Santa Barbara is the perfect destination for red-tiled roofs, fabulous wine, and sparkling beaches. Just a few steps from the beach (and most importantly, from The Eagle Inn) is a pedestrian-friendly, 10-block area known as the Funk Zone, where you will find unique art, tasting rooms, and eclectic shops. Spend an afternoon or evening using our guide to Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.
State Street, Stearns Wharf, and East Beach border the Funk Zone. It is easily accessible by the Santa Barbara station of Amtrak. It is a quirky mixture of historical marine structures, industrial buildings, and houses where artists have created studio spaces over the years. The area has recently been filled with wine-tasting rooms, restaurants, and shops.
How the “Funk Zone” Came to Be
Why is this area of the waterfront, so close to the downtown, so different from the rest of Santa Barbara? The answer to this question can be found in zoning changes that were heatedly discussed and put into effect in the early 2000s. The area had always been the industrial, marine, and manufacturing part of town. Believe it or not, the Lockheed Corporation and Santa Barbara’s first grain mills and feed stores were born here. It was the launch pad for some of the area fishing empires and the home ground for Radon boat building.
As much of Santa Barbara was developed, a movement to provide an “art-friendly” zone that maintained the area’s charm and “funk”. Ultimately the adopted code requires that businesses and buildings in the Funk Zone be tourist-serving in nature, mixed-use residential/commercial, or marine-oriented light manufacturing. Although this leaves room for some gentrification, the artsy vibe has been maintained.
Wine Tasting Rooms
If you are looking for the highest concentration of wine-tasting rooms in a small area, then a trip to the Funk Zone will satisfy that wish. With 17 tasting rooms in a 10-block radius, you will find examples of most wine styles produced in the Santa Barbara area. Of particular note are:
The Valley Project is known for its distinctive hand-drawn chalk map of the region. They specialize in small-batch wines from each of the Santa Barbara AVAs. The staff is knowledgeable, and this may be the only place to taste some of the wines.
Riverbench is one of the only tasting rooms in the Funk Zone with a sparkling wine flight option. Their sparkling wine is made in the methode champenoise (or like French Champagne).
Santa Barbara Wine Collective brings together a number of wineries in one location, including Fess Parker, the Paring, and Notary Public.
Craft Beer Taprooms
The number of local taprooms and breweries in Santa Barbara is growing exponentially! The half dozen in the Funk Zone will satisfy your beer cravings. Here are two we like:
Figueroa Mountain offers more than two dozen beers on tap. Plan on sitting and enjoying several, and, if it’s the weekend, enjoy some live music.
Llama Dog has a highly diverse menu of beers from all over the county. If there are two of you, and one doesn’t love beer, there is wine and cider to choose from.
Art and Culture
All you have to do is walk around and admire the murals on the walls of buildings all over the Funk Zone. Still, if you want to visit actual artists, there are several galleries and studios and the MOXI, the Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation.
Shopping in the Funk Zone
Between wine tasting and gallery hopping, there are a number of unique shops offering clothing, furniture, and gifts that you won’t find anywhere else. Here are just a few examples:
The Blue Door has three floors of vintage and modern interior items.
Loveworn has a huge selection of vintage denim and their own creations.
By the Sea has handmade jewelry, bath and body items, and home goods.
Satisfy Your Cravings in the Funk Zone
Does all of this tasting, shopping, and art make you hungry? Once again, the Funk Zone can satisfy your craving–be it caffeine with a local coffee shop, sugar with a bakery, or dinner at the Lark, rated one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara. Of course, there are also places for pizza and healthy food.
Learn Your Way Around with a Tour
If all of this has your head spinning, we have an easy solution. Start your introduction to the Funk Zone with a walking tour. This free tour (the guides will expect a tip) is 90 minutes long and includes historical information, a map, and recommendations.
There is also a Food Tour (Eat This, Shoot This) that includes tastings and sips, along with tips on photographing your food tidbits on your phone best! Plan for a three-hour experience. A third tour includes several wine-tasting bars and the Funk Zone’s famous ice creamery.
Recovering from a Day in the Funk Zone
After an afternoon following our guide to Santa Barbara’s eclectic Funk Zone, full of wine tastings and art galleries, return to one of our comfortable casitas and plan a completely different Santa Barbara experience for tomorrow! What will it be? Perhaps a day at the beach using one of our complimentary bicycles to explore. Or maybe go out on the water for a whale-watching tour! Our experienced staff is happy to make recommendations to suit your own taste. Come and learn to love Santa Barbara just as much as we do.