SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Joining the recent renewed success of downtown Santa Barbara during the COVID-19 crisis, the nearby Presidio neighborhood is making sure the public knows about all that it offers. Some of it dates back to the beginnings of the city.
It ranges from historic buildings to food and wine experiences only found in that area.
The Presidio Neighborhood is shaped by several adjoining streets including Canon Perdido, Garden, Santa Barbara, Anacapa, De la Guerra and Ortega.
Hugh Margerum with Margerum Wines and a local artist has designed a brochure with a QR code on the front. Using a smart phone, one look at that symbol and it takes you to the Presidio Neighborhood information that you find in the printed material, including the website.
One of the wineries in the district is Grassini Family Vineyards, located just off of State Street above De la Guerra and in the El Paseo courtyard. Owner Katie Grassini says having the businesses come together to promote the area will help them, and people strolling nearby on State Street, see the bigger picture of the downtown experience.
She says while they enjoy a glass of wine, they can map out their next stops.
Even she has found some hidden treasures including a semi-hidden gold fish pond.
The Presidio State Park and Chapel is one of the oldest buildings in Santa Barbara.
These days the area is closed to the public but the outside benches have been used for people taking a coffee break after stopping off across the street at Handlebar Coffee Roasters.
It has created one of the most scenic underused settings in the city.
The latest version of the neighborhood plan includes businesses around Ortega Street and including the downtown De la Guerra Plaza in front of City Hall which is set to go through a renovation. That adds to the footprint for walking tours and exploration.
Much of the design is hundreds of years old and has small walkways, corridors, and short cuts throughout the city blocks.
It's as if you have gone back in time in one of the city's original locations.
"I'm still amazed when I walk here and see the variety of businesses and all the cool little historical things, " said Hugh Margerum who has organized the Presidio Neighborhood. He has been in the area with the Wine Cask restaurant and Margerum Wines for years. (The Wine Cask has recently changed hands and will reopen soon along with its associate casual wine and food business, Intermezzo.)
Margerum wants the world to know about the Presidio Neighborhood when they come to Santa Barbara, and not just stroll State Street, with its attractive new outside dining look and parklets.
"We're only just a few steps off of State Street right here and now that State Street is closed as a promenade we are really encouraging people to come in here and walk," he said. One of the entry openings is by the 33 Jewels, jewelry store.
Standing in the El Paseo Courtyard, he said, "Casa De la Guerra is just right behind us here and De la Guerra Plaza where they are planning to do a major European make over, which will be fantastic."
He recalls the days gone by when that courtyard used to have a cafe and be a daily stop for downtown workers and City Hall staffers, for coffee of lunch.
There are several wine tasting rooms now, along with cafes, boutiques and hidden corridors.
In the El Paseo footprint, Grassini Family Vineyards tasting room now has outside settings on both side of the main room. It fits right in with the surroundings. "The Presidio neighborhood has got some of the most gorgeous outdoor spaces you are going to find in Santa Barbara, some of the most historical buildings in Santa Barbara."
She is in the area on a regular basis and still found surprises.
"Take a moment and look through those little alley ways. You are going to see some beautiful plants and little paintings everywhere that you wouldn't expect to see," said Grassini.
Margerum says here, there's one of a kind stores. "All of the businesses and shops without exception are locally owned unique businesses, they aren't chain stores," he said.
Inside Grassini on the counter, Margerum showed a brochure with a QR code that takes you right to the information in your smart phone. "This is so easy to do now. You just aim your camera at it and it takes you right to the website with the on line map. "
At a time when businesses of all kinds are struggling to keep their doors open during the virus crisis, uniting together was a healthy move.
"We were all in. I don't think anybody said no. We all said we're stronger together so let's do it," said Grassini.
For more information on the businesses and walking tour go to: Presidio Neighborhood