Santa Barbara is a seaside idyll renowned for its fine resorts and wine tours. Right now, there?s also a handful of new events that make a weekend trip practically an imperative.
First, there?s Lotusland, the 37-acre garden developed over four decades by eccentric Russian émigré Ganna Walska. Two-hour tours ($35) start at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily, with a stop at a new exhibit of the late lady?s personal effects. From a Japanese garden to giant clusters of weeping African succulents and cacti, this is a don?t-miss.
Another must-see is ?Carefree California: Cliff May and the Romance of the Ranch House,? a free exhibit that explores how sprawling glass-and-wood homes came to dot the postwar American landscape. It?s at the UC Santa Barbara?s AD&A Museum through June 17.
For dinner, locals pack the new Cielito Restaurant for seasonal Mexican fare served in a glamorous bi-level space with twinkling ceiling stars. Hits include guacamole served three ways, as well as empanadas made with shrimp, crab, Mexican cheeses and a mango-habanero glaze. Be sure to visit the tequila bar; you?re only a short cab ride from the Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara (doubles from $135), a sleek new art-filled spot a block from the beach.
Lotusland, Cold Springs Rd.; 805-969-9990 or lotusland.org; AD&A Museum, UC Santa Barbara; 805-893-2951 or www.uam.ucsb.edu; Cielito Restaurant, 1114 State St.; 805-225-4488 or cielitorestaurant.com; Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara, 121 State St.; 805-966-0078 or indigosantabarbara.com