Santa Maria was, for many years, a quiet little town. There was not much to do and it was little known around the world. In recent years, the population has exploded because of the affordability of housing in comparison to its neighbors. Santa Maria is within easy driving distance of many central coast attractions.
Santa Barbara is about an hour drive south with Buellton, Solvang, and the Santa Ynez Valley about a 30-minute drive away. The Five Cities area (Pismo Beach, Oceano, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, and Shell Beach) is just to the north, Avila Beach just beyond that, and San Luis Obispo just north of Avila.
The climate is some of the best weather in the United States with a steady temperature of 60’s and 70’s year-round. With the expanding population has come more things to do in the area. People commonly drive from the Central Valley to escape the heat and enjoy wine tasting, authentic Mexican restaurants and relax watching sporting events.
Some of the best food in the valley can be found in Santa Maria’s famous style barbecue. The tender and juicy meat of tri-tip beef and a hefty helping of sides is a trademark that can be found on Broadway on most days.
If a barbecue stand cannot be found, head to the BBQ Land at the corner of Broadway and Carmen Ln and you will be treated with the best. Santa Maria Style barbecue is black-on-the-outside, pink-on-the-inside, grilled beef tri-tip steak.
A trip to Santa Maria on a weekend can give you the thrill of watching a go-kart race or stock car racing. The Santa Maria Karting Association hosts races almost all year each Sunday with gates opening at7am and best yet, it’s free!
Weekend Activities Guide
People come from all over California to compete in these races. Even kids can get involved with a racing class for kids as young as 5 years old. The SMKA is also now racing at the Santa Maria Speedway on Monday evenings. Saturdays at the Speedway consist of stock cars, demolition derbies, and many other forms of auto racing.
Many weekday and Saturday afternoon and evenings you can find ball games at Hagerman Field which hosts softball, baseball, and soccer games and tournaments. They have a great snack bar with indoor seating, outdoor bleachers accommodating up to 500 people and 4 lighted fields. Just behind the fields is the wonderful Waller Park. This is one of the most beautiful parks in Santa Maria.
People travel to get married here, go play a round of Frisbee golf, go on the pony rides, go jogging, hiking, even fishing. Kids love to feed the ducks by the large pond and play on the numerous playgrounds. There is a dog park behind the park to let your dog stretch his legs. Many times during the year the parks department hosts Free Kids Day in the Park.
For the children, there is the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum filled with activities for your children to find their inner artist or just let themselves have a blast while learning something at the same time. Kids will enjoy many hands-on activities that will give them memories for a lifetime.
Not far from the museum is the brand new public library which has a new state of the art technology for any age imaginable. Stop in here for some quiet time to relax your busy day then head over to the mall across the street. The Santa Maria Town Center Mall is expanding with additional stores that giving the mall a whole new look.
About 15 minutes south on Hwy 1 is Vandenberg Air Force Base. The base is one of the most beautiful bases in the country and hosts tours open to the public. This is the main western site for NASA and frequent launches light up the skies. Check their site for launch information.
North on Hwy 1 or west on Hwy 166 can take you to the little quiet and historic town of Guadalupe. This is home to some of the best Mexican cuisine you will find anywhere. The Far Western Tavern is known for its wonderful steak plates as is the Jocko’s Restaurant in Nipomo, about 5 minutes north of Santa Maria on Hwy 101.
The little towns of Ballard and Los Olivos are mixed in with wineries, ranches, and open landscapes popular for road biking, jogging, and shopping. Close by is also the Chumash Indian Reservation with the famous Chumash Casino Resort and Solvang and Buellton just to the west.
Santa Maria is located along U.S. Highway 101 in the Santa Maria Valley, in northern Santa Barbara County. Los Angeles is about three hours’ drive (190 miles) south of Santa Maria and San Francisco is about four and half hours’ drive (260 miles) north.