Get Your Arts and Culture On: The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (www.sbmuseart.org) maintains a world-class collection that spans both time and the globe. Roman antiquities share equal real estate with the Chagalls and Monets, and its large collection of Indian and Southeast Asian art is barely eclipsed by the two wooden Guanyins upstairs—a standing Bodhisattva Guanyin and its gilt-bronzed sister, with eyes so human and soulful that one can sit under its spiritual spell for hours. A short 10-minute drive away is the Queen of all California Missions, Old Mission Santa Barbara (www.santabarbaramission.org), the final resting place of Juana Maria, the lost female of San Nicolas Island and inspiration behind Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins.
Why You’ve Gotta Come Back: As the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is renowned for its pricey boutiques and for being a hotbed for California cuisine. It’s a dichotomous city, of preppy privilege and beach bunny culture, of health nuts who light up at the first opportunity, and of beggars who roam its streets, while Nature (Stearns Wharf and the Botanic Gardens) anchors the city at opposite ends. At Stearns Wharf (www.stearnswharf.org), fresh lobster and crab are a steal at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company (www.sbfishhouse.com). Anybody desiring to see and be seen can hobnob at Elements Restaurant and Bar (www.elementsrestaurantandbar.com), a locals’ fave. On your way home, stop at Whodidily (www.whodidily.com) in Montecito for a bite of the moistest, most whimsical cupcakes in SoCal.
Cheshire Cat Inn, 36 W. Valerio St., Santa Barbara, (805) 569-1610; www.cheshirecat.com.