Best of Santa Barbara® 2020
by Leslie Dinaberg
Santa Barbara Athletic Club, SWELL
“We always strive to be the best we can,” said marketing associate Wendy Wilson. “We continuously work to upgrade our facilities, equipment, and amenities to provide a state-of-the-art club for our members. Now that we’ve been voted best, the bar is set even higher, and we look forward to working toward offering a premium club membership for the 805 community.”
Runner-Up: Bond Fitness
“Being best means that we show up for this community, no matter what,” a particular challenge this year, said Cara Ferrick and Brandon Cox, co-owners. “It has been a long six months of ups and downs, creativity, intelligent decisions, and massive challenges.” CorePower now has outdoor tented classes, as well as online instruction. They’ve also developed a comprehensive safety protocol to be ready for indoor yoga when the state allows.
Runner-Up: Yoga Soup
Voted Best Pilates Studio for eight years in a row, Fit Buddha co-owner Marcus Kettles said, “The ‘best’ means that we have achieved the highest level of training, utilizing our Bionic Pilates Megaformer machine, cross-training with indoor cycling. It means that our trainers are exceptional, kind, supportive, compassionate people and connect to our clients in a deep and motivational way. Thank you for entrusting us to evolve your body temple at Fit Buddha evolutionary fitness.”
Runner-Up: Aligned Pilates Studio
Martial Arts Studio
“We pride ourselves on creating a program that meets the unrecognized needs of our members. Our purpose is to provide an environment where members can learn the value of practice, of determination, and of persistence, all valuable life skills,” said owner Sean Apperson, who built an outside training area to accommodate members during the pandemic. He added, “We are looking forward to the day we can move back indoors to our world-class facility.”
Runner-Up: Martial Arts Family Fitness
Dance Studio * Dance Company
Santa Barbara Dance Arts
“‘Best’ means a celebration of our community and staff, and I cannot think of a better time to recognize those who continue to work hard to make this small business survive and thrive during a pandemic,” said director Alana Tillim. “After being closed for months and reopening on June 15 for summer camp, we had a little girl literally run and leap through our entry hall and shout, ‘I’m HOME!’ We cannot wait for that day to come again!”
Runner-Up (Dance Studio): Arthur Murray Dance Studio
Runner-Up (Dance Company): La Boheme Professional Dance Group
“To everyone who voted for us, we are truly grateful for all of the support you have given us and for helping us create a community where you come to work out and leave inspired and supported by everyone in the room,” said Stephen Stowe, owner/managing partner of Bond Fitness. When the popular program closed down in March, for almost three months they offered free daily live workouts on Instagram for the whole community.
Runner-Up: Killer B Fitness
El Capitán State Beach
“There are many great campgrounds in the Santa Barbara area, and to be voted best by our community and surrounding communities is an honor. We are extremely grateful,” said supervising ranger Scott Anderson. “One of the favorite parts of the job is the interaction with campers, young and old, from different backgrounds who oftentimes come from all over the country.”
Runner-Up: El Capitan Canyon
Camping Gear Store
REI stocks just about everything you need to embrace the great outdoors, just as our readers have embraced this big-box store for several years in a row as the best place for camping gear. With everything from trekking poles to lightweight tents and portable power to climbing harnesses, this is the ideal place to gear up for your next adventure.
Runner-Up: Mountain Air Sports
Surf Shop * Swimwear Store
Surf N’ Wear Beach House
“Winning is great, but even better is knowing that people in the community took the time to show their appreciation by voting,” said owner Roger Nance. “We have been doing this for a long time [since 1962], and, with the support of our community, we don’t plan to go anywhere. Thank you all again. We look forward to seeing you when you come by to shop or just talk.”
Runner-Up (Surf Shop): Channel Islands Surfboards
Runner-Up (Swimwear Store): Bikini Factory
Snowboard/Ski Gear Store
Mountain Air Sports
“Thanks for thinking of us,” said manager Joey Duddridge when he learned of the win. “Our customers are the best in the business, and we are stoked to get to hang with them every day.” Being the best means, “We made it another year,” he laughed. “But really, this town is awesome, and the amount of love we get from everyone is unbelievable. We’re so stoked to be here and keep a little bit of old school in this neighborhood.”
Riding steady as our readers named them the Best Bicycle Shop in Santa Barbara for the 30th consecutive year, Bicycle Bob’s owner Bob Zaratzian said being named the best “is a huge source of pride for not only myself but our entire staff.” Especially during a year when the pandemic, combined with not being able to stock new bicycles as quickly, led to a shift in staff from 50/50 sales and service to 75 percent service, including extra staff to help with service work and increased business.
Runner-Up: Velo Pro Cyclery
Boarders love Powell-Peralta — and so do Indy readers, who picked it as their top skateboard shop once again. They’ve got a little bit of everything, from clothing and equipment to limited-edition skateboards that are handmade in Santa Barbara. The shop reopened in June in a new location in Kellogg Square and, as reader Sarah said, “the joy of skateboarding flows right out the door yet again.”
Runner-Up: Lighthouse Skateshop
Place to Get Athletic Shoes
Santa Barbara Running
“My family and I are truly grateful for all of the support from this amazing community,” said Santa Barbara Running owner Joe DeVreese, who used the two-month pandemic shutdown of the store to finally get an e-commerce shop up and running. “We pride ourselves on offering the best assortment of technical running and walking footwear in the industry. But more importantly, we absolutely love helping our customers achieve their fitness goals and staying healthy.”
Sandpiper Golf Club
The views at Sandpiper Golf Club (Santa Barbara County’s first resort course open to the public) are enough to make even non-golfers want to grab some clubs. The Best Golf Course pick once again, Sandpiper is a truly spectacular 18 holes of seaside links set on rolling flatland, steep barrancas thick with chaparral, and chalky bluffs offering spectacular vistas of Haskell’s white-sand beaches and the Pacific Ocean below.
Runner-Up: Glen Annie Golf Club
Place to Shoot Pool
Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
The top place in town for an authentic taste of Irish hospitality and a game of pool, Dargan’s was established in Santa Barbara in 1997, but the family surname has been associated with public houses in Ireland since the beginning of the 20th century. Rack ’em up in the pool room part of the pub, which has its own bar, four pool tables, and a jukebox.
Runner-Up: Don Q Family Billiard Center
The panoramic views of Inspiration Point aren’t easy to get to — even the shortest route from Tunnel Road to Jesusita Trail is about a 3.75-mile round trip up and down hills — but Santa Barbara’s perennial favorite hiking trail is truly, well, inspirational. From the majestic oaks and sycamores at lower elevations to the clear views over the coast of Santa Barbara and across the Pacific Ocean toward the Channel Islands, there’s no better place to appreciate the charms of our fair city.
Runner-Up: Cold Spring
* This asterisk indicates the winner won in multiple categories.