4 notable 4th of July celebrations in Santa Barbara


Can’t fathom celebrating 4th of July without fireworks? Or do you prefer a more leisurely way to celebrate without all the star-spangled banners? Whatever your taste, we’ve got a solid recommendation for you to ring in Independence Day this year.

So make a toast to our nation’s 237th birthday at one of the events listed below – and if you find yourself making a few too many toasts this 4th of July, make sure you have a designated driver! Otherwise, remember to be on alert for aggressive drivers when you’re on the road.

Stay safe, and have a blast! (Yes, we mean in both ways.)

Spirit of '76 parade

Spirit of ’76 parade

America the Beautiful Parade
Presented by Spirit of ’76 Association
Date: July 4th; 1 PM
Location: Micheltorena Street; proceeds down State Street
Santa Barbara, CA
Admission: Free

Experience patriotism in its most jubilant – and admittedly kitschy – form at the Spirit of ’76 Association’s 51st July 4th parade. This year’s theme, America the Beautiful, is all about putting aside differences in favor of unity and freedom.

Participants have not yet been announced on the website. If you wish to participate in the parade or perform on the staging area, fill out the online application at the website above or contact Paul Lamberton at (805) 284-5245. Applications are due Friday, June 28th at 6 PM.

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Washington on the Plaza: Exciting New Musical Drama of Reading of Our Declaration of Independence in 1776
Presented by Santa Barbara Pops Association
Date: July 4th; 11:30 AM to 12:20 PM
Location: De la Guerra Plaza
15 E. De la Guerra St.
Santa Barbara, CA
Admission: Free

Way before the Uncle Sam costumes, flag bunting, and fireworks there was the original 4th of July, far less flashy than it is today. On a hot summer day, Colonel John Nixon read the Declaration to a crowd of townspeople, becoming the first person to read the Declaration of Independence publicly.

Washington on the Plaza’s Exciting New Musical Drama of Reading of Our Declaration of Independence in 1776 recreates this watershed moment in our nation’s history – had it been done with renown opera singers and a choir.

The drama includes a fun sing-along of popular American ballads and children are encouraged to attend.

Rancho la Patera Old Fashioned 4th of July

Rancho la Patera Old Fashioned 4th of July

39th Annual Old Fashioned 4th of July
Presented by the Goleta Valley Historical Society
Date: July 4th; 11 AM – 4 PM
Location: Rancho la Patera & Stow House
304 N. Los Carneros Rd.
Goleta, CA
Admission: $6

July 4th falls on a Thursday this year (boo), so if you have to return to work the next day and don’t want to be stumbling half-awake into the office, it may be a good idea to contain your celebration to the earlier part of the day.

Stow house was originally a ranch purchased by William Whitney Stowe in 1871. Today, Stow house, its ranch, and its gardens are preserved by the Goleta Valley Historical Society. Rancho la Patera & Stow House’s Old Fashioned 4th of July is a quaint, family-friendly way to celebrate Independence Day – and it all ends before sunset. The celebration features hayrides, live music, BBQ, games, local artists, classic cars, and an engine show.

Santa Barbara fireworks

Santa Barbara fireworks

Santa Barbara Fireworks
Presented by the City of Santa Barbara Waterfront and Santa Barbara SPARKLE
Date: July 4th; 9 PM
Location: West Beach
Santa Barbara, CA
Admission: Free

If fireworks are your thing, then the fireworks at West Beach will hit the spot. Patriotic sparklers glisten amidst the night sky for 18-20 minutes, and there is no admission cost. The celebration is simulcast on radio in case you can’t make it.

More details tba.

Top Shop Tip: If you’re thinking about hightailing it out of town for a 4th of July road trip rather than celebrating in town, check out our blog post on great places to visit on the California coast.

And find out more about Top Shop Automotive on our website.

Top Shop joins Saks at their Men’s Celebration

Top Shop Attends Saks Men's Celebration

Saks Men’s Celebration flyer

Wednesday, June 5th was a debonair night in Santa Barbara. With cigar-rolling demonstrations and plenty of fashionable attire up for sale, the scene at Saks 5th Avenue on State Street looked right out of Mad Men. Saks was in fact holding a Men’s Celebration, where guys received a free cigar and gift bag with every $250 purchase.

But it wasn’t all lounge music and retail therapy – the event was at its heart a fundraiser that donated 10% of each purchase to Habitat for Humanity.

Since we at Top Shop like to participate in our community as much as possible, we attended the event hoping to give shoppers an extra incentive to go. We donated $1200 total in services, comprised of two $20 Top Shop gift certificates for Saks’ opportunity drawing for attendees and 50 certificates worth $20 off any service, which were placed in customers’ swag bags if they made the qualifying purchase.

