Leslie Andrea Westbrook’s Insider’s Guide to Santa Barbara is a fascinating and practical look at our picturesque California city. Both personal and expansive, this guide provides residents and travelers alike with great amounts of information about Santa Barbara, from its colorful past to bustling present.

A third generation Californian, Westbrook has lived in Santa Barbara County for most of her adult life. She has written for just about every publication under the Santa Barbara sun — including for a time as travel editor of The Santa Barbara Independent — as well as for regional and national magazines, newspapers, and websites, including Conde Nast Traveler, Jetsetter, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

She recently answers a few questions about her new book, which she will be signing on July 21 at Mediterranee in Summerland.

What made you want to do a guidebook on Santa Barbara?

I needed to pay my property taxes!

I have worked on numerous guidebooks over the years — covering Canada, the U.S., and Europe — and they are very detailed gigs, which are not as glam as they sound. However, besides getting to do this book on my hometown, my other favorites were a Frommer’s driving guide to the beautiful state of Wyoming and the dining chapter of a Fodor’s Guide to the Big Island of Hawaii. (I’ll eat my way around any island.)

I’m sort of over guidebooks at the moment; they are a lot of work. I am working on a memoir now.

Did you learn about things about Santa Barbara that you hadn’t heard about at all before?

It’s funny, after living here for almost 40 years, there are still places I’ve yet to visit. But time is a thief — and it was impossible to get everywhere due to a rather short deadline. We had to let our fingers do the walking a lot of the time, although we tried to get on the ground as much as possible.

The book is rather like a telephone directory in terms of information, but in addition to all the usual tourist information and history, there is a chapter for people moving here about services ranging from schools and hospitals to real estate and retirement. It was sad to learn how many senior services had been cut that were in the previous edition.

There’s a lot of Santa Barbara history in the book. A lot of people don’t realize that the December 12, 1812 earthquake created a tidal wave that came inland as far as the Presidio, destroying many buildings along its path. Hopefully history won’t repeat itself.

Any adventures while researching?

I had a great group of college interns helping me, mostly from UCSB. The Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau generously gave us press passes to museums and for the Urban Wine Trail. I’d say our visit to Lotusland was the most enjoyable “research project” — but the interns who were over 21 might say hitting the wine tasting rooms was the best part of their research. Besides eating out (and I paid for all my meals), I spent too much money at Kalyra’s Tiki-style tasting room on chotchkes. Hazards of the trade.

What would you say was your most fun experience?

The most fun part of working on this book was creating “Insider Tips” and “starring” favorite restaurants, places to stay, and things to do.

I am a foodie and love going out to eat, so the restaurant chapter was the most fun. I got to highlight three of my favorite places to eat: Petite Valentien, Julienne, and Los Agaves. I also recommended Tydes at the Four Season Biltmore’s Coral Casino — but you have to be a guest, member, or have a guest pass to dine there.


Author Leslie Westbrook will sign copies of Insider’s Guide to Santa Barbara on July 21 at Summerland’s Mediterranee, a fine arts, antiques, and garden showroom located at 2500 Lillie Avenue. For more information, please call 805-695-0910.


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