Both the architecture and natural geography of Santa Barbara make it one of the prettiest and most interesting cities in the U.S. However, in addition to these more obvious features, you’ll also find subtle monuments throughout town that tell an even more fascinating story. Here’s our list of SB’s best monuments to look for on your next trip:
The Dolphin Fountain
The Dolphin Fountain at the entrance to Stearns Wharf is perhaps Santa Barbara’s most iconic monument. Beloved by locals and designed by native resident Bud Bottoms in 1985, the fountain was built to represent the connection between the city, the ocean, and the Chumash tribes. There are also replicas of the fountain in SB’s ‘sister cities’ Toba, Japan, Dingle, Ireland, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, so don’t miss your opportunity to pose in front of the original on your next visit.
Moreton Bay Fig Tree
The Moreton Bay Fig Tree, located on Montecito Street next to the Downtown train station, came to Santa Barbara by way of Australia in 1876. Rumored to be the largest in the U.S., the tree became an official California State Landmark in 1970 and is included in the California Register of Big Trees. Any nature-lover will be thrilled to stop by and take in some shade under its enormous canopy, about 80 feet high and 175 feet around!
Franceschi Park may be a little dilapidated, but it doesn’t stop locals from loving this peaceful spot with one of the best views in town. The panoramic lookout to the ocean is reason enough to visit, but the park also has an interesting history. Built in 1893 by a prominent horticulturist, the park was once a haven of different plant species. Now left unkempt, you’ll find the old mansion there covered in historic headstones and medallions commemorating an array of public figures.
If you’re looking for a great backdrop to a photo, look no further than the iconic Chromatic Gate across the street from East Beach. Built in 1991 by Herbert Bayer, the “gate” is a 21-foot rainbow archway that epitomizes the vibe in Santa Barbara. Looking up at it from the waterfront with the SB Zoo and Riviera foothills in the background, you’re sure to feel nothing but happy and carefree.
Chumash Painted Cave
Just behind Santa Barbara, in the Santa Ynez mountains hides the Chumash Painted Cave Historic Park. Hike only a few hundred feet here to discover Native American art dating back centuries. Known as some of the most well-preserved rock art in Chumash history, the park is modest but certainly significant.