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New Santa Barbara visitor center helps travelers navigate the region during COVID-19 crisis

Visitor Center
John Palminteri
The new Santa Barbara Visitor Center has opened on lower State St. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Visitor Center
John Palminteri
The new Santa Barbara Visitor Center has opened on lower State St. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Visitor center
John Palminteri
The new Santa Barbara Visitor Center has opened on lower State St. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Visitor center
John Palminteri
The new Santa Barbara Visitor Center has opened on lower State St. (Photo: John Palminteri)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The newest Santa Barbara Visitor Center has opened on lower State Street as a gateway stop to downtown and the waterfront.

The center at 120 State St. is just down from the railroad crossing and up from McConnell's ice cream.

It comes at a time when tourism is slowly coming back after the COVID-19 impacts in March, April and May that brought foot and vehicle traffic to a crawl.

Even the reopening in June has been carefully navigated.

The Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region President 
Kristen Miller said, "we want to do this right and we are very confident  we can do this right."


Timing was carefully decided,  "because we are seeing visitation  come back a little bit.  It is extremely important that we be the hub of safety information, " said Miller.

Annmarie Rogers is the Executive Director of the Visitor Center, and says, "I think people are impressed that it is safe."


Travelers are offered  a mask and a shot of the sanitizer on the counter.
Then they tell them what's open and how to visit in a healthy safe way.

"First we try to find out what they are interest in.   Some people don't want to shop. So we encourage  them to encourage them to stay a little longer but to stay safe," said Rogers.


The center is perfectly placed, just a few steps to the waterfront in one direction and the other direction,  it is two blocks to downtown.
 Many offshore  or wine country trips are also suggested, along with sites outside of downtown Santa Barbara.

Miller says, "they're also looking for what they can do the next day so we are very lucky to coordinate with Goleta and Carpinteria."

The store will also be a boutique with original art, books and clothing.
"But the cool thing is we have so many neat things to purchase that are locally made. Our local makers and crafters are using us as a hub," said Miller.

The goal is to be welcoming, and keep tourism as strong as possible under the current conditions,  in part because of the number of jobs it creates, and also the funding that sustains local economies.

Tourism officials are encouraging visitors but are quickly making sure visitors understand the face mask requirements and the advantages of an open space area.

The Visitor Center at the corner of Garden Street at Cabrillo Boulevard remains closed at this time.

 Rogers has set up an information table outside and limited the number of people inside .

Among the other services the Visitor Center offers include:

  • Trolley Tickets
  • Land Shark Tickets
  • Detailed Maps for Santa Barbara and many other cities
  • California Maps
  • Wine, Beer & Cocktail Maps
  • Hiking Books & Maps
  • Camping Maps
  • Santa Barbara Books & Magazines
  • Calendars
  • Souvenirs
  • Phone Cards
  • Water, Soda & Candy
  • Axxess Book

Tourism is facing summertime challenges due to the economic slowdown.  Hotels are reporting bookings are off 30 to 40 percent.

Among the more popular stops for visitors include Stearns Wharf, the Old Mission and the landmark Courthouse. Trolley services and the Land Shark tours recently resumed operation.

Sunday there was a long mid-day line for the Santa Barbara Wheel Fun Rentals where guests can get bikes and surreys by the hour.

The electronic shuttle bus service has been "paused" along the waterfront and downtown, according to the Metropolitan Transit District.

Watch tonight on KEYT NewsChannel 3. KCOY NewsChannel 12 and KKFX Fox 11 News.

For more information on projects go to: The Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region or Visit Santa Barbara.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3 and KCOY 12 Central Coast News.