Inside Saks, we set up a table laden with freebies like pens and lollipops, and also had our website up. All three Top Shop owners were in attendance, in addition to marketing advisor Tess, team member Lou, and Lou’s wife, Kym. We were happy that we got a chance to put our logo t-shirts to good use!

Saks Men's Celebration Event

From left to right: Kym, Lou, and Tess.

Saks made sure to show everyone a good time. Local golf pro Don Parsons from Twin Lakes Golf Course in Santa Barbara gave free golf swing analyses at a mini putting station, while a small bar served drinks and customers enjoyed appetizers from Los Arroyos.

We loved being a part of this classy affair and expect to do more community events in the future!

For more information about Top Shop Automotive in Santa Barbara, CA, visit the Top Shop website.

Road Trip Destination: The California coast

Northen California Coastal landscapes

Road tripping doesn’t have to mean beating your way across the country until you get to the opposite coast; in fact, you can have one unforgettable road trip without stepping (too) far outside your doorstep.

A California coast road trip is a sweet combination of exciting exploration and serene, breathtaking sightseeing. And a week is all you need to cover these hot spots from San Diego to Monterey.

Route 1 (PCH) will get you to all of these locales while providing spectacular views along the way.

Torrey Pines

A view from Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego

Scaling beginner-level hiking trails rewards you with unbelievable vistas of land and sea. You may be able to spot bottlenose dolphins, which swim close to shore, or perhaps some of the hundreds of bird species that call this wildlife reserve home. Guided nature walks are available on weekends and holidays for the intellectual adventurer. After a long day of meditative bliss, relax your soul even further by having a picnic on the beach while watching the sunset.

Getty Museum

The Getty and the Central Garden

The Getty Museum, Los Angeles

You don’t have to be an art aficionado to enjoy the Getty. A well-curated, iconic collection of Western art is housed within an expansive, modern space overlooking Los Angeles (the museum sits on a mountain summit). Tree-lined walkways outside lead to the Central Garden, where a constantly changing variety of plants makes for a new experience each time you walk through.


Venice Beach boardwalk

Venice Beach Boardwalk, Los Angeles

Venice Beach is in some ways a microcosm of Los Angeles, bringing together all kinds of characters in one bohemian setting. For this reason, it is one of the best places in Los Angeles to go people watching. Many famed artists, musicians, and actors have passed through this creative city (ever heard of Julia Roberts?) and many make their homes here today. Plenty of affordable and delicious mom-and-pop restaurants litter the beach, so you can sample to your heart’s content.


Moonstone Beach


A sort of West Coast Cape Cod, Cambria imparts a luxuriously relaxing atmosphere that is a welcome pause from the hustle and bustle of a road trip. Stroll leisurely with your toes in the sand on Moonstone beach – as the name implies, you may just find California jade or moonstones as you’re walking! To uncover a whole new level of relaxation, drive about 20 miles east to Paso Robles, where you can visit the city’s esteemed vineyards and attend a wine tasting.

Nepenthe restaurant

Nepenthe restaurant

Big Sur

The site of countless weddings and yoga retreats, Big Sur is as much a spiritual as a romantic experience, depending on what you’re seeking. Big Sur is located where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise steeply from the ocean. Elevated over the sea, Big Sur exists at the meeting of land, sky, and sea. In other words, it’s a little slice of heaven on the central California coast.

Visit Nepenthe, a restaurant that has been serving Big Sur visitors since the late ‘40s and has been run by the same family ever since. With a patio suspended high over the Pacific Ocean (we’re talking 800 feet above), Nepenthe offers breathtaking views and good grub.

Another destination is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which features a striking topographical range, from 3,000-foot-high ridges to an underwater preserve where you can go scuba diving. If that isn’t enough natural beauty for you, hike the Overlook trail to witness McWay Falls tumbling 100 feet down into a secluded cove.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey

Because no one can resist chubby sea otters. If the otters don’t get you, then the 200+ galleries and exhibits that pit predators against prey in their natural habitats will. Events like jelly fish shows, penguin feedings, and intriguing presentations—such as the one on inventions inspired by the sea—can easily fill up your whole day. But remember to break for lunch–stop by the aquarium’s café & restaurant or by a nearby joint in front of the water. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see more otters as you eat.

Set on a road trip and want to know how to prepare? Check out our posts on how to prepare your car for a road trip and what to bring on a road trip.

Visit Top Shop Automotive’s website for more info on our shop and to see our current newsletter.

