At the southernmost point of California dramatic and beautiful Central Coast, and just two hours north of Los Angeles, is Santa Barbara County. An area with a long rich history which offers a path for explorations to its sun-blessed shoreline, the rising Santa Ynez mountains, its colorful farmlands and to a diverse collection of communities, it makes a great pin on any group’s trip map.

For centuries the sheltered bay at Santa Barbara was a beacon for explorers, settlers who were in search of safe harbor. The first people here were the Chumash Indians, who thrived on the year-round temperate climate and the rich fishing grounds of the Pacific. In 1542, explorer Juan Cabrillo arrived and claimed the Californias for Spain. It was 60 years later when Sebastian Vizcaino on the Feast Day of Saint Barbara sailed into the channel seeking protection from a fierce Pacific storm and named this region in her honor.

The coast remained almost unchanged for over 200 years until Spain recognized the regions strategic location as a gateway to its California land claim. It then sent Captain Jose Ortega and Governor Felip de Neve to establish a royal presidio and a Spanish settlement. Father Junipero Serra was sent to build missions and gave the church ownership of all the lands. The first of three Santa Barbara County missions was dedicated in 1786. Spain and the church ruled until 1822, when Mexico won its independence and transferred the lands to private rancheros and pueblos, and a new society was formed. The architectural designs introduced by Spain and Mexico established the foundations of what is now known as Santa Barbara architecture, a design blend of Spanish, Mediterranean and Moorish/Islamic styles.

By the mid-1800s new faces and change came quickly, beginning in 1846 with John Fremont claim of California for the United States and statehood four years later. California new personalities and affluent people were drawn here and established a community that thrived on the beauty of the land, as well as involvement in the arts and society. By 1910 the American Film Company had opened the Flying A Studio, the largest of its kind at that time. In its short ten-years existence, it produced over 1,000 films.

Although the stronger industry roots were in Hollywood, the film elite found Santa Barbara and its surrounding pastoral lands the ideal haven for privacy and a break from the paparazzi and star followers. In subsequent decades many other types of newcomers have arrived, adding diversity to the population and commercial interests while preserving the best qualities of this special region of California.

From the rich farmlands, posh resorts, diverse towns and historic sights to the sophisticated arts and cultural communities, ethnic festivals and special events, group visitors have an astonishing choice of experiences to explore and enjoy when in Santa Barbara County.