Want to take in the sweeping views of wine country or drive a short distance to world-class beaches? In Santa Maria, California, you don't have to pick and choose. Located along California's central coast, this town of roughly 100,000 people is nestled in Santa Barbara County, a region widely considered among the most desirable places to live in California. With its Mediterranean-like weather, family-friendly appeal and affordable cost of living compared to urban areas in California, it's no wonder why many make Santa Maria their home.
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Even with its suburban feel, Santa Maria is known for mouth-watering tri-tip barbecue-it's among the top draws of the city. The barbecue roots date back to the mid-19th century when rancheros, meaning ranch hands, would prepare Spanish-style barbecue. Once known as a discarded piece of meat, the tri-tip cut was seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic, and then grilled over red oak coals. The specialty grew in popularity, eventually becoming a characteristic trait of Santa Maria and rightfully earning the often-stated title of "Barbecue Capital of the World." It's an attraction that draws many visitors from around the country. Drop by any barbecue restaurant or take in the lingering smells in the air from the backyard cookouts-barbecue pretty much defines this coastal California town.
Don't feel left out if your taste buds lean toward something more sweet than savory. Santa Maria offers fields of strawberries and wine vineyards to appease your palate. Central California's mild climate is ideal for growing strawberries, making the crop the region's agricultural bread and butter. In fact, the city celebrates the healthy and tasty fruit at an annual three-day Santa Maria Valley Strawberry Festival. The festival is ideal for families and strawberry fans alike. However, when talking about Santa Maria, it's important not to leave out its excellent wineries and vineyards. Known as best-kept secrets for wine enthusiasts, wineries are among the major drivers of manufacturing and tourism in the area. Santa Maria's coastal weather, long growing season and ideal soil conditions cultivate the ideal climate for growing wine grapes. Specifically, the region is known for Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Noir varieties. Winery tours and tasting rooms offer the opportunity to taste regional and local wine specialties. If you don't consider yourself a foodie, Santa Maria offers other entertainment fitting for a variety of lifestyles. The world famous Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts appeals to the theater buff, and the proximity to the ocean makes surfing accessible for Santa Maria residents. For ultimate coastal and foodie appeal, make the central California city of Santa Maria your home.