*Rio Oso Puppyface runs along Hendrys Beach.* | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

Dance Club * College Night

Wildcat Lounge


“We had a great year going until March 17,” said Wildcat owner Bob Stout. “We stayed closed longer than most other bars so that we could make sure we could reopen safely — and we have.” Buying “all the AstroTurf at Home Depot,” Stout took 1,600 square feet outdoors and created the GlitterBox, complete with shade sails, awnings, and fire pits. “We even turned the ‘W’ in our logo upside down, so now we are the ‘Mildcat.’ Nobody gets it.” 

Runner-Up (Dance Club): SOhO Restaurant & Music Club

Runner-Up (College Night): Zodo’s Bowling & Beyond

Place to Hear Live Music

Santa Barbara Bowl


“The Santa Barbara Bowl is blessed to be included in this amazing community that we all call home,” said Program Director Eric Shiflett. “Even though we have not been able to host everyone for concerts this summer, nobody is far from our hearts and minds and we are excited to be recognized.” He urged those who are able to consider supporting the Operational Shortfall fundraising campaign (sbbowl.com/2020Shortfall).

Runner-Up: SOhO Restaurant & Music Club


Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery


“We work hard to be a place where everyone feels welcome and is excited to visit,” said Nathan Vonk, owner of Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery. “A lot of our business has moved online, and our daily visitors are down significantly, but the people who come in are especially excited to be in the gallery. We are fortunate to be well-suited for social-distanced visits.” 

Runner-Up: Waterhouse Gallery


Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History


Voted Best Museum for the second year in a row, President/CEO Luke Swetland said, “We work hard to be creative, dynamic, and accommodating, and this year has really shown our strengths as we navigate ever-changing guidelines and restrictions. This recognition makes all of that hard work worthwhile and gives us renewed energy to continue to find creative solutions to connect people to nature for the betterment of both.” 

Runner-Up: MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

Dance Company

[See Sporting Life: Dance Studio]

Theater Company

Ensemble Theatre Company


“We deeply appreciate your support and commitment to ETC, especially during this time,” said Artistic Director Jonathan Fox. “We miss you all and look forward to seeing you back at live performances as soon as possible.” Recent online events included actor/musician/writer Hershey Felder, the Young Actors Conservatory production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, the Young Playwrights Festival, and a virtual book club discussion of American Son. Plans are in the works for several live-streamed performances from the stage of The New Vic. 

Runner-Up: UCSB Theater Group

Classical Ensemble

Santa Barbara Symphony


“The Symphony — and by that I mean the staff, professional musicians, board of directors, volunteers, technicians, and community supporters — are all working together from our virtual offices to make a difference,” said interim CEO Kathryn R. Martin. “To lead when the path forward is uncertain. To have impact no matter what and to be there for our community when it needs us most.” 

Runner-Up: UCSB Middle East Ensemble


The James Joyce


“We would like to thank everyone who voted for us, although it would be a lot more exciting if customers were allowed back inside our premises to actually sing karaoke,” said The James Joyce owner Tommy Byrne. “Global pandemic and grievances aside, it is really nice to hear how much your readers continue to support us.”

Runner-Up: Tiburon Tavern

Funk Zone Spot

[See Drinking: Beer Selection on Tap]

Restaurant/Bar to Watch Sports

Finney’s Crafthouse


Upon learning our readers voted Finney’s the Best Place to Watch Sports for the second year in a row, owner Greg Finefrock said, “We are proud to be a part of this beautiful and strong community and proud to win this award.” To create a safe and welcoming environment for both team members and guests, Finney’s “moved all of our tables outside, expanded our patio, and added heaters, umbrellas, plants, and decorative lights to create a comfortable outdoor dining experience for our guests.”

Runner-Up: The Garden at Santa Barbara Public Market

Whale-Watching Tour

Condor Express


Indy readers have spoken — “Super knowledgeable captain and guides on board to show you the amazing wildlife in our Santa Barbara Channel” (Katya), and “The captain inevitably finds the whales” (Barbara) — choosing Condor Express as the Best Whale-Watching Tour vessel once again. First launched in 1973, the current 75-foot catamaran is an ideal platform for just about any type of ocean outing, including whale watching, island excursions, weddings and receptions, company charters, dinner cruises, and educational and research trips. 

Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Sailing Center

S.B. Tour Company

Land & Sea Tours: Land Shark


“To win again is exceptionally special and meaningful this year,” said owner Captain Andre Manoux, who had to close operations for a time due to the pandemic. “Although operating at half capacity means operating at near zero profit, we are thankful that we are still able to provide locals and visitors the opportunity to experience the unparalleled beauty of our city on land and at sea.”

Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Adventure Company

Beach * Dog Park

Hendry’s Beach (Arroyo Burro Beach)


“Arroyo Burro Beach Park a k a Hendry’s Beach is very special because it has something for everyone to enjoy,” said Deborah Williams, who selected it as one of the “50 Great Public Land Destinations” on her website 50greatpubliclanddestinations.org. “In addition to being a beautiful place to relax, sun, swim, play in the sand, throw Frisbees, walk and run, it has outdoor showers, a large off-leash dog area, self-serve dog wash stations, the Boathouse Restaurant, and an adjacent bird-filled estuary.”

Runner-Up (Beach): Butterfly Beach

Runner-Up (Dog Park): Douglas Family Preserve

Place to Watch the Sunset

Butterfly Beach


The unique east-west orientation of Montecito’s Butterfly Beach makes for some truly spectacular sunsets — and sunrises. The shoreline is also ideal for swimming, surfing, kayaking, and sunbathing. At low tide, you can take a walk all the way to East Beach and beyond. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and sea lions, which are often found frolicking along these shores. 

Runner-Up: Hendry’s Beach (Arroyo Burro Beach)

Stargazing Spot

Camino Cielo

Part of Los Padres National Forest, Camino Cielo Road is our readers’ top spot to cast their gazes skyward and is always a treat. About two miles up Camino Cielo from Route 154 is a small pullout at the crest of the Santa Ynez range, with an elevated grassy hill with fantastic views to the north that are magically shielded from the lights of Goleta and Santa Barbara.

Runner-Up: Lizard’s Mouth

Family Fun Spot

Santa Barbara Zoo


“This recognition means so much to us as it’s an indicator of the public’s trust in the Zoo and its programs,” said President/CEO Rich Block. “This trust is earned every day, on every visit, and with every Zoo experience. It demonstrates how much the community values the Zoo and reflects on the contribution every Zoo employee makes to the experience of our guests and on our employees’ dedication and commitment to the Zoo’s mission.”

Runner-Up: MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

Movie Theater

The Arlington Theatre


The Arlington certainly has excellent customer service. During one Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Tom Cruise was in the audience to present the final award. He wanted popcorn but couldn’t leave his seat, so he asked security to get him some, said GM Karen Killingsworth. They had just closed the concession stand but made another batch of popcorn for a special guest in the theater. “I was allowed to help deliver the items to him personally,” she said. “Tom Cruise was very pleased with his freshly popped popcorn!”

Runner-Up: SBIFF Riviera Theatre

Annual Event

Old Spanish Days Fiesta


“Old Spanish Days is not something you can cancel; it lives in the heart. And while this is not how any of us expected this year to go, we adjusted our planning to focus on safe and adaptive ways that brought forward the Fiesta spirit and honored many of our rich traditions,” said 2020 El Presidente Erik Davis. This honor “reinforces how this 96-year-old tradition truly is part of the fabric of our amazing community and is something that is cherished by many.” 

Runner-Up: Summer Solstice

* This asterisk indicates the winner won in multiple categories.