Abundant sunshine, a moderate climate, and a healthy amount of rain make Santa Barbara ripe for a year-round cornucopia of fresh produce, much of it grown organically. The locavore and slow-food movements are big on the “American Riviera,” and chefs source food mostly from within a 100-mile radius. It all makes for a truly booming farmers' market scene, one that the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers' Market Association serves by hosting not just a single weekly market but several, one for every day of the week except Mondays (check the site for a complete schedule).
While all the markets are worth a visit, the signature event is the one on Tuesday afternoons, when downtown’s State Street morphs into the ultimate place to be, with food—produce, certainly, but also artisanal baked goods and other prepared snacks—music, and folks taking it all in. White-jacketed chefs snap up thick bunches of fresh herbs to use that night on just-caught local sea bass or black cod. Farmers offer samples of treats like unfiltered honey, nuts, and juicy peaches, and guitar-strumming singers attract clusters of listeners amidst the Spanish architecture of Old Town. Really—does it get any more “California” than this?
Can’t make it on Tuesday? Try Solvang Market (Wednesdays), Carpinteria (Thursdays), Montecito (Fridays), Downtown (Saturdays), or Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta (Sundays). Consider this your chance to try something new, like funky looking cherimoya, nicknamed “custard apple” for its creamy white inner fruit. From avocados and eggplants to figs and fennel, melons and squashes, pears and persimmons, the food—and the people—make for an unforgettable day.