Funk Zone Tour

By Lynda Millner   |   April 25, 2019
John Ummel leading us on his Funk Zone walking tour

There’s a new walking tour in town! It’s a tour of the Funk Zone and it’s free. If it’s too good to be true, this one is true. This is all because John Ummel took walking tours in Europe so when he came to Santa Barbara, he went to the city fathers to suggest we have one of the waterfront area and now the Funk Zone. They suggested that he do it, so he did.

I went on the Waterfront tour (two hours) some time ago and just the other day took the brand new Funk Zone walk (90 minutes). John spends many hours in research. He said, “You can’t go to the library and check out a book on the Funk Zone. I searched through old magazines and newspapers, as well as conducting interviews. I reviewed nearly all the address files at the Building Department for the ten square block area to find out what was previously here.

It was also hard to find old photos because this part of town was ignored. It took him six months to locate an old photo of the Weber Bakery building (the first sliced bread) once on Mason Street. He credits John Woodward, who has the largest collection of old Santa Barbara photos. Also John Fritche, who is an expert on local aviation history.

Funk Zone mural
A funky vehicle in the Funk Zone

The Funk Zone tour combines the art, food, beer, and wine scene along with the historical component. Historically this has been somewhat of a slum with cheap rents especially after WWII. There were also many gas stations and car dealers. The Oscar Meyer wiener truck was made here as well as world famous Channel Island surfboards. The last house to sell in this area was held onto by a little old lady until the offer went over $2 million. Not too shabby! One piece of trivia I found the most fascinating is why there is no graffiti on the murals on several buildings. Turns out there is some code of honor where one artist shouldn’t spoil another’s work. 

There are 12 stops on the tour, all equally fascinating. John especially likes the Lockheed aircraft story, the grape growing history of Santa Barbara and the story behind the old and new Hotel California.

I highly recommend the tour and at the end John will give you the only map of the Funk Zone. He had it illustrated and printed. On the back is an invaluable list of all 20 wineries, seven pubs and distilleries, 31 restaurants and five art galleries. So much to see, so little time! To book call 650.576.4145 of log on

An artist’s work on display in front of her studio
A three-dimensional illusion in the Funk Zone

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