, but his health continued to worsen. He died at age 54 in San Francisco only two weeks after his visit here.


Some 5,000 Santa Barbarans gathered at the depot on October 11, 1919, to meet King Albert and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. The two were unassuming people and loved to mingle with the locals with a lack of security unthinkable today.

The royal couple and their son, Prince Leopold, stayed with the William Bliss family at their Montecito estate, Casa Dorinda. Almost immediately, the young royals made for the beach, where the queen enjoyed the sun and surf in a bathing suit of “foreign style.”

The next day, the king took a spin in one the Loughead brothers’ seaplanes. The Lougheads later changed the spelling of their last name to Lockheed. Prince Leopold took off on a motorcycle ride to Summerland. When the bike broke down, he tinkered with it until the engine came back to life.

Photo by

Photo by

Other jaunts included the Old Mission, a Goleta Valley walnut ranch (walnuts were a favorite of the king), the public library, and a walk down State Street. During the latter, Albert treated himself to an ice-cream soda. A visit to the Flying A movie studios resulted in the king being captured on film. He then watched his “performance” in that day’s “rushes.”

The entire city was entranced by the openness and energy of the Belgians. A short time after the visit, the City Council decreed that a portion of what is now Alameda Padre Serra be named King Albert Boulevard. That section of road became part of APS in 1932. The next crowned head of Europe would visit 51 years later, when Queen Elizabeth was honored by the city.

Click here for article details

Do you know anyone who is looking to sell or buy a home on the American Riviera? 


A look back at Birnam Woods History

William H. Crocker, member of the famous railroad and banking family, was involved in a number of business enterprises on the South Coast. One of these enterprises was a large lemon ranch in Montecito, the Crocker-Sperry Ranch, also known as Las Fuentes (The Springs). The packing house was the operational center of the ranch; it now serves as the clubhouse for the Birnam Wood Golf Club.


In 1887, Crocker; his mother-in-law, Caroline Sperry; and John Cutting bought more than 218 acres around the area where East Valley Road and Sheffield Drive intersect today. Originally the trio had plans for a housing development of 33 parcels, but real estate prices crashed in the late 1880s, and they turned to ranching.

After Cutting left the partnership, Crocker and Sperry decided to plant most of the ranch in lemons. Some 25,000 olive trees were cleared off the land to make way for 28,000 lemon trees, and, in 1891, construction began on a packing house. The ranch had three reservoirs, which could hold some 3,000,000 gallons.

The three-story, 10,000-square-foot packing house was made of cut stone. The architect was Arthur Page Brown, who had designed the Crocker family mansion in San Francisco and would design the five houses that make up Crocker Row in the 2000 block of Garden Street. The facility went into operation in 1894; masonry costs came to $6,000.


The company paid close attention to market prices. If prices were high, the green fruit was placed in heated rooms to quickly ripen and be shipped out. If the market was sluggish, the fruit could be stored in cooler facilities until prices improved. The packing house served not only Las Fuentes, but ranches up and down the South Coast until it closed in 1942.

A new partner appeared in 1894, with the arrival of Andre Poniatowski, a Pole of noble lineage who married into the Sperry family. The ranch prospered; by the early 1900s, it had grown to more than 250 acres, most of which were planted in lemons, although grain was also raised. Avocados would later be added to the mix. It was one of the largest lemon ranches in the state.

In 1943, the ranch came into the hands of the four Poniatowski sons, one of whom, Casimir, became ranch manager. The ranch continued to produce lemons until 1964, when the East Valley Ranch Company, headed by Robert McLean and William “Pete” Sears, bought the property. McLean, a former president of the Associated Press, was publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press. Sears was a local Realtor. The partners’ plan to build houses on the ranch harked back to the original idea for the property.

Photo by

Photo by

The centerpiece of the development was an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, one of the world’s foremost golf course architects. An ardent reader of Shakespeare, McLean took a line from Macbeth and named the property Birnam Wood.