May recipe: Fresh clam linguine

Clam linguine

Can it be summer already? Maybe we’re not quite there yet, but we just couldn’t wait to break out one of warm-weather favorites: clam linguine. To get maximum oomph out of this recipe, pair with a bottle of white wine. We also suggest throwing a picnic blanket on the beach and slurping up this deliciousness while watching the sunset. Very romantic and very summer.


Fresh Clam Linguine


1 pack linguine noodles
2 large cans clams
Small half bottle white wine
5 cloves garlic
1 tin anchovies
Bunch of finely chopped Italian parsley
Parmesan cheese


  • Chop up garlic. In a large sauce pan heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and throw in chopped garlic and tin of anchovies.
  • Cook until anchovies are dissolved in oil.
  • Add half a bottle white wine to sauce mixture.
  • Reduce sauce by half.
  • At the same time, cook pasta separately in a large pan.
  • Add 2 tablespoons butter and juice from clams to sauce.
  • Cook for another five minutes.
  • Add clams to sauce and cook for another two minutes.
  • Add finely chopped parsley.
  • Drain pasta and add to pot of clams and sauce.
  • Stir lightly, sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese, and enjoy!
  • Yield: 6 servings

Visit our website at TopShopSB.com.

The student road trip checklist, part 2: what to bring

Road trip preparation

Your car is in gear and your buddies are ready to go. But just before you step on that gas pedal and embark on your week-long joy ride, pack your buggy with the items below. Trust us: a little preparation goes a long way when it comes to preserving goodwill during a long car ride. You don’t want to be counting down the 1,798 miles until you get home in a dead silent car.

  1. Extra motor oil and fuses

You never know what may go wrong when you’re traversing new territories in lands unknown. Two of the most common problems that happen on the road are blown fuses and oil shortages, so bring at least a quart of extra motor oil and some extra fuses.

  1. Mobile phone with a charger (optional: walkie talkies)

You were probably going to bring your cell anyways, but don’t just use it to chat away with friends when bored; rather, save the phone calls for emergencies. And while it may seem old fashioned to lug walkie talkies along, they’re an easy solution if you’re traveling with multiple cars. Walkie talkies also work in areas where there is no cell phone reception.

  1. Audio books and music

No matter how gabby you and your friends are there will be plenty of times where you will just be sitting there checking your hair for split ends. For those inevitable situations, music (in enough genres to suit everyone’s tastes) saves the day.

Audio books are another source of diversion that, unlike their hard-copy peers, don’t cause extreme nausea when read in the car.

  1. Healthy, non-fussy snacks + a cooler

A bleak landscape, days without end in a cramped car, and the munchies are the perfect recipe for a bad time. Keep everyone well-fed with non-messy, healthy treats like energy bars, cheese, and vegetables. Throw all your edibles inside a cooler so they stay edible.

  1. Wet wipes

A small, contained space with minimal air circulation is a breeding ground for funky smells. Do your car mates a favor and wipe yourself down with wet wipes. Use them to wash your hands and freshen your armpits if deodorant is unavailable.

  1. AAA membership card

Probably the single most important card you can bring with you on a road trip (other than your driver’s license, of course). In case your car has fallen and can’t get up, AAA membership gets you 24-hour roadside assistance and towing services. Plus peace of mind.

  1. Water – bottled and spray-on

Car air can be extremely dehydrating, so make sure to drink water continuously. While you’re at it, prevent your skin from drying out by spritzing it with mineral water spray, like this one from Evian.

  1. Map

Most of us have a GPS, but if your GPS breaks down or you’re navigating uncharted territories it’s good to have a map to fall back on.

  1. Motion sickness pills (included in first aid kit)

No road trip first aid kit is complete without Dramamine. For natural alternatives, try chewing ginger candy or ginger gum.

  1. Extra: Listerine strips

The last thing you want on a road trip is to visit a roadside food joint and have everyone stinking up the car afterwards with garlic breath. As a precaution, throw some Listerine strips in your bag.

For more on how to prepare for a road trip, check out our post on road trip car preparation or visit our website, TopShopSB.com.

The student road trip checklist, part 1: car prep

Group of young people sitting in a Convertible car.

Finals are over. You’ve celebrated by burning all your term papers in a communal bonfire. With one or two blissful weeks of nothingness ahead, you and your friends are just itching to do something fun and adventurous.

If you’re planning on hightailing out of town for a road trip, take a gander at the car prep checklist below first. Just as how you wouldn’t take a major test without studying (at least we hope), you shouldn’t embark on an extended tour of Americana without ensuring your car is 100% ready to handle the drive. Not doing so can lead to costly repairs in the future (read: on the road, which would suck).

The experts at NADAguides.com, a vehicle information site, have come up with some handy road trip tips which we’ve abbreviated for you below. DIYers can perform these inspections themselves, but for peace of mind we recommend you take your car to the shop so a licensed mechanic can give you the official go-ahead.

