Santa Barbara: The American Riviera

With oceanfront views, cinematic festivals and fine wine, Santa Barbara has been called the "American Riviera" -- with a twist. The coastal city also comes with a down-home style all its own.

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A classic car and a Sonoran hotdog food truck called Chuyitos
Chevy 1955 Bel Air and Sonoran Hot Dogs

Chevy 1955 Bel Air and Sonoran Hot Dogs

Michael (Voltaggio) is obsessed with classic American cars. In fact, he owns this exact same model — a Chevy 1955 Bel Air. He wanted to drive it down to Arizona, but since we had to make sure he actually arrived in time for the shoot, we decided to rent one instead. Our first stop was a truck that sells the famous Sonoran hot dogs, which Michael insisted we eat several feet away from the car so as not to get it dirty.  That whole morning, I felt like we'd been transported 60 years back in time! 960 1280

Mariana van Zeller  

US-Mexico $2 Billion Border Fence

US-Mexico $2 Billion Border Fence

I've been reporting on border and immigration issues for years, but this was the first time I got to see the $2 billion border fence from above. Border Patrol says it's been effective in preventing the movement of illegal goods and people from Mexico into the US, but opponents call it a boondoggle. They say that all it does is drive immigrants to more dangerous (fenceless) terrain, which means more deaths along the border for those pursuing a better life for themselves and their families. 960 1280

Mariana van Zeller  

649-Mile Fence

649-Mile Fence

The brown line you see is part of the 649-mile fence. Since it's not a continuous fence, it covers less than a third of the 1,954-mile US-Mexican border.   960 1280

Mariana van Zeller  

The Border From Above

The Border From Above

Flying over the US-Mexican border on a 4-seat Cessna. I look calm and collected, but this is where I learned that having a chef as the co-pilot is never a good idea. You can't be good at everything, Voltaggio! 960 1280

Mariana van Zeller  

View From the Other Side

View From the Other Side

This photo was taken in Nogales, AZ. On the other side of the 18-foot fence is Nogales, Sonora, in Mexico. I've been here on reporting trips before, but the sheer size of the fence never ceases to surprise me.     960 1280

Mariana van Zeller  

'Breaking Bad'?

'Breaking Bad'?

It ain't Breaking Bad; it's Breaking Borders. Oh, and it airs every Sunday at 9|8c on Travel Channel. 960 1280

Mariana van Zeller  

Michael Voltaggio, Excited for Cuisine & Compliments

Michael Voltaggio, Excited for Cuisine & Compliments

Michael is excited to try authentic Mexican food in Nogales, Sonora. Or perhaps it's because a 70-year-old Mexican lady just said, "Qué gringo más guapo!" (“What a handsome gringo!”)   960 1280

Mariana van Zeller  

Bottoms Up!

Bottoms Up!

Yes, they were all for me — 10 shots of pure gold. What happens in the field stays in the field. 960 1280

Mariana van Zeller  

Mountain Minutemen

Mountain Minutemen

In Arizona, we spent a few hours one night with members of the Mountain Minutemen, a group of armed men and women who camp out in the desert, hunting for illegal border crossers. This man asked us not to show his face or reveal his identity, but the leader of the group, Robert Crooks, was one of our dinner guests on the episode. 960 1280

Mariana van Zeller  

Sweet cinnamon sticky buns are perfect with pecans on top. 960 1280

  

Cooked in a vat of bubbling oil, these french fries are a true indulgence. 960 1280

  

Fill up with a plate of tasty spaghetti served with tomato sauce and flecks of fresh basil. 960 1280

  

The only thing that can improve on a tasty slice of rich New York cheesecake is a gooey topping of sweet cherries. 960 1280

  

This burger is an all-American favorite, topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, special sauce and, of course, bacon. 960 1280

  

Don't just dismiss mac and cheese as kids' food; the luscious, creamy goodness tempts adult palates, too. 960 1280

  

The crisp green beans and burst cherry tomatoes look tasty, but the star on this plate is the mouthwatering steak. 960 1280

