Things to do in Santa Barbara

Things to do in  Santa Barbara

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Among SoCal beach towns, Santa Barbara is royalty, a seaside beauty known as the American Riviera. This enchanting beach destination draws surfers, kayakers, and stand-up paddleboarders from all over California. After you hit the beach and check out the waterfront, turn inland for more things to do in Santa Barbara. Tour the Old Mission and El Presidio, visit the Danish heritage town of Solvang, and taste prized wines in the Santa Ynez Valley. Back in town, explore downtown, with its Spanish Colonial architecture, art galleries, small museums, and stylish food and wine scene.

Top 15 attractions in Santa Barbara

Old Mission Santa Barbara

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One of the most famous Catholic monuments in the state, Santa Barbara’s Old Mission is one of the longest continuously operating missions in California. Visit this beautifully constructed 1786 outpost to find stunning stonework, impressive columns, and two domed towers, as well as plenty of Native American and Spanish colonial history.More

Solvang

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Just over the hill from sunny Santa Barbara lie the Santa Ynez Valley and the small, Danish-style town of Solvang. Founded in 1911 by a group of Danish teachers, Solvang (Danish for "sunny field") is now a bustling hub of activity, ripe with wine-tasting rooms, a fairy-tale-esque downtown, and all sorts of quirky shops.More

Santa Barbara Waterfront

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Santa Barbara is known as the American Riviera, and visitors can enjoy the best of the California coast along the waterfront here in Santa Barbara city. From the boardwalk to the harbor, there’s plenty to see and do here.More

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

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The white-walled Santa Barbara Courthouse is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and is considered one of the most beautiful public buildings in the US. Hand-painted frescoes, sunken gardens, and an 85-foot (25-meter) clock tower are some of its distinctive features, drawing many visitors to the nearly century-old sight.More

Stearns Wharf

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California’s oldest working wharf, Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf is home to restaurants and an aquarium. It’s a great place for a sunset stroll in the city.More

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

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Founded in 1916 and nestled into the rock and oak of the surrounding area, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is set in a cluster of Spanish-revival buildings surrounding a beautiful courtyard. The museum is home to expertly preserved displays of birds, insects, mammals, and sea life, along with a planetarium.More

Santa Ynez Valley (SYV)

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One of the most prized wine regions of California's Central Coast, the Santa Ynez Valley is a fertile landscape of hillside vineyards and forested valleys nestled against the backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains. More than 120 wineries make it a popular wine-tasting destination from Santa Barbara and other towns on the “American Riviera.”More

Funk Zone

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Once a tangle of industrial warehouses and scuba shops, this waterfront district just off Santa Barbara’s main drag has morphed into a hip haven for foodies, wine lovers, and urban explorers. Art galleries, restaurants, microbreweries, and wine tasting rooms now fill the walkable neighborhood, making it a popular gourmet destination. More

State Street

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The heart of Santa Barbara, State Street delights visitors and locals alike with its lively downtown ambience. Spend a couple of leisurely hours wandering the tree-lined boulevard, stopping by shops, galleries, and wine tasting rooms.More

Montecito

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One of the most idyllic enclaves on California's central coast, this upscale community has long been a haven for celebrities seeking refuge from the daily grind of Los Angeles. Mansion-studded mountains spill into the sea, and a sleepy yet luxurious vibe prevails among Montecito’s boutique shopping and dining destinations.More
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Santa Barbara Cruise Port

Santa Barbara Cruise Port

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Many who take a cruise around Southern California will make a stop in sunny Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara Cruise Port is right in the heart of town on Cabrillo Boulevard, within walking distance of all sorts of local attractions. It’s an easy walk to the bottom of State Street, the main thoroughfare through town.More

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (SBBG)

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The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (SBBG) is a beautiful natural conservatory featuring over 78 acres (31.5 hectares) of lush greenery, with over 1,000 species of rare and indigenous plants. Guided tours are free, and a walk among the oaks, boulders, and dusty trails makes for an enjoyable dive into California flora.More

Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA)

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Small but beautiful, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) is renowned for its extensive collection of French and English 19th- and early 20th-century art, as well as modernism and photography exhibits. It also housesPortrait of Mexico Today, the only intact mural in the US by celebrated Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros.More
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Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa Barbara Zoo

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On a 30-acre (12-hectare) plot overlooking the ocean, the Santa Barbara Zoo is home to over 140 different species, which live in habitats designed to mirror their native environments. Adults and children will both find plenty to enjoy here.More

Shoreline Park

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Part of the 700-mile (1,127-kilometer) California Coastal Trail, this ocean-side park in Santa Barbara features a picnic area, playground for small children, and sweeping views of the harbor, beaches, and Channel Islands. A rustic wooden staircase leads to a narrow sandy beach only reachable at low tide. The park is also a prime spot to observe dolphins and whales.More

Trip ideas

Top activities in Santa Barbara

​All-Inclusive Full-Day Wine Tasting Tour from Santa Barbara
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All-Inclusive Full-Day Wine Tasting Tour from Santa Ynez Valley
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Santa Ynez Valley Wine Tour

