SANTA BARBARA'S TOP 10 SPOTS TO SWOON OVER
1. Clairmont Farms: If the scent doesn't get you, the scene definitely will. A sea of purple, this six-acre lavender farm off a quaint road in Los Olivos puts a new spin on swooning, Santa Barbara-style. Graceful 150-year-old olive trees dot the entrance drive; after a walk among the fields, pick up some massage oil and sachets for an apres adventure. Roblar Road, Los Olivos. Free.
2. Francheschi Park: With panoramic views of the Pacific, red tile roofs cascading into the sea and a fragrant array of exotic plants, this home-cum-park of Santa Barbara's famed grandfather of horticulture Francesco Francheschi is an offbeat and isolated find. Check into one of the picnic tables adjacent to the historic home. Mission Ridge, Santa Barbara. Free.
3. Knapp's Castle: High above the cloudline sits a stone ruin reminiscent of a Grecian temple. Built in 1916, this elaborate sandstone mansion commands a rocky point with stunning vistas in all directions. The remains--rock arches, fireplaces, rock stairways and chimneys--provide a powerful backdrop for budding love. East Camino Cielo Road, Santa Barbara.
4. Swing Lounge at the Lily Pond, El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas: Where else can you delve into another space in time where Great Gatsby-clad couples sipped champagne around the wisteria-ringed lily pond? This private lounge is ideal for a prelude to a repast above the clouds on the restaurant terrace. Lasuen Road, Santa Barbara.
5. Thousand Step Beach: An insider haunt for romantic romps along the beach. Just off Mesa Lane, a small path with 241 wooden steps drapes down to the beach. As you descend, the path is festooned with fuchsia bougainvillea and a lone cypress tree. The pristine beach goes for miles in low tide. Santa Barbara. Free.
6. Pritchett Bench, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: Get up close and personal with nature at this 65-acre garden featuring more than 1,000 species of native California plants. Wander through the redwood forest, manzanita grove and cut onto the Pritchett Trail, which ascends along a small dirt path. The stone "Pritchett" bench is tucked high among the canopy of live oaks with whispers from a babbling stream below. Mission Canyon, Santa Barbara. $6.
7. Santa Barbara County Courthouse Clock Tower: This stately gem, built in 1929, is the essence of Spanish-Moorish architecture and one of the most beautiful public buildings in the nation. Take the elevator to the third floor and hoof it up a few steps to the Clock Tower for a stunning 360-degree view of vibrant tile adobes, the Santa Ynez Mountains, palm-studded shoreline and Channel Islands. Seldom busy, this is the place to steal a kiss and quick photo op. Santa Barbara Street, Santa Barbara. Free.
8. Vendanta Temple: Step out of Santa Barbara and into southern India at this tranquil masterpiece with a quiet perch overlooking the Pacific. Enjoy a hand-in-hand stroll among the tranquil grounds tucked deep within a residential area in Montecito. The adjoining Sarada Convent Bookstore offers local artisan works should baubles be needed. Ladera Lane, Montecito. Free.
9. A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Gardens: Created as a fragrance garden for the blind, this stunning park with Mission Santa Barbara as the backdrop is drop-dead gorgeous. More than 1,000 varieties of roses stretch up to the sky in a heady salute certain to rev up even the most jaded cupid. Los Olivos Street, Santa Barbara. Free.
10. Kayak the Pacific: Santa Barbara Harbor offers a variety of tandem kayak rentals for couples seeking a little liquid love. An easy launch at the harbor enables beginners to float among the world-class crafts before venturing out to sea for a sizzling sunset. Santa Barbara. $30.
For accommodation information and reservations, contact Santa Barbara Hot Spots 800/793-7666. For travel information and a free copy of the official Santa Barbara County Visitors Guide, contact the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission at 800/927-4688, 805/966-9222 or by e-mail at tourism@santabarbaraCA.com. Visitor information is also available at the Visitor Information Center located at #1 Garden Street at Cabrillo Boulevard and via the Internet at www.santabarbaraCA.com.
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