  

Who needs a plain doughnut when you can enjoy one topped with creamy icing and colorful sprinkles? 960 1280

  

Food Porn  8 Photos

Photos

Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach

Just 5 minutes from San Diego, this family-friendly beach boasts wide stretches of sand, mostly calm surf and ideal whale watching (January through March). The lifeguards on staff, nearby public facilities and free parking along Ocean Boulevard add to its convenience -- and popularity. Couples can take a romantic walk to the luxury beachfront Hotel del Coronado and sip cocktails on its patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 960 1280

Tashka/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

La Jolla

La Jolla

You’ll have to leave the surfboards and boogie boards behind, but trust us it will be worth it. La Jolla Cove is the most desired area for swimming, snorkeling and diving; it is ecologically protected, making it a safe home for the bright orange Garibaldi fish (among others species) in the crescent-shaped cove. Called “the jewel” of San Diego, this beach is small, but you’ll find more room to stretch out on the mile-long La Jolla Shores to the north. 960 1280

John Hoffman/ iStock/ Thinkstock   

Sonoma Coast

Sonoma Coast

Sonoma Coast State Beach comprises 13 miles of coastline, stretching from Blind Beach to Bodega Head. It’s dotted with nothing save hidden beaches tucked between the rocky coves and tall bluffs. Follow the Sonoma Coast Trail to visit these secret beaches and take postcard-worthy pictures, #nofilter necessary. 960 1280

Jairo Leiva/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach, founded by the Chumash Indian Tribe, is located in central California, between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Whichever direction you travel from, there’s plenty of activities to keep you here: fishing on the 1,200-foot-long pier, strolling through the Monarch Butterfly Grove, horseback riding along private trails, and exploring tide pools and caves, to name just a few. 960 1280

JB325/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Main Beach in Santa Cruz

Main Beach in Santa Cruz

For most beachgoers in Santa Cruz, Main Beach is where the action is -- complete with restaurants, shops, surfing spots, beach volleyball courts and, of course, a scenic boardwalk and bandstand. If you ask us, it’s just the right amount of Americana. 960 1280

Mitch Diamond/ Photodisc/ Getty Images  

Huntington Beach Pier

Huntington Beach Pier

With a location at the end of Main Street and a nickname like “Surf City, USA,” Huntington Beach evokes a time gone by. The pier (one of the longest on the West Coast), the year-round surf (thanks to ocean swells around Catalina Island) and Ruby’s Diner (the milkshakes are a must) will continue to draw crowds here for years to come. 
960 1280

Christopher Riddler/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Our resident beach expert, Marianela Pereyra, can attest to its weirdness, but there’s a reason Venice Beach is world famous. It may bring to mind visions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Muscle Beach of the ’70s, but let us assure you that the 1 1/2-mile-long boardwalk is still the perfect storm for people watching, street performers and souvenir shopping. 960 1280

Christian Kober/ AWL Images/ Getty Images  

Baker Beach

Baker Beach

To the west of the Golden Gate Bridge lies the rocky serpentine shoreline of Baker Beach. Rip currents make swimming unsafe, but you’re here for the panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge … and maybe to picnic. Just don’t venture too far north unless you’re looking for another kind of scene: the northernmost end of Baker Beach, which attracts clothing-optional sunbathers. 960 1280

Jamairani/ iStock/ Thinkstock  

Malibu Surfrider Beach

Malibu Surfrider Beach

Formerly known as Surfrider Beach, Malibu Lagoon State Beach’s famous right point breaks have made it the most-surfed spot in Los Angeles since the ’60s. Arrive early to find a parking spot and pick a point -- some of the perfect swells due to Surfrider Beach will give you a ride all the way to the pier (a couple hundred feet away). And for non-surfers, the historic wooden Malibu Pier offers excellent saltwater fishing, bird-watching and picnicking. 960 1280

