Santa Barbara Bowl
Prepare yourself for a great time at the Santa Barbara Bowl. (Santa Barbara Bowl photo)

We all have passions or things that make living fun, interesting and even fascinating. Let’s face it, some of us are just all about seeking an adventure to distract us from the mundane things we need to do, like work or doing the laundry.

As you know from these Keys 2 the Coast columns, we have a passion for wine, food and travel, but we also have a passion for entertainment. Of course, we have a special place in our hearts for ocean vistas and valley views, the type of scenery that enriches our living and playing on the Central Coast.

So, imagine the thrill you get when many of your passions collide, when they intersect, when you experience them simultaneously, whether by careful planning, or perhaps serendipity. Or maybe a little of both.

For example, an outdoor concert, listening to a great band, high atop a hill with spectacular ocean views in one of your favorite cities in the world. Add some locally made red wine, a spread of fine cheeses and other delicious assortments, and you have all the ingredients for an enjoyable summer evening under the stars at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

Talk to concert aficionados, and many will agree the Santa Barbara Bowl is one of the best concert venues in the country. I think it’s every bit as awesome as the Greek Theatre and Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, or even Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver.

The setting is perfect, the size of the venue is large enough to feel the vibe of something important happening, but small enough that it seems like it’s a special performance for you and a few thousand of your closest friends.

The Santa Barbara Bowl, at 1122 N. Milpas St., has a little over 4,500 seats, but there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Or amphitheater, I should say.

The seats, elevated to a perfect pitch up in a canyon, give you the sense that you’re looking down on the performers the way the goddess Athena looked down on Athens. You’re close enough that you don’t need binoculars, but an ideal distance from the stage to truly take in and appreciate the stagecraft and light show that so many successful entertainers use today.

The Bowl is open from April through October, and the famously mild Santa Barbara climate is almost always a feature attraction at each show. And that is saying something because the weather has had to compete with some pretty remarkable performers over the years.

Santa Barbara Bowl

While the view from the Santa Barbara Bowl is one of the best in town, the shows after the sun sets won’t disappoint — like Lionel Richie earlier this month. (Steve Kennedy / Noozhawk photo)

In 1980, Joni Mitchell performed at the Bowl the night she recorded her double live album, Shadows and Light. On another evening in 1990, Tears for Fears played and filmed its concert video, “Going to California.” Even further back, in 1979, Bob Marley performed there during his Survival tour.

But perhaps best of all, in the early 1970s, Led Zeppelin brought its star power to the Bowl before the band outgrew any venue with less than a 25,000-seat capacity. Over the last several years, other top-selling acts have played at the Bowl, including Sting, Alanis Morrisette, Peter Gabriel, Snow Patrol, Bonnie Raitt, and even Crosby, Stills & Nash.

This concert season, incredible live acts have included Blondie, Elvis Costello and Lionel Richie, with Rod Stewart and Steely Dan coming in September, and Van Morrison and Jimmy Buffett following in October.

Stand-up comedians have also taken the stage, including Jim Gaffigan and Sebastian Maniscalco.

One of the best things about attending events at the Santa Barbara Bowl is you’re guaranteed to run into people in and around town who are making their way to the concert after a glass of wine in the Funk Zone, or maybe a bowl of chowder at Brophy Bros., or any assortment of local hangouts along State Street. You just might gather friends along the way.

So, bring your best pair of walking shoes, your appetite, and rock out or laugh out loud at one of the Central Coast’s featured recreational amenities — one that you are sure to remember for the rest of your life.

Hope to see you there. If you spot me, be sure to say hello, or Merlot or whatever other word comes to mind, and be sure to let me know you read about it on Keys 2 the Coast, the place to stay up to date on the best places to wine, dine, explore and more.

— Donna Polizzi is a travel writer and founder of Keys 2 the Coast, a trusted travel resource for the Central Coast and beyond, including sharing favorite places to “Wine, Dine and Explore.” She can be contacted at Connect with Keys 2 the Coast on Facebook. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.