Santa Barbara Travel Guide


For thousands of years, the area was home to the Chumash tribe of Native Americans.

The Santa Barbara Channel received its name from Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino when he sailed over the channel waters in 1602; he entered the channel on December 4, the day of the feast of Santa Barbara. He was not, however, the first European to enter the channel: that honor went to the Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who arrived in 1542.

Mission Santa Barbara was founded on December 4, 1786 in what is now Santa Barbara. The county derives its name from the mission.

Santa Barbara County was one of the original counties of California, formed in 1850 at the time of statehood. Parts of the county's territory were given to Ventura County in 1872.

In recent years, residents of the northern half of the county have agitated for the county to be split in half, claiming that the southern half of the county ignores their needs. A proposed "Mission County" would be formed from the northern half.

Politically the county has long been divided between competing interests, for the economies of the north and south counties are dramatically different. North of the Santa Ynez Mountains, agricultural activities and oil development have long predominated, though in recent years oil leases have been decommissioned, and more white-collar workers have been moving in as people choose to live in north county and commute to the south county because of the relatively favorable housing prices in the north.

On the other hand, the south county has had an economy based on tourism, but with a significant percentage of people with white-collar jobs, formerly in aerospace but more recently in software and other high-tech pursuits. Additionally, the north county contains a large military base, Vandenberg Air Force Base, and the south county has the University of California, Santa Barbara. The voting record of north and south counties has indeed shown a profound split between a "conservative" north and "liberal" south.

More recently, Santa Barbara has earned the reputation as a home for affluent newlyweds and retirees: 'the newly-wed and the nearly-dead'. Students from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus make sure some parts of the city are a little more exciting, but most of Santa Barbara is happy to keep the place clean, orderly and subdued.


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