Skip to main content

Celebrate the Arts in Santa Barbara

By: / 24 Jan 2024

Celebrate the Arts in Santa Barbara

One of our front desk staff's favorite neighborhoods to send guests to is the ARTS District. The official Arts-Restaurants-Theater-Shopping District encompasses Chapala, State and Anacapa Streets from Sola down to Figueroa Street. This vibrant downtown area is a hub of arts, entertainment and culture, with an excellent dining scene and impressive concentration of interesting, independent local retailers. It's always a guaranteed good time, whether wandering around browsing and following your curiosity without a specific agenda or celebrating a special occasion with dinner and a show. Following is our guide to some of the neighborhood's headliners and highlights.


See & Do

Three historically and architecturally significant theaters anchor the district: Granada TheatreArlington Theatre and The New Vic Theatre. These beloved venues play host to touring acts and local performing arts groups-everything from ballet, opera and symphony to rock concerts, lectures and musical theater. The Arlington also shows current movies and serves as the main red-carpet entrance for the highest of high profile Santa Barbara International Film Festival events. The marquee makes for an iconic Santa Barbara photo backdrop, while the Granada turns heads as one of the city's tallest buildings, towering eight stories high (it was grandfathered into current codes, having survived the 1925 earthquake). SOhO Restaurant & Music Club is another standout stage for live music nearly every night of the week. The intimate size of the venue and eclectic line-up make it a great place to discover up-and-coming talents.


By day, go gallery and museum hopping. Nine reputable art galleries are peppered throughout the district, with the impressive Santa Barbara Museum of Art as the heart of the community's visual arts landscape. Santa Barbara Public Library is tucked behind the museum with the landmark Santa Barbara County Courthouse also steps away-a stunner for photos, picnics in the Sunken Gardens and 360-degree city views from the clock tower.


Shop Around

Wander through lovely open air shopping centers exploring the eclectic wares. Arlington Plaza is home to three DIANI boutiques (women's clothing, shoes and home), Marisa Mason JewelryFolly Home, and Treat beauty boutique and spa. Peruse the passages of Victoria Court and the laneways of La Arcada Plaza. Check out locally designed fashions at Ace Rivington and Catherine Gee. Treasure hunt for designer vintage at Renaissance Fine Consignments and used books at Book Den. See an intuitive reader, look for crystals and flip through spiritual books at Paradise Found. These are just some of the retail highlights awaiting in this highly browsable, walkable neighborhood! 


Drink & Dine

Among the nearly two dozen fabulous dining options are perfect pre-show dinner contenders such as Arigato SushiBouchonOpalSama Sama Kitchen and The Daisy. Brunch is hard to beat at Scarlett Begonia and Renaud's Patisserie & Bistro also hits the spot for a casual breakfast or lunch in Arlington Plaza. Santa Barbara Public Market is a delicious stop any time of day, whether you're craving Michelin-endorsed tacos at Corazon Cocina, comforting Thai noodles at Empty Bowl or a refreshing scoop from Rori's Artisanal Creamery. When it comes to a pre-show sip or nightcap, The Good Lion excels at craft cocktails in a stylish setting.


Calendar It

The ARTS District is a destination year-round; there's never a dull moment! If you time your stay to be in town on the first Thursday of the month, you can tap into the block party vibe of the downtown-wide 1st Thursday art walk 5-8 p.m. For the February 1st edition, be sure to check out "Presidio by Candlelight," just a few blocks away at El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. Listen to Chumash stories by an open fire, learn about Santa Barbara's Japantown and enjoy music and dance of 1800s California.


Here are more upcoming winter and spring events to plan around:


  • Ensemble Theatre Company presents The Pianist of Willesden Lane (Feb. 1-18), The Lehmnan Trilogy (Apr. 4-21) and Alice, Formerly of Wonderland (May 30-Jun. 16), a world premiere musical. 
  • Santa Barbara International Film Festival (Feb. 7-17) brings 10 days of film screenings, celebrity tribute events, parties and more cinematic splendor to The American Riviera.
  • Broadway in Santa Barbara and The American Theater Guild present Alice (Feb. 20), Little Women (Apr. 10-11) and Come From Away (Apr. 30-May 1).
  • UCSB Arts & Lectures presents Renee Fleming in Recital (Feb. 1), Mountain Stage with Kathy Mattea & Special Guests (Feb. 4), Abraham Verghese in Conversation with Pico Iyer (Feb. 21), the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour (Feb. 26-27), Batsheva Dance Company (Mar. 5), Herbie Hancock (Apr. 17), Antonio Sanchez Birdman (Apr. 19), Rhiannon Giddens (Apr. 23) and Alonzo King LINES Ballet (Apr. 26)
  • The Granada Theatre welcomes Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance (Feb. 8), Santa Barbara Symphony's Serenade for Romance (Feb. 17-18), Antonio Artese West Coast Trio (Feb. 22), Marshall Tucker Band with Jefferson Starship (Mar. 3), Atlanta Symphony Orchestra presented by CAMA (Mar. 8), Santa Barbara's Symphony's An Oscar Celebration! Favorite Film Clips with Live Orchestra (Mar. 16-17), Shen Yun World Tour (Mar. 23-25), Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (Apr. 2), Santa Barbara Symphony's Rhapsody in Blue (May 18-19) and Sergio Mendes (May 24).
  • The Arlington Theatre welcomes Colter Wall (Feb. 19), Brian Reagan (Feb. 22), Gregory Alan Isakov (Mar. 8) and The Rat Pack (Mar. 10).



Stay & Play

Santa Barbara Hotel Collection has you covered for getaways with an artsy twist. Best Western Plus is closest to the ARTS District and Brisas Del Mar, Inn at the BeachLavender Inn by the Sea and Inn by the Harbor are a short 5-minute drive away. If you're feeling ambitious and active, you can bike downtown. Our Pedal Power Package includes credit on BCycle Santa Barbara's fleet of electric shared bikes, while the Romance on the Riviera Package includes dining at longtime local favorite, Bouchon-all you need to do is find a show to pair it with!