AOL Travel
Print

Best Santa Barbara Nightlife

AOL PICK from our Editors

Santa Barbara is downright smug about its rich cultural life, so there are ample opportunities to go highbrow. That said, it’s also a college town, so when it comes to tracking down the best Santa Barbara nightlife there are plenty of pop concerts, music clubs and dance spots to choose from as well. Stimulating, cutting edge performances are presented at the Center Stage Theater, and the “Sings Like Hell” series at the Lobero Theatre presents the newest, most innovative singer-songwriters in the country. So no matter where your brow lands, high or low, there’s always plenty to do in Santa Barbara at night.

Arlington Theater

Neighborhood: Downtown

One of the top Santa Barbara attractions and a gem of the golden era of ornate movie theaters, the Arlington opened in 1931. The interior is stunning—giving the illusion of sitting in a Spanish colonial plaza under a starry night sky. Today it’s home to movies (including the Santa Barbara Film Festival), concerts, and performances. Recently the schedule included everything from an Elvis Costello concert to a David Sedaris reading to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. That definitely qualifies as something for everyone.

More Details on

Arlington Theater  

eos Lounge

Neighborhood: Downtown

Kind of a wannabe Monte Carlo nightclub, this lounge attracts a slightly older crowd than the majority of the downtown nightspots. White-washed cement banquettes are softened by cobalt cushions. There’s an outdoor patio with a fireplace and additional small bar, and you can book discrete U-shaped “VIP” banquettes. DJs spin hip hop, electro and oldies and dancers are squeezed tight on the small dance floor. On Friday nights DJ Curly adds 1980s to the mix, which, if you actually lived through the 1980s, will make your hair curl.

More Details on

eos Lounge  

Lobero Theater/Sings Like Hell

Neighborhood: Downtown

First, this theatre began life in 1873 as an opera house, then was rebuilt in 1924. It’s the oldest continually-operated theatre in California, which alone makes it worth visiting for its variety of dance and music performances. But since 1997 it’s also been home to “Sings Like Hell,” a music series featuring the most innovative singer songwriters around, interspersed with well-known names like David Crosby, Aimee Mann, T-Bone Burnett and Tracy Chapman. The series took its name from musician’s musician Peter Case, who also opened the first series.

More Details on

Lobero Theater/Sings Like Hell  

SOhO

Neighborhood: Downtown

There’s live music seven nights a week in this club that doubles as a bar and restaurant. The New York loft ambience—brick walls and wood floors—is a good backdrop for the wide range of acts booked here, from blues, jazz, acoustic, rock and reggae. Name performers have included Rickie Lee Jones, Henry Rollins and Rufus Wainwright III. The dinner menu runs from appetizer like fried calamari and chicken taquitoes to dinner salads, burgers, pizza and pasta. The ambience is intimate and relaxed.

More Details on

SOhO  

Santa Barbara Symphony

Neighborhood: Downtown

Founded in 1953, the symphony not too long ago moved from its long time home at the Arlington Theatre to the renovated Granada Theatre, which opened in 1924 in Santa Barbara’s tallest building (eight stories). The Music and Artistic Director, Nir Kabaretti, has conducted symphony and opera all over the world, and this is a chance to hear first rate music in a gorgeous old theatre with state-of-the-art acoustics. The Granada is located at 1214 State Street. Symphony offices are at 1330 State St.

More Details on

Santa Barbara Symphony  

Santa Barbara Bowl

Neighborhood: Riviera

This hillside amphitheater was built in 1936 as a Depression-era WPA project, meant originally to home to the annual Fiesta. It’s since become Santa Barbara’s favorite outdoor summer music venue. In the summer of 2010, performances included mariachi music, Norah Jones, Stvie Nicks, and the Steve Miller Band. The bowl is smack-dab in a residential neighborhood, so everything closes down at 10PM. Parking is at Santa Barbara High School, then there’s a lovely walk through a grove of oak to the bowl.

More Details on

Santa Barbara Bowl  
See All Santa Barbara Nightlife »
ADVERTISEMENT