Mall Alternatives

Discovering Gifts for Everyone on Your List

By Victoria W. Harvey

For those visiting Santa Barbara, and even for those who call it
home, looking for the perfect gift can be an opportunity to see
some of the city’s best offerings. Cultural, scenic, and
educational destinations are unexpected sources for imaginative
gifts due to the vast choice of well-stocked gift stores.

The gift shop at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is among the
best. Reproductions from the museum’s art collection of Degas,
Renoir, and Ansel Adams are available in the form of postcards,
jigsaw puzzles, umbrellas and tote bags, as are stunning glass
pieces, games and craft sets for children, and of course, fine art
books featuring subjects as diverse as Greta Garbo, ancient Asia,
and California ranch paintings. On the waterfront, the Maritime
Museum provides a learning experience, and its gift store offers
channel maps and treasures of an oceanic theme. Over the glistening
water at Stearns Wharf, the Ty Warner Sea Center has a small but
charming gift shop, and while the sea stars and shark eggs are best
left in the touch tanks, one can come away with a gift to evoke the
sea breezes.

In the beautiful embrace of Mission Canyon, the Santa Barbara
Botanic Garden offers tours and hikes of various levels along
creeks and through fields of wildflowers, plus a unique grove of
towering redwoods. Its gift store provides a fantastic selection of
nature-themed finds and hand-crafted pieces for botanists and bird

Similarly, for the reluctant shopper who prefers a hike rather
than the mall, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has a
varied collection of goods, including shawls and traditional
weavings, quality notepapers, telescopes, butterfly backpacks,
geological maps, Chumash songs, and bug catchers. The music of
Mission Creek, under the property’s oak and sycamore canopy,
provides a peaceful place to ponder the options.

Nearby, the Santa Barbara Mission, one of the city’s main draws
for travelers, also houses the little-known Serra Store with a
collection of take-home artifacts and contemporary relics. The shop
sells religious and souvenir items, statues, posters, jewelry,
postcards, and books. Some may find appropriate a St. Christopher
(the patron saint of travel) talisman for protection on the journey
home. For a stunning plant or spray of long-lasting cymbidiums, a
visit to the growing farms at the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate or
Gallup & Stribling (just south of Santa Barbara) is a
worthwhile venture. With more than 1.5 million square feet of
greenhouse space, these visitor-friendly centers provide a dazzling
collection of nature’s splendors. Long after the garlands and trees
are put to rest, the sight of one of these living beauties will
brighten any winter.

For the wine country visitor, Santa Ynez, Solvang, and Los
Olivos provide irresistible options in addition to the carefully
selected bottle or case of wine. The valley’s “other” crops provide
a nice alternative to the grape product that many enjoy, and the
growing list of fine olive and lavender products are sure pleasers.
These charming towns host a fun variety of shops for a day spent
searching for a special something for a cowboy or girl, in addition
to the growing number of art galleries for the collector. While
there’s no doubt that online acquisitions are easy and quick, the
holiday season is a good time to slow down and enjoy the everyday
gifts before us. With all that is available in Santa Barbara, even
the reluctant gatherer of gifts can have a hassle-free and
downright pleasant experience visiting the sights, and crossing off
those names on the gift list in the process.


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