You can take in gorgeous ocean and mountain views, explore historic spots, and even see some of the local vineyards. Whether your kind of vacation is thrilling, adventures, or relaxing in the sun, visiting Santa Barbara is the perfect place for you! This travel guide offers a taste of some of the many activities in Santa Barbara.
Beach Fun When Visiting Santa Barbara
When you visit Santa Barbara, you’ll never run out of things to do. Santa Barbara has so many activities to choose from, from pristine beaches to scenic rolling hills, you’re sure to find something for every member of your group. An absolute must in Santa Barbara is visiting one of the many beaches.
A favorite beach among visitors and locals is Montecito Beach. If you’re into people watching, you simply must come here for a chance to spot a celebrity. Some of the leading ladies and men seen sunbathing and surfing here are Brad Pitt, Carol Burnett, Charlize Theron, and David Carradin. Celebrities love the low-key and laid back feel of Santa Barbara, so be sure to have your camera ready . . . and do your best to avoid the paparazzi!
Another favorite beach in Santa Monica is Goleta Beach. This beach has a little bit of something for everyone. The long shorelines of the beach are flanked with grass, perfect for barbeques and picnics. There’s also a fabulous walking trail, fishing pier, and restrooms here. Goleta Beach is close to the airport and the University of California, Santa Barbara. Add Goleta Beach to your list of things to do in Santa Barbara.
Listen to the Music at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara
The Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara is the oldest, continuously operating theater in California. Located in the heart of the historical district, the theater provides an intimate setting and seats 680 people. It’s true what they say—there isn’t a bad seat in the house!
What better place to enjoy dance, opera, orchestra, and other arts than at Lobero Theater? Santa Barbara is the home to many major performing arts groups which perform at Lobero Theater including the Opera Santa Barbara, State Street Ballet, Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, and Flamenco Arts Festival. Youth and adults alike enjoy the wide variety of artists featured at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara. Some recent stars to grace the stage include Lynn Redgrave, Bobby McFerrin, Kathy Bates, Tracy Chapman, John Raitt, and many, many more. More than 70,000 people attend performances here annually. Check for performances and times as you plan your list of things to do. Santa Barbara has many different options, but you won’t be disappointed with a trip to the Lobero Theater!
A Step Back in Time
When visiting Santa Barbara, plan a morning or an afternoon to take a self-guided walking tour in the Red Tile historic district. The walking tour encompasses Victoria, Chapala, Ortega, and Santa Barbara streets. You’ll run into most of the city’s landmarks on this tour. Pay special attention to the County Courthouse, an architectural masterpiece that was built in 1929. This Spanish-Morrish structure features lush tropical garden and lovely lawns. For a picture-perfect moment, stop in front of the historic homes in El Presidio de Santa Barbara Historic Park. For just a quarter, you can rent a quadricycle to tour around the park.
Tour the Wine County
You’ve heard of Napa Valley and Sonoma in Northern California, but Santa Barbara also features some spectacular vineyards. The main vineyards in Santa Barbara Wine Country are Santa Maria Valley, Santa Inex Valley, Sta Rits Hills, and Los Alamos Valley. Each area focuses on a specific wine production, making for some unique wines to come out of this area. If you like a taste of the finer life, try Cambria Winery in the Santa Maria Valley. Here you’ll find a large selection of wines to sample. Plus, the location is simply amazing! You may also enjoy Royal Oak Winery if you like semi-sweet and sweet wines. For the Pinot Noir, visit the Melville Vineyard in Sta Rita Hills. The wine country here is simply breathtaking. You’ll love the gorgeous views as you spend an afternoon exploring the vineyards.
Dance On at Santa Barbara Bars
State Street is where you will find most nightclubs and bars. Santa Barbara is the place to go to drink and dance the night away. When you’re ready to really experience fashionable nightlife, head to one of the hip bars in Santa Barbara. These bars offer dance floors, lounging areas, and of course, your choice of many fine drinks.
Sandbar is Santa Barbara’s hottest nightclub and bar. Sandbar offers a fun theme every night of the week. Choose your style and party the night away. Reggae Tuesday features some of Southern California’s International Reggae stars. Come to Localize It Wednesday to hear some local talent. Students from nearby University of California, Santa Barbara enjoy College Night on Thursday. And the weekends feature DJs and Dancing. If you love going to nightclubs and bars, Santa Barbara has a night life that is sure to please you.
Head to Santa Barbara’s historic Stearns Wharf for an up close and personal look at sea life. You’ll find live displays and touch tanks at the Sea Center. This is an excellent place for children to see life under the sea. There are also plenty of multi-color sailboats and fishing boats dotting the harbor as well. You’ll also want to spend a little time while you’re at Stearns Wharf visiting the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. This seaside museum features ship models and historic exhibits.
