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Bracing Myself for Another Santa Barbara Winter

Updated on September 20, 2014
Me and a Christmas tree on a beach in the Central Coast of California.
Me and a Christmas tree on a beach in the Central Coast of California.
Ah, snow is but a memory now in Santa Barbara.
Ah, snow is but a memory now in Santa Barbara. | Source

No Worries, Dude

I've lived in the cold East Coast for 57 years and then moved to Santa Barbara, California. I was used to the cold; my blood was thicker. The colder weather didn't affect me as much. Now, being a Santa Barbara resident for the last two years, my blood has thinned out a bit. Now I get cold once it dips into the 60s. I'm much wimpier now.

But like Californians say, No worries, dude.

Even though I now live in a Mediterranean climate, I still get cold. When it gets dark, there is a chill in the air. I walk into Trader Joe's in January and I say, "Boy it's cold out there." They nod their head in agreement as if it is below freezing outside, even though they are wearing their flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts.

The changes in winter in Santa Barbara are subtle. Not so much weather-wise; it only drops a few degrees and it rains a bit more. It gets darker earlier, which means less sunlight and lowering temperatures. There are less tourists. State Street is not as crowded. It is a little quieter in the city with less events and festivals and parades. There are less people laying out on the beach, but the waves are bigger and the tides are higher. There are larger groups of seabirds hanging out on the sand. The mountains and vegetation look greener due to the rains instead of that light brown, dried-out look in the summer months.

Modified tree pose on the rocks overlooking the Pacific Ocean in February.
Modified tree pose on the rocks overlooking the Pacific Ocean in February. | Source

Bring Out the Hoodies

When I lived in Philly, winter was a big deal. I used to organize my shovels and ice-choppers and make sure I had plenty of rock salt. I used to box up my summer and fall clothes and take my winter clothing out from storage. I used to line up my heavy boots and dust off my water-proof parkas and hang up my scarfs and get my beanies and my warm leather gloves ready for another cold winter. I used to wear my woolen socks all the time and my long thermal underwear to bed. I used to have thick cord corduroys and bulky woolen sweaters. I used to have four sets of ear muffs and a Russian Cossack hat that made me look like I lived in Leningrad. Winter was a big deal.

But when I moved to Santa Barbara, winters became much different. I didn't have any winter clothing to unbox. There were no shovels to organize and no fear of the winter storm generating a big snowfall. And I'm not watching the Weather Channel to see how bad the weather is and the record accumulation of snow.

Now all that is left of heavy clothing is a few long sleeved t-shirts, a couple of beanies and a pair of LLBean woolen socks that I might wear when I walk on the floors at night. My flip-flops and my shorts are still front and center in my closet. And I still use my sunglasses and sunscreen on a daily basis. Even in winter, by midday the sun is hot and my forehead begins to perspire.

State Street, Santa Barbara California

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Thank God for the Rainy Season, Dude

Back East it always rains. When it rains it pours. It soaks everything. It chills your bones. Sometimes when It rains, it also floods. All that rain was sickening. It rains so much that you never see the sunshine and a dry sidewalk.

In other words, Philly weather is gnarly, dude.

But in California--it rarely rains. Right now there's a historic drought going on. The drought causes everything to dry up in California--the trees, the fields and farm crops, the streams, the lakes. Cars get dirty because there's restrictions on the water usage. There are city watchdogs that keep an eye on you so you don't water your sidewalk or hose down your car. It's that bad.

What's worse, when a strong wind blows, like the Santa Ana, there's trouble. Fires occur in the dry brush. Big fires called "Wild Fires" create havoc in wooded areas of California and are devastating. These fires destroy thousands of acres of land. Thousands of houses are destroyed and people have to be evacuated from their homes and their towns. It's horrible.

So when it rains in Santa Barbara it usually rains in the winter months from October to March. It is everyone's hope that when it rains, it pours. I hope there's a downpour and the rains are abundant. I hope it rains for a year on end. Because when it rains, even during the winter rainy season, it feels like a miracle. Sometimes the winter months of rain are like a gift to California from God--a wet gift from the heavens. Much different than Philly.

The waves are bigger in the winter.
The waves are bigger in the winter. | Source

Christmas in Santa Barbara?

When I used to listen to Bing Crosby sing White Christmas, I used to look out my window and see the heavy snow flakes fall to the ground. It was nice for the length of the song, but I didn't like the snow. The snow was bothersome. It was downright troublesome, in fact. It was messy and after a while it turned to an ugly shade of gray. The once white snowfall would change colors after cars would travel through it and it would get mushy and dirty.

Christmas in Philly also had a lot of Christmas lights and big huge blow up nativity scenes on the lawns and an inflatable Santa Claus riding a sleigh with 8 reindeer pulling him on the rooftops.

But no such thing happens in Santa Barbara. Christmas here is not the East Coast Christmas like I described, and I'm definitely not complaining. You may hear some Christmas songs on the radio, but you don't see many Christmas lights and you don't see many Christmas trees. You still hear the Beach Boys sing "Surfin' USA" and "I Get Around." And you still see the surfers paddling their boards on Leadbetter and the East Beaches hoping for a big one, especially since the waves are bigger in the winter. Although on December 25 people are off from work, there really isn't much feeling that Christmas is going on here--and I'm not complaining.

The way we dress here in the winter while taking a stroll on the beach.
The way we dress here in the winter while taking a stroll on the beach. | Source
A guy inspecting his hang glider after a safe landing.
A guy inspecting his hang glider after a safe landing. | Source

Things to Do in Santa Barbara During the Winter

  • Surf. But make sure you have a wet suit because the water is cold.
  • Farmers market. Santa Barbara's farmer's market not only has the best local fruits and vegetables but all types of musical entertainment from blue grass to folk to klezmer.
  • Stroll down the beautiful palm-lined State Street and have your choice of restaurants and unique shops and listen to sidewalk musicians play.
  • Go to Stearn's Wharf and have some seafood, while taking in the ocean view.
  • Go to the Mesa and look down at the ocean from a cliff. Watch the hang gliders and wind surfers try to harness one of nature's natural resources.
  • The art walk by the ocean on Sundays has a wide variety of artsy kiosks along Cabrillo Boulevard.
  • Visit the Santa Barbara Mission. It is one of the oldest missions in California. It is called the Queen of the missions because of how big and beautiful the mission is. And it has the best view of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Check out the skate park along the beach in Santa Barbara where the young dudes will do skateboard tricks, free of charge.

View from the Mesa in Santa Barbara.
View from the Mesa in Santa Barbara. | Source

Things to Bring to Santa Barbara in the Winter

  • Your camera and make sure you have plenty of batteries because there's a lot of good pictures to be taken.
  • Your water shoes because the water is cold.
  • A pair of jeans to wear at night.
  • A valid credit card because Santa Barbara isn't cheap.
  • A hat or a beanie because the wind can be chilly in the morning and when the sun goes down.
  • Of course a hoodie or a sweat shirt to wear on the beach.
  • Sunglasses, preferably designer ones because we're a bit trendy here.
  • Sunscreen and plenty of it because of the strong midday sun.
  • A smile on your face because most people are happy here.

Even the winter sky looks good here.
Even the winter sky looks good here. | Source

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