The packing house, by now in sad shape, was earmarked to become the clubhouse. The top two floors were removed and a second story rebuilt with steel reinforcing. The club opened in 1967 and soon after the first lots offered for sale. Echoes of Las Fuentes remain, not only in the packing house/clubhouse, but in the lemon trees that still dot the property.

Click here for article details

Do you know anyone who is looking to sell or buy a home on the American Riviera? 


Santa Barbara’s Adobe Construction History

With the arrival of the Spanish colonists, Santa Barbara came to be built with the oldest-known construction material: mud. Santa Barbara’s oldest buildings were made from adobe brick, the word “adobe” deriving from the Spanish adobar, “to plaster.” These early settlers found a landscape largely devoid of trees that could yield lumber suitable for building. An alternative building material had to be found: adobe brick.


The central ingredient in adobe brick is clay-like soil. The physically arduous task of making adobe bricks began by digging a pit into which soil was thrown and water added. Once these materials were blended into a smooth mixture, straw and sand were added, serving to bind and strengthen the adobe. The sand also aided in the even drying of the adobe bricks so they would not warp or curl. Hitting upon the correct proportions of soil, water, straw, and sand was vital; otherwise, the bricks might crumble or be too soft. Trial and error was often necessary until just the right formula was achieved.

The adobe was then poured into wooden forms to create the bricks. Once removed from the forms, the bricks were set aside to dry. Depending on the size of the bricks, which generally averaged anywhere from 50 to 60 pounds, they could take as much as a month to completely dry. Once the bricks had achieved a consistent color throughout, they were ready for use. A surprising number of bricks was needed to build even small structures; a one-room home could take as many as 5,000 bricks.

Water is both a key ingredient and the great enemy of adobe; untreated bricks can dissolve. Construction of a proper foundation was very important, for the foundation not only gave a building a firm base upon which to rest but also protected the adobe walls from groundwater. Each wall had beneath it a trench filled with rounded stones covered with mud.


Adobe walls were thick by modern standards, around two feet for smaller buildings. Two-story adobes were fairly rare. To give the walls greater strength, they were covered with a coating of sand and mud. Window openings were usually small, and these often were fitted with wooden bars or covered with a steer hide or blanket. Glass was virtually unknown. Wooden floors were atypical. Most floors were packed earth with a coating of steer’s blood to make them hard and smooth. New coatings were periodically reapplied.

The next step was construction of the pitched roof. A ridgepole ran the length of the building and was connected to the side walls of the adobe by rafters. Saplings were placed perpendicular to the rafters to create a crosshatch effect. Atop this was placed thatch, and atop that, curved tiles of kiln-fired adobe, laid in an overlapping fashion.

Finally, the adobe walls were sealed with a plaster made of lime, which was produced by firing seashells. The lime was mixed with sand and water, and the mixture applied to the walls with bare hands. As the mixture dried, it would harden, forming a protective coating. This coating tended to flake and so was periodically reapplied. The finished adobe was cool in the summer and warm in winter and proved to be quite durable. Santa Barbara’s historic adobes have survived any number of earthquakes over the decades.


The increasing influx of Americans to Santa Barbara after 1850 caused a decline in the popularity of adobe construction; the newcomers wanted houses that reminded them of home. In some cases, adobes were covered with wood siding, sometimes for aesthetic purposes or as protection from the elements. Construction of Stearns Wharf in 1872 allowed for increased imports of lumber and hastened the arrival of Victorian architecture. Many adobes succumbed to development. For example, the imposition of the grid pattern of streets in the early 1850s led to the razing of any number of adobes.

Yet the architecture of modern-day Santa Barbara, with its white walls and red-tile roofs, very much harks back to the city’s adobe days. Outstanding examples of Santa Barbara’s Spanish Colonial style and its variants include the El Paseo complex, City Hall, The Arlington Theatre, and any number of commercial buildings and private residences that dot the city landscape.

In many ways, Santa Barbara’s adobe days live on, but how many of us know of the toil and trouble it took to construct Santa Barbara way back when?

Click here for article details

Do you know anyone who is looking to sell or buy a home on the American Riviera? 

Beverly Palmer, Santa Barbara