One of the must-see spots when visiting Santa Barbara is the Old Mission. Founded in 1786, the Mission features a unique stone façade fashioned after the architecture found in ancient Rome. The Old Mission is a wonderful spot for photographers and those interested in architecture. Inside, you’ll find the rooms are filled with artifacts dating back to the beginning of the Mission. You’ll also want to spend some time exploring the beautiful cemetery on the grounds.
Another great place to visit is the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. This museum is known for the innovative exhibits and permanent collection. They also conduct educational programs for kids of all ages. You’re sure to enjoy the Greek and Roman antiquities and work from the nineteenth- and twentieth-century American, French, and English artists.
For excellent food combined with a fabulous atmosphere, come to the Coast Restaurant and Bar. You’ll find comfort food featuring Santa Barbara’s fresh seafood and produce from local farms. The restaurant here features fresh in season seafood with crisp Sauvignon, oysters, clams, and shrimp. If you’re hungry, try one of the local favorites, Crab Louie Salad. This salad is a mix of local lettuce and caper dressing, tossed with the best tuna and grilled tomatoes and asparagus. Your taste buds will thank you for a stop at this fabulous Santa Monica restaurant.
Shop Till You Drop
When visiting Santa Barbara, be sure to give your credit card a workout! Santa Barbara is home to unique shops and incredible malls. You’ll find great treasures that you just don’t see at home. Shop for pottery, in specialty shops, and for unique to California.
Most of the shopping in Santa Barbara is found in the downtown area. Check out Paseo Nuevo, an open air mall featuring more than 50 specialty shops, along with big names like Nordstrom and Macys. Among the stores you’ll find beautiful fountains and Spanish architecture.
Also in downtown is El Paseo, California’s first shopping mall. Built in 1920, El Paseo has been around for years offering shoppers an array of delightful shops and stores. You’ll find little shops featuring local artists here. You’ll also enjoy the variety of galleries and restaurants in this mall.
If you’re into pottery, you absolutely must check out the Italian Pottery Outlet. The pottery outlet is located in the “Funk Zone” near the beach, and houses the largest collection of Italian pottery in the west. And the best part? You’ll find incredible prices. Everything here is discounted and priced to sell.
You can visit Santa Barbara year round. The climate is so calm and sunny that there really isn’t an “off season” here. Weekends tend to be really busy and crowded as city dwellers from Los Angeles flock to Santa Barbara to escape the 9-to-5 grind. You’ll find fewer crowds on the beaches and at bars in Santa Barbara on weekdays. April to early June and early Autumn are the best times to visit to avoid the most crowds.
Santa Barbara has a moderate climate that offers pleasant temperatures year round. You’ll be most comfortable in shorts, sunglasses, and flip flops. You’ll want a light jacket for the cooler evenings and a nice outfit if you’re planning on going out on the town to visit the Santa Barbara bars or fine-dining restaurants.
If you’re planning on spending some time on the beach, be sure to bring your bathing suit and sunscreen! If you’ve got room, bring your surfboard along. If not, you’ll find plenty of shops nearby willing to rent boards. As your creating your list of things to do, Santa Barbara beaches and restaurants should be at the top. Use this to-do list to decide what you should bring with you on your trip.
You’ll find all the modern conveniences you need when visiting Santa Barbara. There are spas, shops, and rental facilities to help you relax on your vacation. In fact, you’ll find some of the best spas in California right here in Santa Barbara ready to help you relax and rest. You’ll also find libraries, art galleries, internet cafes, and golfing courses.
Santa Barbara has a pleasant climate with mild temperatures and mostly sunny skies year round. Santa Barbara is a quiet community between the ocean and the mountains. The city is full of culture and fabulous art galleries. You’ll find gracious people who are hospitable and welcoming when you visit Santa Barbara. Located just off Highway 101 between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is the epitome of the relaxed, California lifestyle.
You can get to Santa Barbara by plane, train, or car. If you’re coming by plane, keep in mind that Santa Barbara only has one small airport. It’s a very popular airport, so you shouldn’t have trouble getting in or out. You can also fly to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and drive to the city.
If you come by train, you’ll want to choose Amtrak. The Amtrak station is in a beautiful historic location that is worth checking out whether you come by train or other means of transportation. From the station, you can easily access the main points in Santa Barbara.
If you are planning on driving to Santa Barbara, keep in mind that there is only one major highway in or out of Santa Barbara. You’ll travel on US 101 to arrive. On Sunday afternoons, you’ll experience the worst traffic, so plan your vacation accordingly.
Vacation rentals from VacationRentals.com offer the right price in the right place when you’re visiting Santa Barbara. Accommodations can be pricey in Santa Barbara, so be sure to check out VacationRentals.com for the best deals. You’ll find a wide variety of homes, condos, and apartments to choose from. You’ll be able to bring the entire family on vacation without breaking the budget. Check out VacationRentals.com to see what’s available and start your Santa Barbara vacation on the right foot.