Santa Barbara is the seat of Santa Barbara County, and has a population of approximately 89,600 residents. Combined, however, all of the cities comprising the Santa Barbara metropolitan area have a population of roughly 200,000. The city is located 85 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and is situated along the Pacific Coast in an area nicknamed the “American Riviera” because of its Mediterranean climate. Forming a dramatic city backdrop are the beautiful Santa Ynez Mountains, with some peaks reaching over 4,000 feet. Further contributing to the beauty of Santa Barbara is the Spanish Colonial Style architecture. Red terra cotta tiled roofs are a familiar sight in the city. One sight that isn't familiar is that of billboards in the city limits and along the main highway running through town. A strict billboard and sign ordinance is in place to keep such eyesores from distracting from natural and architectural beauties.
Santa Barbara is home to a thriving artistic community. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the University Art Museum on the UC Santa Barbara Campus and the Contemporary Arts Forum—a cutting edge, multi-media “art space” that displays stimulating, though sometimes controversial exhibits—are all excellent venues for art lovers. Santa Barbara also boasts many performing arts centers, including the 2,000-seat Arlington Theatre, the smaller historic Lobero Theatre, the Granada Theater—also the tallest building in downtown, and the Santa Barbara Bowl, a 4,562-seat amphitheater nestled in a canyon downtown.
In addition to its beauty and climate, several annual events draw tourists to the area in droves. Fiesta (originally called “Old Spanish Days”) is a several day-long bash of riotous parties, Spanish dancing and Mexican food that ties up State Street and makes for a wild celebration for both locals and visitors. Another remarkable event is the 40-year-old Santa Barbara Art and Craft Show that is held on Cabrillo Boulevard, along the beach. The show features over 200 booths displaying works created by artists in Santa Barbara County. Held on any Sunday of the year, the show attracts thousands of people who view and purchase artwork. Other major yearly happenings in this dynamic city include the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, drawing over 50,000 attendees each year and hosting a variety of celebrities, panels and premieres from around the world for ten days; and the Annual Summer Solstice Parade, which draws up to 100,000 people each year. Santa Barbara is famed as a year-round tourist destination, popularized by its exciting events, gorgeous beaches, warm weather, and Spanish architecture.