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Things to do in Santa Barbara

Things to do in  Santa Barbara

Welcome to Santa Barbara

Just a quick drive up from Los Angeles lies the city of Santa Barbara, also lovingly referred to as “The American Riviera.” This seaside town earns its nickname through its beautiful coastline, miles of pristine beach and the two green hills that wrap around the city; all of which lend an air of health and beauty to the Spanish-tiled roofs which line the streets.

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 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. The hand-painted frescoes, sunken gardens, and 85-foot (25-meter clock tower draw many visitors.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 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

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

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

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 Museum of Natural History Sea Center

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

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Discover the diverse Pacific ecosystem and engage with marine animals at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. Located on the historic Stearns Wharf, the family-friendly educational space features interactive exhibits, a theater, and life-size replicas of gray whales.More

Leadbetter Beach

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One of the most beautiful beaches near downtown Santa Barbara, Leadbetter Beach is often filled with windsurfers, joggers, and sunbathers. Its light surf makes its an excellent spot for low-key and beginning surfing. It’s one of the more scenic spots close to the city, with an expansive golden sand beach and grass lawn. There are also facilities for picnicking and barbecue, as well as public restrooms and showers.Often sailboats can be seen cruising just off the coast from Leadbetter, as it’s located next to the Santa Barbara Harbor. Lifeguards are on duty during daylight hours. For these reasons, it is one of the more popular public beach areas. Though it can be crowded, it is often bustling with activity compared to other spots on the coast. It’s considered by many to be one of the most beautiful beaches in California.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, 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

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

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

Trip ideas

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Recent reviews from experiences in Santa Barbara

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Enjoyable tour
Karen_W, Jan 2023
Santa Barbara Trolley Tour
Great way to see the sights.
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Kayaking the Coast
Marilyn_B, Oct 2022
Sea Lion Kayak Tour - Santa Barbara Harbor
Best way to see Santa Barbara and learn some interesting facts while also seeing the sea lions up close.
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Low key fun!
Susana_A, Aug 2022
Santa Barbara Trolley Tour
Santa Barbara is pretty low key and I wanted to see the city in slow motion, which was fabulous!
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Perfect day of site seeing and wine tasting!!!
Brooke_J, Jul 2022
Santa Barbara Wine Country Tour
Made our weekend away extra special and would definitely recommend to anyone looking to see Santa Barbara and taste wonderful wines along the way!
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Excellent Experience!
Justin_S, Oct 2022
Small-Group Santa Barbara Wine Tour to Private Locations - Max 7 Guests
We really enjoyed learning about each wine makers philosophy and found the opportunity to visit small, private producers to be a very special and intimate experience.
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Kayaking is Santa Barbara
Mike_H, Jul 2022
Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara with Experienced Guide
Took us out in the open water of Santa Barbara to see the sea lions.
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Active and fun way to see the city
Debbie_K, Jun 2022
Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara with Knowledgeable Guide
Santa Barbara provides gorgeous views from the water and this is a wonderful way to see it.
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Ask for Andrei!
Marti_M, Apr 2022
Santa Barbara Electric Bike Tour
Great way to see Santa Barbara!
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All about Santa Barbara

When to visit

If basking on the beach ranks high on your itinerary, Santa Barbara summers are postcard perfect. It’s also the city’s most lively time, with buzzing open-air cafés and a decadent lineup of music, food, and wine festivals. If you don’t mind wearing layers, visit in the spring for a quieter—and cheaper—way to experience the "American Riviera."

Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
PST (UTC -8)
Country Code
+1
Language(s)
English

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.

Santa Barbara information

Number of Attractions

19

Number of Tours

100

Number of Reviews

3,416

Currency

USD
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