Fires, floods, and mudslides ravaged portions of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in recent months, but, after sustained efforts by residents and responders, things are starting to return to normal in the region. Part of that process is getting visitors to come back to an area where tourism is a major industry.
“With the Thomas Fire in December, when the region lost many visitors due to smoke and ash, followed by the extended closure of Highway 101 earlier this month, our local economy took a double hit and has been significantly impacted,” says Kathy Janega-Dykes, president and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara. Visit California estimates Santa Barbara County lost out on $949,000 in visitor spending every single day the 101 was shut down.
“Our community spirit is stronger than ever,” Janega-Dykes adds. “This period has really brought our community together in ways we haven’t seen before.”
As if you needed an excuse to plan a weekend getaway, heading to Santa Barbara or Ojai right now really helps these individuals and local businesses get back on track, so here is what you need to know about visiting the region.
The area is ready for visitors
Almost everything has opened at this point, but there are a few areas to be aware of. Montecito remains an exception, though businesses there are hoping to be operational again by February. In Santa Barbara County, a few beach areas, including Carpinteria State Beach, Goleta Beach, and Summerland Beach, are currently recommending you stay out of the water, though on-shore activities are fine (the most updated status of the ocean water closures is on the county’s website). A small number of resorts also remain closed, including the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara (scheduled to open on April 1) and San Ysidro Ranch, which is currently closed indefinitely for cleaning after hit by ash and smoke damage. Tourist facilities in Ojai are currently all open.
Try these places for an overnight stay
If you’re making a trip to Ojai, start by checking out the accommodations participating in a program called Ojai Love. Ten hotels, including the hip Ojai Rancho Inn and luxurious Ojai Valley Inn, are all offering the same deal for stays until March 31: take 10 percent off the best rate, get a discount at a long list of local restaurants, shops, and activities, and they’ll throw in Ojai-themed souvenirs and a donation of $10 per night to the Ojai Love charity.
Around Santa Barbara there are plenty of hotels to choose from. Some favorites include the colorful and affordable Agave Inn and Kimpton’s beachy Goodland Hotel. Several area hotels are participating in a deal called Revive & Thrive to encourage visitors to stay in town longer than just a weekend with free nights or discounts.
Some tips for your trip
In addition to soaking up general natural beauty and relaxation, you may want to have a few specific things to do during your visit. Janega-Dykes of Visit Santa Barbara suggests starting with some wine tasting, particularly the city’s Urban Wine Trail. Wine tasting is a popular pastime around Ojai too, as is olive oil tasting. If you’re in S.B. for the beach vibes, head to coastal areas like Butterfly Beach, Hope Ranch Beach, or Refugio State Beach, which are all totally open and safe for swimming, surfing, and any other water activities. For some culture, snag tickets to a show at the Santa Barbara Bowl or Arlington Theater (also home to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which runs through February 10).
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