America’s Birthday in The American Riviera

Ponies, parades, and more hometown sweetnesses await in Santa Barbara.


SMALL-TO-BIG TOWN HOLIDAY: While some of the annual holidays are known to be big travel periods -- Thanksgiving and the December observances, we are definitely thinking of you here -- other holidays are coming up on the whole "gotta get out of town" scene. Halloween used to be about sending the tots out to trick-or-treat in the immediate neighborhood while a grown-up stayed at home to supervise the giving out of miniature candy bars but now? Towns that put on big haunted houses and spooky attractions are new travel destinations. Likewise, the Fourth of July was always about your neighbor's barbecue, the one where the hamburgers run out long before the hot dogs. Like Halloween, however, some adventurers are trying out the long summer weekend in a new part of the state, one that can give some hometown holiday joys that are maybe not as plentiful in your immediate region. Julian near San Diego is mastering this, as are spots in Gold Country and Tahoe. And Santa Barbara, too, which, of course, has the word "American" in its very nickname, The American Riviera. If you're looking to combine wine tasting and gourmet eats and posh stays with some hometown-sweet Independence Day doings, then make for the Central Coast beauty for...

FIREWORKS AT THE BEACH: West Beach is the scene, or you can head out onto a catamaran called the Condor Express to watch the nighttime sky show. A free concert earlier in the evening at the courthouse's Sunken Gardens sets the musical note for the night, while old-timey fun awaits at Rancho La Patera & Stow House (think hay rides, pony rides, carnival-type games, vintage cars, and more). The popular Sunday arts-and-crafts show along Cabrillo Boulevard will hop to Saturday in honor of July 4, and an early-in-the-day pancake breakfast at the Fire District Headquarters, with firefighters, gets it all going well before noon. More merriment awaits, but you can plan your holiday weekend however. Getting a dose of hometown-style sweetness as well as the posher offerings of The American Riviera just may raise its profile in the coming years as one of the go-to Golden State spots to spend our country's birthday.

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