CAL­I­FOR­NIA DREAM­ING

FOR­GET THE CAR. WITH A CHIC NEW CITY-AD­JA­CENT HO­TEL AND LOTS TO DO IN THE “ZONE,” IT’S TIME TO HOP A TRAIN TO SANTA BAR­BARA.

Los Angeles Confidential - - Contents - BY KATHRYN ROMEYN

With a chic new city-ad­ja­cent ho­tel and lots to do in the “Zone,” it’s time to hop a train to Santa Bar­bara.

Now is not the time to write off LA’s north­ern neigh­bor, Santa Bar­bara, as a sleepy surf town. The post­card-per­fect en­clave known as the “Amer­i­can Riviera” has far more than lo­cal vino on tap this fall. For one, there’s the justopened, uber­luxe Ho­tel Cal­i­for­nian (36 State St., 805-882-0100; the­ho­tel cal­i­for­nian.com). A-list de­signer Mar­tyn Lawrence Bullard stud­ded the be­spoke Moroc­can-meets-Span­ish Colo­nial prop­erty with more than a mil­lion pieces of indige­nous, cus­tom­made tile. Orig­i­nal art­work ref­er­ences Old Hol­ly­wood in a wholly mod­ern way, while co­bra-like amulets— which rep­re­sented great wis­dom in an­cient Egypt— dec­o­rate the 121 rooms and suites that boast tile wain­scot­ing, Mas­cioni linens, mashra­biya pan­el­ing, and $3,700 Kal­lista shower heads. Sweet.

The ex­otic Moor­ish in­spi­ra­tion goes be­yond Bullard’s plush, col­or­splashed guest rooms.

The grand shared spa­ces of the circa 1925 ho­tel

(the orig­i­nal façade was pre­served)—in­clud­ing a glam ball­room, rooftop pool, and Moroc­canin­spired spa—also fea­ture his dis­tinc­tive six-point-star theme. But the de­signer doesn’t ex­pect guests to stay en­sconced in his hideaway, how­ever idyl­lic. Says Bullard, “Ho­tel Cal­i­for­nian is per­fectly placed at the end of State Street, where the beach and the town in­ter­sect, mak­ing it a primo lo­ca­tion to en­joy all that Santa Bar­bara has to of­fer.” On foot, for a change!

In­deed, the ho­tel’s Funk Zone-cen­tric neigh­bors in­clude MOXI, The Wolf Mu­seum of Ex­plo­ration + In­no­va­tion (125 State St., 805-770-5000; moxi .org) (Law & Or­der’s Dick Wolf and wife, Noelle, are ma­jor bene­fac­tors), which re­cently opened with 70 in­ter­ac­tive fam­ily-friendly ex­hibits, such as a stu­dio where vis­i­tors can make sound­tracks to Fox Stu­dios film clips. And while the ho­tel’s twin restos—led by ex­ec­u­tive chef Alexan­der La Motte—prom­ise to tit­il­late taste buds, the pro­fu­sion of din­ing des­ti­na­tions within walk­ing dis­tance begs for an ex­tended stay. The months-old Santo Mez­cal (119 State St.,805-8833593), just down the street, fo­cuses on fresh seafood and boasts a su­per-cre­ative mixol­ogy pro­gram that high­lights its name­sake and of-the­mo­ment spirit. Around the corner, Som­er­set Restau­rant (7 E. Ana­pamu St., 805-8457112; som­ser­setsb.com), with chef Lau­ren Her­man (Luc­ques, A.O.C.) in the kitchen, wows din­ers with its Cal­i­for­nia farm-to-ta­ble fare (all in­gre­di­ents are ex­clu­sively sourced within a 100-mile ra­dius) and Euro­pean “grand café” at­mos­phere, which blends white Cala­catta mar­ble and zinc table­tops with orig­i­nal 1950s sconces. Good taste in ev­ery sense—like dreamy Santa Bar­bara it­self.

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