Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery
Paul Wellman


Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery

7 E. Anapamu St., 730-1460,

For the past three decades, Sullivan Goss has been both presenting and representing some of the biggest and brightest from the American art universe spanning the last three centuries. Led by its namesake owner, Frank Goss, the gallery has amassed a celebrated collection of American-made paintings, sculptures, drawings, and watercolors. Its public exhibitions, some 20 of them a year, run the gamut from hyper-local solo shows to internationally noted historical affairs and everything in between.

Finalist: Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara

Dance Club

Wildcat Lounge

15 W. Ortega St., 962-7970,

As the night stretches out toward tomorrow, the Wildcat invariably heats up: whirling lights, deejays, thumping beats, scantily clad go-go dancers, plush red-pleather booths, a smoke-friendly back patio, and a dance floor that’s always at the epicenter of the action. For the ninth year in a row, the affectionately named “Shitty Kitty” is our readers’ pick for grooving, moving, and gyrating the night away. Visit on a Sunday night, and our town’s most consistent weekly party will be popping off as the club hosts Gay Night, an occasion that, over the years, has grown to include many bar/restaurant-industry workers and assorted cohorts looking to have some true fun before sleeping in on Monday morning.

Finalist: EOS Lounge


Santa Barbara Museum of Art

1130 State St., 963-4364,

Located prominently in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, our Museum of Art lets visitors and citizens alike know that the arts are at the forefront of life here on the South Coast. We take this stuff seriously. Home to more than 5,000 years of human creativity, the museum balances a robust permanent collection of, among other things, contemporary American painting and photography, 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, and the antiquities of Asia, especially China, with a commitment to traveling international exhibits and public educational outreach. “We look forward to continuing this mission in 2016 as the museum celebrates its 75th anniversary and begins a renovation project that not only addresses critical needs but also increases gallery space and improves the visitor experience,” says SBMA Director and CEO Larry Feinberg.

Finalist: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Dance Company

State Street Ballet

2285 Las Positas Rd., 563-3262,

Fresh off a nine-week tour through China with 34 performances in 24 cities and already starting to gear up for the company’s annual Nutcracker shows, State Street Ballet Associate Artistic Director Leila Drake Fossek was noticeably pleased with the dance company’s win this year. “It is certainly good news to come home to,” she beamed before quickly pointing out that the support from the performing-arts community at large here in S.B., such as the S.B. Symphony and the Choral Society, are a big reason for State Street’s success. “We couldn’t do it without our collaborating partners,” said Drake Fossek. “And, of course, the people of Santa Barbara voting for us is great. I mean, that’s our audience.”

Finalist: Santa Barbara Dance Arts

Theater Company

Ensemble Theatre Company

33 W. Victoria St., 965-5400,

Upon moving into their new digs at the much renovated Victoria Theatre just two years ago ​— ​it’s even called the New Vic now ​— ​the Ensemble Theatre Company tackled everything from Metamorphoses and Amadeus to Tom Waits’s Woyzeck and this fall’s Sweeney Todd with what Executive Artistic Director Jonathan Fox describes as “a dedication to eclectic productions that often push the envelope.” This approach has, once again, assured the professional company unwavering support from our readership. And already they are looking tough to beat next year, as well, with the West Coast premiere of Wendy MacLeod’s comedy Women in Jeopardy this December and I Am My Own Wife and Bad Jews on the stage early in 2016.

Finalist: out of the Box

Classical Ensemble

Santa Barbara Symphony

1330 State St., Ste.102, 898-9386,

Under maestro Nir Kabaretti, the Santa Barbara Symphony has become the bridge it was always destined to be between our community and the international music scene. Attracting world-class soloists like Ingrid Fliter, André Watts, and Lynn Harrell is only part of the picture; the rest is the dynamic and adventurous programming ​— ​who can forget Ted Atkatz and the Rouse Percussion Concerto with its dueling trap sets? ​— ​and the extraordinary devotion this orchestra shows to its audience. Whether that’s the lively and informative preconcert talks of Saïd Ramón Araïza, the Youth Symphony, or the music classroom on wheels known as the Music Van, you can be certain that whatever the S.B. Symphony presents will be of the highest quality and will represent the latest ideas about creating community engagement with art.

Finalist: Camerata Pacifica

Santa Barbara Bowl
Paul Wellman

Place to Hear Live Music

Santa Barbara Bowl

1122 N. Milpas St., 962-7411,

A sandstone-studded, open-air amphitheater with sweeping views of the city and the ocean beyond, the Bowl isn’t just Santa Barbara’s best live music venue; it is regularly ranked by touring artists as one of the best venues in the entire country. Originally built in 1936 as a home for annual Fiesta celebrations, the Bowl has endured through the years, reinventing itself a few times over and bearing witness to countless historic concerts along the way, welcoming legends and upstarts alike to its stage. Millions of dollars’ worth of remodels and upgrades in recent times have brought the venue roaring into the 21st century, all but guaranteeing that the party has really only just begun at the top of Milpas hill.

Finalist: Soho Restaurant & Music Club

College Night

Sandbar Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar

514 State St., 966-1388,

A sit-down Mexican joint by day, Sandbar clears out the tables and becomes a buzzing and joyful hive of booze and youthful debauchery by night. While the infamous old tree in the courtyard is long gone, the raucous twenty-somethings’ dancing and drinking party remains the true calling card of this State Street establishment. Late-night drink specials, live music, deejays, lots of space to hang out and make out, and food with just the right amount of grease to complement your pursuit of drunk — Thursday nights at Sandbar is college.

Finalist: Tonic

Whale-Watching Tour

Condor Express

301 W. Cabrillo Blvd., 882-0088,

The late and legendary Captain Fred Benko is no longer with us, but thankfully the boat he had custom built to be a top-notch whale-watching vessel is still making daily rounds in the Santa Barbara Channel. Whether it’s migrating grays or resident humpbacks or orcas or blues, a day trip on the Condor Express is about as sure a bet as you will find in the country, if not the world, when it comes to looking for whales. They even have a “Whale Watch Guarantee” that promises you a free second trip if your first one doesn’t deliver the goods. As an added bonus, especially so in the warm-water realities of this El Niño season, there is often no shortage of other eye candy when cruising on the Condor: dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, and flying fish are but a few of the bonus critters you might encounter along the way.

Finalist: Double Dolphin

S.B. Tour Company

Land and Sea Tours: The Land Shark

216 Arboleda Rd., 683-7600,

It’s impossible not to smile when you see The Land Shark coming, as the big and clumsy-looking bus/boat hybrid lampoons itself both on the road and in the sea. And then there are the guests on board, always laughing and carrying on as if they are having the time of their lives. Fully narrated with a great mix of history, info, and humor, the 90-minute tours of quintessential S.B. spots is pure fun for born-and-raised locals and day-tripping visitors alike. Perhaps best of all, they have no affiliations and refuse to take kickbacks or paid endorsements, so all the sightseeing and snark provide a pure and curated view of life in Santa Barbara.

Finalist: S.B. Adventure Co.

Best Beach

Butterfly Beach

It is a special beach that can alternate between jam-packed, flesh-heavy, fun-time meat market and quiet, family-friendly, beach paradise with room to roam. But such are the realities of Butterfly Beach, often both within the same day. The closest sand to the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel, the Santa Barbara Cemetery, and Ty Warner’s sprawling coastal estate, this slice of shore does not disappoint, with a mostly rock-less swimming area, mellow wave action, and a bend of headlands that regularly keeps the prevailing winds blocked.

Finalist: Arroyo Burro Beach (a k a Hendry’s Beach)


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