For most Santa Barbarians, the end of the fall heat is welcome, especially because winter is considered by many to be the finest season of all. With Santa Barbara’s south-facing coastline and the winter sun lower in the southern sky, the scene is set for salubrious days. Like a convection oven, the Santa Ynez Mountains' protective sandstone slopes reflect the southern sun, bathing the town in warm sunshine.
To balance too much perfection, an occasional storm sweeps in from the Pacific bringing life-enhancing rain. Early orange California poppies bloom along the roadsides. Thorny ceanothus, one of sturdy species of shrubs that clothe the rocky slopes, bloom with white flowers, suggestive of a light snow. The rains bring new grass which transform the dry, gray fields of summer to lyrical greens.
On some very rare days, you can look up and see the mountains dotted with snow. Families make trips up the mountain to bring back snow for fleeting winter snowmen that melt within the hour.
And then there’s the clarity of the air. Gone are the fogs of summer which often obscure the Channel Islands. A soft mist may lay over the channel on some days, but the mountainous Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands rise abruptly out in the distance.
Streams, which in the summer and fall were beds of dust and dry boulders, come to life with the winter rains. Water music fills the once-silent canyons.
Shorebirds, winter visitors from the far north, race ahead of the waves, probing the sand for food with their long, sensitive bills. Wintering ducks are common in the protected lagoons.
On especially warm days when temperatures may approach 80 degrees, the pittosporums planted along State Street fill the air with their citrus fragrance, sidewalk cafes fill and mockingbirds find an excuse to burst into song. Few places winter so well as Santa Barbara.