Private Santa Barbara History and Architecture Walking Tour

8 Ratings
  • Live Guide
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  • Private Tour
  • E-Ticket

When you come on a tour with me, I can show you the must see sites, as well as some out-of-the-way architectural gems that only a local like me knows about. I have researched local history quite extensively and am very knowledgeable. What makes this tour unique is my in-depth understanding of local history, lore, and architecture, and my abilities to answer whatever questions you might have, as well as to show you the hidden places that aren’t listed in every guidebook. We can arrange beforehand to focus on what you find most interesting: Architecture? History? Adobe construction? Fabulous views? Gardens (Santa Barbara has one of the largest varieties of trees in its downtown area of any city in the country!)? Perhaps a combination of them all! I can cater to whatever interests you have!

Itinerary Details

This is a typical itinerary for this product

Stop At: El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park

Here, guests will admire one of the oldest structures in California. Built in 1782 of Adobe brick, the Presidio includes original rooms, soldiers gardens, a chapel, and re-creations of everyday objects of the 18th century. Guests will learn how the buildings were constructed only from materials of the surrounding countryside, and get a chance to imagine life in the far-reaches of the once great Spanish Empire.

Duration: 20 minutes

Pass By:

We will pass by the Rochin Adobe, built in 1856 by a descendant of Captain Francisco Ortega, first Comandante of the Presidio, using adobe bricks salvaged from the almost destroyed fort. Circa 1900, it was covered in wooden clapboard, as it remains today.

Stop At: Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Constructed in 1964 of Adobe brick, the museum is a classic example of early California-style architecture. The museum contains many excellent exhibits on local history, including painting and a collection of etchings. The courtyard also features two adobe structures dating from 1817 and a gift shop, and is an excellent spot for pictures. Guests can enter to explore the exhibits if they choose.

Duration: 20 minutes

Stop At:

The Lugo adobe and Meridian studios. The picturesque studios, designed by famous architect George Washington Smith, were completed in 1925. Here, guests can admire the unique pastel-colored stucco walls and large glass windows of the studios, as well as an ancient wisteria vine, covered in purple flowers in spring. In the back of the studios lies a hidden gem: the Lugo Adobe. Built by a retired Presidio soldier in the early 19th century, the adobe has been well-preserved and remodelled. Due to its secluded location, it is seldom frequented by tourists.

Duration: 7 minutes

Stop At:

Taking its name after the Presidio, to which it is immediately adjacent, this beautiful building was constructed in 1945, but incorporates two original Mexican-period adobes, as well as the 1906 Nardi Hotel. Behind the building there is a hidden courtyard and garden, and Presidio St., technically Santa Barbara’s earliest city street, as it was once part of the path that ran from the waterfront to the Presidio, and on to the Mission.

Duration: 7 minutes

Pass By:

These Adobes, which line this section of E. De La Guerra St., were built in 1849 by Jose de la Guerra, fifth Comandante of the Santa Barbara Presidio. They are a perfect example or original Mexican-Californio architecture. They were later sold to Gaspar Orena. His descendants still own these structures today!

Stop At: City Hall

Constructed before the 1925 earthquake, in 1923, Santa Barbara’s City Hall is an early monument to the Spanish Colonial Revival movement. The building is decorated with hand-painted tiles, and has arches which extend over the sidewalk. In front, there is a large California Pepper Tree, which is a city landmark. City Hall, along with Casa de la Guerra and the News-Press Building, face Plaza de la Guerra, the ceremonial heart of the city.

Duration: 5 minutes

Stop At:

Constructed in 1819 by Don Jose de la Guerra, fifth Comandante of the Presidio, as both a mansion for his family and a center for his business, this adobe remains just as impressive as it did back in the day. It was a center of cultural and political activities, back when Santa Barbara was simply a few adobes grouped around the Presidio. Today, it remains a centerpiece of the town, hosting the Fiesta celebrations each summer. It is open for visitors on the weekends.

