Who would have thought a bare mile and a half could be so chock-full of history? The new Santa Barbara Waterfront free walking tour, researched and led by John Ummel, is an easy and informative walk, clocking in at just under two hours, that starts from the harbor’s Maritime Museum and runs through the decades between there and the Visitor Center over on Garden Street.
The historical narrative includes facts that are new news to even Santa Barbara natives, eliciting astonished oohs and wise aahs from the small crowd gathered for a trial run in early June. “I love history and I love being outside,” said Ummel, who retired from teaching and auditing not long ago. His touchstone for the tours is the guide he met on a similar tour in Reykjavík, he said, an actor who captivated his audience with the nuances of what had happened where and to whom. And Ummel has made sure he has his facts straight with the guidance of Michael Redmon of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, the late Buffalo Joe Schomer, and Greg Gorga at the Maritime Museum.
His homework has included thoughtful touches like finding shady trees under which to park his group and spots where they can sit along the way. And, perhaps most brilliantly, it ends amid the taquerías and cafés of the Funk Zone. To learn more about the tour, which Ummel delivers three times a week, visit freewalkingtoursb.com. It’s all about our town, and those six million annual visitors can’t all be wrong.