Located in the
northern end of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Maria
Valley is just inland from the Central Coast, 270
miles south of San Francisco, and 170 miles north of
Los Angeles. The city of Santa Maria is reached by
taking Highway 101 or State Route 1 from the west.
The city and valley are relaxed places,
largely ranching country with the Los Padres National
Forest providing many recreational opportunities.
With the ocean only 15 miles away, Santa Maria makes a
good place to base a Central Coast vacation. Founded as
Grangeville in 1874, the name changed to Central City
when four ranchers donated land for a townsite. But,
because local mail often wound up in Central City,
Colorado, the name was again changed -- to Santa Maria --
in 1882. The name stuck and the town has grown to a
population of 68,000.
The valley is well known for its mild,
Mediterranean climate. Summer mornings are often foggy,
as the cool ocean air blows into the valley. The average
temperature is 69 degrees F.
The city has regular air service (United
Santa Maria and the valley have a wide range of
annual events. These include the International festival
(February), The Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival
(April), held at the local fairgrounds, the Elks Rodeo
and Parade (June), Community Block Party (July), The
Santa Barbara County Fair (mid-July), the Autumn Arts
Festival and Grapes & Grains Festival (October), and
the annual Christmas Parade (December).
Ongoing events appeal to visitors to the valley. On
Tuesdays, the Orcutt Farmer's Market is held at
the Oak Knoll Shopping Center (South) at the south corner
of Clark Avenue and Bradley Road, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For information, call 343-2135.
The Central City Farmer's Market is held in
Santa Maria, at Heritage Walk, Broadway & Main, on
Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m..
Tours of nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base are
available on Wednesdays, but advance reservations are
required. For information and reservations, call 734-8232
Pismo Beach (15 miles
northwest) is a favorite place to see the ocean and enjoy
the wide beach on which you can drive your car. The
larger city of San Luis Opispo is nearby. As well as the
beach, and the state off-road vehicle park, you'll see
monarch butterflies in their winter residence during
February in Pismo Beach. Tours are available. For
information, call 773-4382.
Other Nearby Attractions:
Solvang, the fascinating Danish town is found
off Highway 101 south of Santa Maria. The picturesque
community is filled with charming restaurants, bake
shops, and boutiques.
Guadalupe, on Highway 1, is a small
agricultural village with a lot of history. Guadalupe
also features barbecue on occasion. The town is set in a
large farming area, and the economy is based on large
packing operations. You can take a short cut from Santa
Maria, on State Route 166.
Point Sal State Beach is found west of
Guadalupe. This is a remote natural area with huge dunes.
Just north of Santa Maria is State Route 166.
This very scenic road crosses the Sierra Madre Mountains,
through the Los Padres National Forest. The Hog Pen
Springs camping area is on the eastern side of the
crest, via a short access road.
La Purisima Mission State Historic Park takes a
half-hour drive from Santa Maria, but is well worth
visiting. Drive south to Lompoc and turn east onto State
Route 246 to reach the old Mission.
Santa Maria Barbecue
For many, Santa Maria's top claim to fame is the
famous Santa Maria Style Barbecue. The tradition goes
back to the early 1800s when vaqueros, California's first
cowboys, held large beef barbecues following cattle
This culinary tradition has been kept alive throughout
the generations by local groups who make the barbecue a
part of virtually every major event in the city. On
almost any weekend, you'll fine one or more community
groups staging an outdoor barbecue -- featuring 3-inch
slabs of top sirloin or "tri-tip", with side dishes of
pinquito beans, green salad, macaroni and cheese, French
Bread, salsa, and ice cream.
You can also order Santa Maria barbecue in several
restaurants -- in Santa Maria and Guadalupe -- although
the true barbecue experience is in enjoying the ambiance
of the community group dinners.
The local barbecue is a fine experience for gourmets
and gourmands alike.