Duration: 10 minutes

Stop At: El Paseo Building

The construction of El Paseo, from 1922-29, was the first major step in converting the architecture of Santa Barbara from Eastern US main street to Hispanic Pueblo. We will wander through the quaint passageways, visit the romantic courtyard, and meander down the famous “Street in Spain,” before emerging onto State St. proper. Great spot for pictures.

Duration: 15 minutes

Stop At: The Historic La Arcada Courtyard

As we stroll up State St., the principal avenue of Santa Barbara, will will enter the pleasant courtyards of the La Arcada building. This tiled paseo wanders past quaint shops and restaurants through the center of the block, which will lead us to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. On the way, enjoy the quirky bronze statues, second-story arches bridges, and fountain filled with live turtles!

Duration: 10 minutes

Stop At: Santa Barbara County Courthouse

The beauty and architectural significance of this building cannot be overstated. The most important 20th century building in all of Santa Barbara, it is only second to the Mission in significance, and can be considered the public monument to the Spanish Colonial Revival movement in the United States. We will observe all the wonders the courthouse has to offer, from the great Roman triumphal arch flanked by stone statues on its front facade, to its hand-carved column capitals and painted tiles throughout. Once restrictions ease, we will journey inside, visit the stunning mural room, and climb the stairs or take the elevator up the clock tower for a 360 degree view of the entire town!

Duration: 30 minutes

Pass By:

With different parts of the structure dating from 1917, 1925, and 1930, the Santa Barbara Public Library is an impressive structure, directly across the street from the courthouse. As we walk down Anapamu St, we can admire the detailed stone sculptures which surround the main doorways.

Pass By: The Granada Theatre

The Granada Theatre stands out as a city landmark for many reasons; for one, it is the tallest building in the entire city of Santa Barbara, built in 1924 before the 60ft height ordinance. Additionally, its upper floors are decorated in stunning glazed terra cotta. Hopefully, after restrictions ease, we will be able to journey inside once more to marvel at the wonderfully restored theatre space.

Stop At: Arlington Theatre

Another architectural marvel of downtown Santa Barbara, the Arligton theatre, with its tower that shoots above the surrounding skyline, and arched paseo at ground level, is a pleasant place to sit in the shade. Inside the building, the theatre space itself is rather stunning: it was built to feel like the town square of a Spanish Village. Lined with fake, 3-dimensional building facades, and with a vaulted roof painted with stars, this effect is achieved quite well.

Duration: 7 minutes

Stop At:

Set out in 1850 for public space, the Alameda parks of today still play a central role to downtown life, hosting events during the Summer Solstice and Earth Day celebrations annually. Planted with a variety of trees brought from abroad, from redwoods to East African Fern Pines. One of the blocks contains a bandstand from the 1880’s, while the other contains an extensive playground dubbed “Kids’ World.” The third block of parks was once home to the internationally famous Mirasol Hotel, but, after the building was badly damaged in a fire in 1966, the entire space was converted into a stunning botanical garden, replete with a duck pond and rare flowering trees.

Duration: 20 minutes

Stop At:

Once home to the famous El Mirasol Hotel, this entire square block is now a stunning garden home to a butterfly meadow that attracts monarchs, a running creek with stepping stones, and a massive Australian Fig tree that provides a shady area overlooking a duck pond with live turtles!

Duration: 10 minutes

Stop At:

A fascinating blend of Streamline Moderne and Spanish elements, the Santa Barbara Post Office is a fun building to see. The building incorporates sculptures, both within and without.

Duration: 5 minutes

Stop At:

We will end our tour at El Cuartel, across the street from where we began. This small structure was once a part of the Presidio complex, and is the oldest building in town, constructed in 1788. Here, you can wander inside the rooms and back garden, to see a relatively unchanged 18th-century structure, and imagine what life was like back then.

Duration: 10 minutes

Pass By: Lobero Theatre

Built in 1924 by esteemed architect George Washington Smith, the Lobero Theatre is an important city landmark. This site has operated as a theatrical space since 1873, when Italian immigrant Jose Lobero opened Southern California’s first opera house here. If restrictions ease, we can go inside and admire the painted vaulted ceiling.
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