Thursday, Nov 07 2013 09:00 AM

Visit Old Mission, Santa Barbara

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The front of Mission Santa Barbara is home to the annual I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival. Photo courtesy of Old Mission Santa Barbara

Old Mission Santa Barbara still functions as a church as well as a museum. Photo courtesy of Old Mission Santa Barbara

If Tehachapi is the land of four seasons, Santa Barbara is the land of one. Well, not exactly, but it is fair to say that the climate remains virtually perfect all year-round. So as your thermostat starts to drop in the upcoming months and you are looking to escape the snow, think about packing your bags and hitting Highway 101 for a getaway along the Central Coast.

Sandwiched in between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara -- otherwise referred to as the "American Riviera" -- provides a picturesque and unique landscape that have been a beacon for tourists from around the world. But if the weather and views are not enough to motivate your weekend sojourn, consider what else the city has to offer: Old Mission, Santa Barbara.

The Old Mission of Santa Barbara, also dubbed the "Queen of the Missions," was founded on Dec. 4, 1786, during the Feast of Saint Barbara by Padre Fermín Lasuen, and was the tenth of 21 missions founded in California by Spanish Franciscans in the 18th century.

Despite experiencing a number of renovations after the 1925 Santa Barbara Earthquake, the mission retains its proverbial white edifice and red-tile roofing that characterizes the beauty of Spanish colonial architecture.

Today, the Mission continues to serve as a venue for mass as well as a full-time museum. For those interested in taking a stroll around the landmark, the mission offers a variety of self-guided and docent-guided tours to explore the mission's Sacred Garden, Historic Cemetery, church, and other rooms that comprise the museum.

Prices range from $1--$6 for self guided tours, and $4--$7 for docent-guided tours.

Enveloped by 200-year-old sandstone walls, and sitting at the center of the Old Mission of Santa Barbara's cemetery is the mausoleum, where many of the Mission's past friars, and other prominent members Santa Barbara's history, are buried. Also in the cemetery is a columbarium, which was added in 2011.

One of the Mission's other notable attractions is the La Huerta botanical garden. According to the mission's website, "the garden portrays the botanic history of Spain's agricultural transformation of the California landscape by preserving authentic and ancient plants collected from site where rare Mission-Era (1769-1834) varieties survived." Those interested in taking a peaceful stroll through the garden will stumble upon flora native to California, "herbs of Alta California," among other garden vegetables and seasonal crops.

The Old Mission of Santa Barbara also serves as a venue for a number of annual community events, such as the I Madonnari Italian Street Painting Festival, which occurs in May of every year. The three-day event invites local artists to chalk up the asphalt in front of the mission and benefits the Children's Creative Project in Santa Barbara.

For more information, contact the Mission at 805-682-4713. It is located at 2201 Laguna St.

There are several ways to get to Santa Barbara from Tehachapi. Consult a map and take your choice; the shortest routes will take you about three hours. Journey

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