Santa Maria, California isn't the little town it once was. With just over 90,000 people within city limits and about 137,000 in the greater Santa Maria Valley including Guadalupe, Orcutt and small communities inland Santa Maria is the second largest city in Santa Barbara County today. And with rich traditions mixing with newer pursuits, there's more to do in the area than ever.
Even back in the 1800's when settlers came for the fertile soil when the town was called Grangerville big doings were afoot in the then small community. Oil exploration began, agriculture flourished and the town, renamed Santa Maria, started to develop the range of attractions it now boasts.
Today, you can dig for buried treasure in the nearby hills in the morning and search for a buried movie set at the Guadalupe Dunes in the afternoon. Then enjoy a world-famous local barbeque dinner complete with a world-class local Syrah to round out your evening.
Salomon Pico, who some say was the inspiration for Zorro, was one of the first notorious characters to call Santa Maria, California home. Legend has it that the bandit hid treasure in the nearby hills and people still hunt for it.
Other famous sons and daughters of Santa Maria, California, include:
You may know what cut of beef a tri tip steak is and you may know how good it can taste, but you may not know that Santa Maria, is where the popularity of barbecued tri tip took off. In fact, "Santa Maria barbecue" is a style of barbecue all its own, famous far and wide. You'll know why once you try this tender sirloin, slow roasted over an oak fire, with its traditional side dishes: beans, salsa, salad and bread.
Strawberries grown in the Valley are even more gorgeous than the beautiful fields that produce them. Fertile soil, a perfect climate, abundant water and agricultural know-how come together in some of the most luscious berries in the world 20 million trays annually, give or take a few. Many growers replant their fields every year to get the sweetest fruit. Naturally, a festival celebrating sweet Santa Maria strawberries is held at the fairgrounds in spring. Naturally, a festival celebrating sweet Santa Maria strawberries is held at the fairgrounds in spring.
Hollywood finds its way to Santa Maria often when producing feature films. The Ten Commandments was filmed at the Guadalupe Dunes that's the movie set that lies buried beneath the sand. Other movies filmed here include Pirates of the Caribbean, Sideways, Hidalgo, G.I. Jane and many others.
Hollywood also found its way to town when Santa Maria hosted the Michael Jackson trial. For two years the town's hotels and restaurants were busier than ever serving interested onlookers.
Santa Maria is the proud home of the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, staging professional plays here for over 40 years. Notable alumni include actor and comedian Robin Williams.
If you weren't aware of the Santa Maria Valley's prowess as a wine-producing area before the movie Sideways, you probably know about it now. The area's wine trails meander through coastal vineyards home to earthy Pinot Noirs and refreshing Chardonnays to vineyards producing lush, dark Syrahs inland. Visitors discover wines to rival more famous wine-producing areas of the world in a place where the pace is relaxed and the people are friendly.
In this community on the border of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties two of the most beautiful counties in California you can head outdoors and do almost anything in any season. Bicycling, hiking, golfing and even farm touring are among the popular choices.
From bird watching to scouting for celebrities, from drinking in a lovely view to sipping a favorite varietal, your favorite pastimes probably await you in Santa Maria. Which one will get you here first?