Ganna Walska Lotusland#12 in Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara
Lotusland is the former home of Polish opera singer Ganna Walska, who spent 40 years transforming her 37-acre estate into a garden wonderland. Upon her death in 1984, she left it to her foundation, which opened it to the public in 1993. The gardens are home to more than 3,000 plants from all over the world, including its namesake lotus flowers.
On a two-hour tour, the only way to visit, you'll see bromeliad and fern gardens, cactus and succulent gardens, a Japanese garden, an aloe garden and whimsical statuary. You'll also spot a 25-foot round horticultural clock featuring the signs of the zodiac and a collection of rare cycads, an unusual plant genus that has been around since the time of the dinosaurs.
Recent visitors said that while the entrance fee is high, it is well worth the price of admission to see the gorgeous gardens. Others praised the knowledgeable docents and variety of plant life.
The garden sits about 4 miles east of downtown Santa Barbara in Montecito. Lotusland is open mid-February through mid-November for guided tours only. Tours are offered Wednesday through Saturday at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and must be booked in advance. Tickets cost $50 for adults and $25 for children ages 3 to 17. For more information, visit the garden's website.
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#1 East Beach
There are three major beaches in Santa Barbara: Leadbetter, West and East. While Leadbetter has the harbor and West Beach is home to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, East Beach is the best stretch to catch some rays without being mobbed by crowds.
The shoreline may still fill up more on the weekends, but East Beach is a bit more removed from State Street and the downtown area than the other beaches, offering more space to stretch out or take a walk along the sandy shores. You may have to protect yourself from the occasional rogue volleyball though, as there are more than a dozen sandy courts here.
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