None of these tips require that much money, so you need not worry about going over budget.

  1. Tire test

The expression “burn rubber” exists for a reason. Tires hit the road constantly when you’re driving, so they need extra love and attention. Purchase a tire pressure gauge and a tread depth gauge from the auto parts store. The ideal tire pressure should be indicated in your vehicle owner’s manual, or inside your car’s doorjamb. Inspect your tires before you start driving (when they’re cold), so you can tell how much to properly inflate or deflate.

Next, use the tread depth gauge to determine if you need new tires. Legally, your tire tread should be at least 2/32” or more for adequate traction. And don’t forget your spare! Check that for pressure and tread depth as well.

  1. How are your fluid levels?

A car is a lot like a human body. Both require fluids as a means of transport, heating and cooling, and repair. Both need the proper fluid levels or else vital mechanisms start malfunctioning and shutting off.

You can either check fluid levels yourself by referring to your owner’s manual, or you can take your car to the shop. Inspect your engine oil to make sure it’s clean and at a good level. Then, check your transmission, differential, power steering, and brake fluids to see if you need to replace or refill. If you have no idea what any of these are, DEFINITELY make a shop appointment.

Also, refill your windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze, which prevents your car from overheating as the temperatures rise.

When driving, keep an eye on your temperature gauge. Stop driving when the temperature gauge goes up because your car will overheat.

Top Shop Tip: While it’s immensely useful to prepare for a trip, knowing how to read your car during the journey is even more important. Every modern car is equipped with a computer that monitors all car functions for you, but if you don’t know how to read those dashboard lights then you won’t be able to take the necessary precautions. We recommend learning to read your dash lights by referencing your owner’s manual.

  1. Motor skills

Lift up your hood – yes, there are bunch of scary-looking things in there, but they won’t bite – and examine the battery and cables for corrosion, dirt, and cracks. Since hot weather wears out your battery faster, you may need to replace your battery before your trip. Likewise, check the radiator and hoses for cracks and leaks.

Change your air filter. Your air filter prevents dirt and dust from seeping into your engine. When contaminants get through, your engine is forced to work harder, eating more gas.

  1. Components 101

Air conditioning, interior and exterior lights, and windshield wipers don’t just aid safe driving – they also help with comfort and sanity on the road. Turn your AC on for a little while and then turn it off, listening for any noises and checking the temperature. Inspect your windshield wiper blades if they’re looking a little scraggy. Don’t forget to make sure your defrost function works and your mirrors are at the correct angle for maximum visibility.

Test interior and exterior lights, including blinkers, headlights, and high beams.

While we’re on the topic of quality checking components, if your Check Engine light is on, take your vehicle to your garage so the tech can figure out what’s wrong. Driving with the Check Engine light on could cause a series of unfortunate events.

Furthermore, if your oil light flares on, it doesn’t mean you need an oil change. The oil light signals that your oil is low, and you could blow your head gasket or even your whole motor! Take your car to the shop immediately if you spot that little red light.

Top Shop Tip: Maintenance, a regular oil change, and inspections are the key to a well-oiled car that will carry you safely through your trip. Don’t forget to report any issues, since they can end up biting you in the butt later.

If you plan on visiting the shop, make your appointment for at least 2 weeks before you leave. This will give the mechanic time to fix any problems. Taking your car in the Friday before is a bad idea since Friday is one of the busiest days at a garage. Larger repairs – such as replacing brakes – could take longer than a few hours.

  1. Keep an emergency kit!

You never know where your travels might take you, so be prepared for anything! Here are some supplies you need:

  • A basic tool kit
  • Emergency flares
  • A flashlight with fresh batteries
  • A jumper cable
  • A tire iron
  • A jack
  • Plenty of drinking water

For more car care tips or to find out info on Top Shop, visit our website at Top Shop Automotive, Inc.

Welcome to Top Shop Automotive’s blog!

mark willie and pat

Welcome to our blog!

We are Willie, Pat, and Mark, the owners of Top Shop Automotive in Goleta, CA. We specialize in European and Asian imports and have been calling the Santa Barbara area home since 1986. Our foremost goal is not only to repair your car, but also to help you understand how it works. Cars can often be temperamental, and we’ve got decades of experience finessing them to work as they should. We’re excited to share our know-how with you!

Check back often for tips, tricks, shop news, and other interesting posts.

If you want more of us, say hi on our Facebook or Twitter! We won’t bite–we promise. And if you drop by the shop, our service writers, Lou and Corrina, will be glad to chat you up and answer any questions you might have!

-Top Shop Automotive