Santa Ynez Valley Wine Tour

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$215.00
Santa Barbara Trolley Tour

Santa Barbara Trolley Tour

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$30.00
Santa Ynez Wine Country Shuttle

Santa Ynez Wine Country Shuttle

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$127.00
Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara with Experienced Guide
Special Offer

Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara with Experienced Guide

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$49.50
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Sea Lion Kayak Tour - Santa Barbara Harbor
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All about Santa Barbara

When to visit

The weather in Santa Barbara is temperate year-round, but for quintessential sunny California weather, visit in summer. The city’s beaches are abuzz with surfers and beach-goers, and the town is bustling with outdoor events and al fresco dining. For those who prefer a quieter charm, visit in fall when high season tapers off, and the vineyards and orchards are bursting with ripe fruit. Temperatures stay around 70°F (21°C) in fall, making it ideal for outdoor adventures.

Getting around

The best way to explore the Spanish colonial architecture and art galleries in the city center is by walking. Bicycle paths allow you to explore faster and further—especially the trail from Stearns Wharf to Old Mission Santa Barbara. There are several bike rental spots around town. If you don’t have a car, there’s a bus network. MTD Santa Barbara operates 25 routes that run all over the city with one-way tickets less than US$2.

Traveler tips

Exploring the surrounding wine country by car—hopping from one vineyard to the next—is easy to do. But if you prefer to stay close to downtown, follow the Urban Wine Trail, which stretches across two neighborhoods with more than 20 tasting rooms, so you can still get an insight into the famous wine region but within the city limits. Try Au Bon Climat, Whitcraft Winery, and The Valley Project, each with tasting rooms downtown.

Local Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
PST (UTC -8)
Country Code
+1
Language(s)
English
Attractions
19
Tours
110
Reviews
4,208

A local’s pocket guide to Santa Barbara

Andrea Manokian

Andrea is a Ventura County local who loves to visit neighboring cities along the California coast. A big fan of Santa Barbara, she appreciates its quaint, Spanish-style appeal.

The first thing you should do in Santa Barbara is...

go on a hot springs hike. The approximately 3-mile Hot Springs Canyon Trail hike takes you to seven rock-walled hot springs that vary in temperature and are perfect for a soak.

A perfect Saturday in Santa Barbara...

starts at Handlebar Coffee, includes a pottery workshop at Clay Studio, a visit to metaphysical store Paradise Found, shopping on State Street, pizza at Bettina, and sunset at Butterfly Beach. It ends with a game of pool at Dargan's.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

exploring the shops and restaurants on State Street. Try Sandbar if you’re in the mood for Mexican or Arigato Sushi for authentic Japanese tastes.

To discover the "real" Santa Barbara...

explore the Funk Zone, the place for arts and culture. Here, you can rent a bike and cruise, browse local art, visit the nearby Santa Barbara Zoo, or rent a stand-up paddle board and hit the beach — right across the street.

For the best view of the city ...

hike Inspiration Point — the name says it all — for a panoramic view of the cityscape or walk Lizard’s Mouth for a scenic ocean view.

One thing people get wrong...

is thinking of Santa Barbara as mundane. Santa Barbara entertains both nature lovers and those looking for a night out, thanks to more than 500 restaurants, plus hiking trails galore, and plenty of outdoor shopping centers.

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People Also Ask

Is Santa Barbara worth visiting?

Yes, Santa Barbara is an incredible destination for visitors. Located on the Southern California coast, Santa Barbara offers a lush landscape of mountains, valleys, and beaches. This idyllic, chic beach town showcases an array of culture, shopping, nightlife, and outdoor activities.

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What is Santa Barbara most known for?

Santa Barbara is an upscale beach town situated on prime California coastline. Known for its pristine landscapes, abundant year-round sunshine, mild temperatures, and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure, it is no wonder why this postcard-perfect town calls itself the American Riviera.

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What do locals do in Santa Barbara?

Locals in Santa Barbara enjoy the city’s picturesque views of the ocean and nearby mountains, as well as its numerous outdoor activities. Nature lovers frequent Santa Barbara’s wildlife sanctuaries to observe rare species in their natural habitats. Foodies flock to its many restaurants, wineries, breweries, and cocktail bars.

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How can I spend a day in Santa Barbara?

Start your day at one of its sunny beaches. Then visit some historic buildings, including Old Mission Santa Barbara, and stroll the old town and coastline on foot or by bike. Then, nibble your way through its top-notch restaurants. And finish things off by taking in a colorful sunset.

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Where should I stop in Santa Barbara?

Santa Barbara is a beautiful city, and where you stop depends on your interests. Outdoors lovers might stop at Elings Park, one of the city’s beaches, or Stearns Wharf for a peek at the harbor. Others might beeline to the Funk Zone, a collection of arts, culture, restaurants, and nightlife.

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How do people spend one day in Santa Barbara?

Start things off with a stroll through the historic Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara, built by the Spanish in 1782. Then, grab breakfast at a seaside cafe and relax on the beach (or try kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding). Then, eat your way through its restaurants, wineries, breweries, and cocktail bars.

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