Psst! Don’t look now but I think that’s Prince Harry and Megan Markle with little Archie. Earlier, I saw Oprah Winfrey getting coffee at my favorite bistro. Santa Barbara boasts a gorgeous climate with a quiet atmosphere that is close to Los Angeles and Hollywood. It’s no wonder so many stars call this beautiful city their home.
Boasting more celebrities per square mile than Beverly Hills, Santa Barbara is an ideal place for spotting stars. However, with so many local celebrities, it also means that the stars have the opportunity to live like real people here. The locals treat them like locals. The stars aren’t constantly hassled for photographs or autographs. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t be inwardly screaming to be within feet of your favorite actress.
The film industry originally claimed Santa Barbara as its home. Hundreds of films were produced here before everything moved to Hollywood. Santa Barbara’s legacy continued even after the studios left. Charlie Chaplin, Sir Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Rock Hudson, Clark Gable, Hedy Lamarr, and Carol Lombard were all common visitors to the city. More recently, Ellen DeGeneres, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Jeff Bridges, Drew Barrymore, and George Lucas have owned property here. Thousands of people visit the gates of Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch each year to pay respects to the memory of his pop legacy. It’s not just film stars that are drawn to Santa Barbara. Literary giants T.C. Boyle, Ross Macdonald, Margaret Millar, and Sue Grafton (until she passed away) found their creative muses here.
The best time of year for seeing celebrities is during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). The festival boasts 11 days of film screenings, panel discussions, tribute events, and parties. The 36th annual SBIFF is scheduled for March 31-April 9, 2021. Unlike many events on the awards circuit, this festival is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased for a group of events or individual films, pending availability. The festival also features free events including family-friendly films, independent releases, and filmmaker discussions. Arrive early to events to catch a glimpse of actresses in their finery walking the red carpet.
Here are a few suggestions of places to spend some time if you are hoping to rub elbows with the elite. Montecito is a neighborhood full of famous addresses. Prince Harry and Megan Markle recently shared a Christmas greeting featuring Archie and two dogs outside a playhouse in their Santa Barbara backyard. Coast Village Road and the Upper Village boast numerous shops and restaurants frequented by celebrities. Catch a polo match at the Santa Barbara Racquet and Polo Club; people watch during the match then stick around for the After Hours party. The city’s Funk Zone provides a bohemian atmosphere with attractive wine shops, unique galleries, and eclectic boutiques.
You can see Rob Lowe at Starbucks too.
Chances are that you’ll run into somebody whether you are here for a day or for a week. Just remember to play it cool.