Ryan McVay/ Digital Vision/ Thinkstock  

Dockweiler State Beach

Dockweiler State Beach

Located just west of the LAX runway, Dockweiler Beach is where people come to relax and party. That’s because the 3-mile-long shoreline is the only Los Angeles beach that has an RV park and allows bonfires. S’mores, anyone? 960 1280

Jose Gil/ iStock/ Getty Images  

Ruby's Diner is located at the end of the Huntington Beach Pier, one of the longest public piers on the West Coast. 960 1280

Huntington Beach Marketing and Visitors Bureau  

Laguna Beach is a seaside resort city made famous by MTV's series of the same name following privileged SoCal teenagers. 960 1280

Jeri Koegel through Flickr Creative Commons  

Laguna Beach is the second-oldest city in Orange County, second to Anaheim. Its picturesque coastline is midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. 960 1280

Chris Eason through Flickr Creative Commons  

There's no shortage of shopping for real housewives or tourists in Orange County. 960 1280

La Citta Vita through Flickr Creative Commons  

The newly-renovated Hilton La Jolla sits atop the bluffs and overlooks the legendary Torrey Pines Golf Course and Pacific Ocean. 960 1280

Paul Cross through Creative Commons  

One of the youngest cities in the OC, Rancho Santa Margarita is a beautifully planned community set upon the rolling hills. 960 1280

Courtesy City of Rancho Santa Margarita  

The streets of downtown La Jolla are spotted with the world's shopping elite visiting storefronts from charming boutiques to high-end art galleries. 960 1280

Alejandro Mallea through Creative Commons  

San Clemente is a popular surfing destination, catching swells all year long. 960 1280

Curtis Fry through Flickr Creative Commons  

Newport Beach Harbor is a semi-artificial harbor that created several islands such as Newport Island, Balboa Island, Collins Island and more now mostly covered with private homes. 960 1280

John Martinez Pavliga through Flickr Creative Commons  

Imagine soaking in the sunset view at home in Laguna Beach. 960 1280

Jeri Koegel through Flickr Creative Commons  

La Jolla's curving coast along the Pacific Ocean is an affluent seaside resort with home prices averaging $2 million. 960 1280

Paul Hamilton through Flickr Creative Commons  

The South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa define luxury shopping with the highest sales in the US. 960 1280

  

With more than 12 miles of sand and surf and 8 miles of paved boardwalk downtown Huntington Beach offers one-of-a-kind shopping, dining, activities and nightlife. 960 1280

Huntington Beach Marketing and Visitors Bureau  

dockweiler beach

dockweiler beach

Marianela, craving some s’mores, heads to Dockweiler Beach, one of the only beaches in Southern California where you can have a bonfire. 960 1280

  

hang gliding

hang gliding

The beach is also famous for being a hang-glider flight-training park, and was a major testing ground for hang gliding pioneers in the '60s. 960 1280

  

relaxation

relaxation

Dockweiler is perfect for a day of relaxation, hanging with friends, and enjoying the beautiful view of the shore. 960 1280

  

hot dog

hot dog

Marianela enjoys a hot dog she cooked on the bonfire. 960 1280

  

close up

close up

Marianela is ready for her close-up. 960 1280

  

bonfire

bonfire

Marianela gets ready to chop some wood for the bonfire. 960 1280

  

bonfire making

bonfire making

Beachgoers teach Marianela the proper technique to making a bonfire. 960 1280

  

boeing airplane

boeing airplane

Marianela checks out the Boeing 747 airplane flying by. 960 1280

  

football

football

Marianela plays a little football as the sun sets on Dockweiler Beach. 960 1280

  

bonfire making

bonfire making

Marianela learns that making a bonfire isn’t as easy as it looks, but eventually gets the hang of it. 960 1280

  

new friends

new friends

Marianela poses with her new friends, “champions” of bonfire making. 960 1280

  

LAX

LAX

Dockweiler is located right off the takeoff path for LAX. 960 1280

  

sunset

sunset

As the sun sets, Marianela takes in the gorgeous view of the LA shoreline. 960 1280

  

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