Santa Barbara’s status as a celebrity hotspot dates back to the days of silent film. Charlie Chaplin spearheaded the development of the Montecito Inn in 1928 and chose the city for his nuptials to Oona O'Neill. Today, the American Riviera remains a favorite of the rich and famous. Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Kevin Costner, and Oprah Winfrey are just a few of the Hollywood heavyweights to call Santa Barbara home. But you don’t have to have be a movie star to roll like a celeb. Here’s where to stay, shop, eat, and play like the rich and famous.
The super-luxe neighborhood of Montecito is a hub of celebrity home life. Head to Coast Village Road for a see-and-be-seen experience. The curated pet shop George is where Ellen Degeneres buys treats for her pup. Star chef Cat Cora loves the bakery D’Angelo Bread and has cited the strip steak at Lucky’s Steakhouse as one of the best things she’s ever eaten.
For more of a bohemian vibe, head to the city’s aptly named Funk Zone. Packed with wine shops, boutiques, and galleries, actors are often spotted here, especially during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Natalie Portman and Jason Segel have been seen at tapas spot Loquita and Helena Avenue Bakery. (Insider tip: Try the croissants.) Less than a mile away, in the heart of downtown, the upscale Mexican restaurant El Paseo has hosted many high-profile fiestas, including parties for Ginger Rogers, Salvador Dali, Quentin Tarantino, and Jennifer Lopez.
Is there a spectator sport more unabashedly fabulous than polo? World-class matches are open to the public during the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club’s Polo Season, which runs from May through October. People-watch from your field-side cabana, or hit up the club’s Polo After Hours party for some post-pony Sunday funday with music, drinks, and dancing.
You might not be able to afford Oprah’s $85 million Montecito mansion, but you can enjoy the A-List treatment down the road at one of Santa Barbara’s many award-winning hotels. Stay in a private bungalow at Belmond El Encanto and you’ll receive personalized touches like a pillow monogrammed with your initials. The Ritz-Carlton Bacara offers views of coastal bluffs along two miles of natural beach as well as a three zero-edge swimming pools, as well as a full-service spa complete with redwood sauna and eucalyptus steam room. At the Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara, you'll get access to the exclusive Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club and members-only Montecito Country Club.
Martyn Lawrence Bullard has designed interiors for celebrities including Eva Mendes, Tommy Hilfiger, and Kid Rock. Recently he bestowed his elevated, eclectic style to The Hotel Californian where guests can relax in the Moroccan-inspired spa and retire to a lavish bedroom, complete with a walk-in closet.
Whether you identify as one of those hip “new Hollywood” types or your taste trends more “established star,” there’s something to suit your fancy in the American Riviera. Who needs 15 minutes of fame when you can have a long weekend?