How to get into Santa Barbara’s most wonderful soul

Santa Barbara has always been well known for its excellent relationship with the different arts. It has been home to writers, poets, painters, sculptors, musicians, and many others professional and amateur artists who have turned Santa Barbara into their residence and main place to find their inspiration. The city also welcomes artisans, and the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show is a living example of this profound involvement of the city with the arts. This is an event for local artisans to highlight their creative skills, and takes place every Sunday, and sometimes on Saturdays of major holiday weekends. One cannot forget here the presence of winemakers and chefs, all of whom look for alternative approaches to their respective crafts.

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Image courtesy of Sara Cooper at

But indeed the place to find the actual artistic and cultural soul of Santa Barbara nowadays is the Funk Zone. Located inside the almost perfect square formed by State Street, Cabrillo Boulevard, Garden Street, and Montecito Street, and often called the Cannery Row of Santa Barbara, the Funk Zone has become the heart of a contemporary subculture in Santa Barbara characterized by artisan shops, wineries, art galleries and art studios, hip eateries, restaurants, home furnishing retailers, microbreweries, and even craft distilleries. All these and many other types of businesses have contributed to turn the Funk Zone into a destination extremely popular among locals and visitors. Simply put, it is a place for all those who look for a leisurely sampling of the arts, culture, food, and drinks that Santa Barbara has to offer for them.

Despite its name, the Funk Zone is not really about funk, but rather all about a really great vibe. Aged warehouses and forgotten scuba shops have been taken up by artists, artisans, winemakers, and chefs, and they have helped to turn the zone into an incredible labyrinth of hidden hot spots that wait for strollers to run into them.

The epicenter of all this new cultural explosion is indeed The Arts Fund, which has served for more than 30 years as the catalyst for a more collaborative approach to art in the area. This has greatly contributed to keep the arts scene in Santa Barbara, but particularly in the Funk Zone, alive and thriving during the years. The reason is that local artists of all ages, identities, and backgrounds have found in the Arts Fund Community Gallery a space to showcase their work, and share with others. The Arts Fund has also helped to stimulate the expansion of art education among the residents of the Santa Barbara area in all levels, including teenage, university and postgraduate students.

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The Funk Zone has as a consequence a long history in the Santa Barbara area. It goes back in fact as far as the early 1900’s. At that time, the zone was home to the Lockheed Corporation, the Castagnola Brothers’ fishing industry, and other manufacturing and marine companies. This perhaps helps to understand the architectural departure of the Funk Zone from the red tile roofs that are so characteristic of most buildings in Santa Barbara, and contributes to give the zone an identity on its own when compared with other areas in the city. Whatever the case is, the fact remains that the zone has always been a magnet for artists, who have been seduced by the neighborhood’s warehouses, shaping rooms, tasting rooms, and other uncommon businesses and shops. Since the late 1980’s, the zone has become a must see for locals and visitors in Santa Barbara, due to the cultural and artistic halo that has always surrounded it, and makes everyone desire to be part of the Funk Zone.

Visitors of all ages will surely enjoy spending an entire day in the Funk Zone, as an opportunity to channel their inner artists. They can take a tour at the Santa Barbara Art Foundry or visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara’s satellite location at Hotel Indigo. But if they love wine, they also have the chance to do the famous Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, which will take them to some of the best tasting rooms in town. Then they can go to one of the many restaurants that hide behind every corner and suddenly crop up in the middle of a street, or perhaps grab a meal from one of the many gourmet food trucks that populate the area. The hardest decision is actually to choose where to settle, because you will find options for food and drinks on every block.

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Image courtesy of N1D0 at

So, though not a very big neighborhood in terms of its physical space, the Funk Zone has always been worth a visit. The options for fun are almost infinite, and visitors will hardly get bored during their time in the zone. Besides, it is located right by the pier, an area that no one would like to miss in their visit to Santa Barbara.



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