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Experience pure laid-back California luxury in this coastal Santa Barbara getaway

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Home to such one-name icons as Ellen and Oprah, the ultra-exclusive enclave of Montecito rises from a gorgeous stretch of coast and into the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. A celebrity retreat for nearly a century, ever since the days when Charlie Chaplin opened the landmark Montecito Inn, this Santa Barbara County community is one of the country’s most expensive residential areas.

The good news is you don’t have to be an A-Lister to get a taste of the good life, Montecito-style. Take your pick of several classic California resorts, including the lavish Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito, which opened in early 2019 along one of the Santa Barbara area’s most appealing beaches.

While the Miramar blends an easygoing beach cottage atmosphere with contemporary elegance, the nearby Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara fully embraces the vintage romance of the American Riviera. Opened in 1927, the resort along dreamy Butterfly Beach has a lobby with graceful archways and painted ceiling beams, while its airy Spanish Colonial–style rooms are situated in buildings and bungalows that ramble across 22 lushly landscaped acres.

Meanwhile up in the foothills, San Ysidro Ranch boasts its own storied history as the location where John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy honeymooned in 1953.

Though a Montecito estate is likely beyond your price range, you can visit a pair of classic properties for an inside glimpse of the local grandeur. A must for horticulture lovers (tours available by reservation), Lotusland is a botanic garden created by Madame Ganna Walska, a renowned opera singer originally from Poland, who moved here in 1941. Over more than four decades, she established 25 different gardens on the Eden-like estate, where rare cycads and 300 species of cacti thrive.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered one of the country’s finest Spanish Colonial Revival buildings, Casa del Herrero was designed by leading Santa Barbara architect George Washington Smith. Built in 1925 for industrialist George Fox Steedman, the estate is virtually unchanged since its glory days, and tours (by reservation) explore both the house’s interior and its period gardens. Inside tip: To see the house at its most spectacular, take a tour during the holidays.

While Montecito is a rather private community, upscale Coast Village Road is this sophisticated town’s Main Street, the place where locals gather for shopping and dining. At Maison K, Santa Barbara native Kimberly Phillips Hayes has created a unique lifestyle boutique with a thoughtfully curated collection that ranges from cashmere capes imported from Italy to antique Syrian shell mirrors.

With its savory croissants and flakey, buttery kouign-amann, Bree’Osh Artisan Bakery brings the delectable baked goods of France to the coast of California. And for dinner, take your pick of such favorites as TRE Lune, celebrated for its authentic pastas and old-school vibe, and the impeccably prepared chops and steaks at Lucky’s.

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