20 Things to Do in Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara
Source: Davide D’Amico

The wonderful city of Santa Barbara in California with its stunning natural beauties ranging from the great Santa Ynez Mountains on one side to the magnificent beaches on the other, together with its Spanish colonial heritage offers you a wide range of things you can see and do every single minute you spend there. We are going to help you choose perfect things for you.

1. Beaches in Santa Barbara

People mostly visit Santa Barbara to relax on one of its beautiful beaches. Some beaches are perfect for picnics and enjoying sunsets, while others offer perfect access and terrain for swimming. The three major are West Beach, East Beach and Leadbetter. Almost everybody agrees that East Beach is the best, but wherever you choose to go, you won’t regret. All the other beaches are certainly better than average, even though they can be pretty packed at weekends. They all offer interesting places to hang out, walk with your pets, enjoy some of the various activities, or just enjoy the beauty of the countryside and relax.


  • Name: Beaches in Santa Barbara
  • Activities: Volleyball, Biking, Sunbathing, Walking, Running, Skating, Picnicking
  • Amenities: Lifeguard, Volleyball Courts, Paved Bike Path, Skate Park, Grass Park, Picnic Tables, Restrooms, Kids Play Area, Restaurant, Accessible Features

2. Santa Barbara Zoo

Just a short walk from the sandy beach there is the exotic Santa Barbara Zoo. Though not a very big one, it still offers lots of wonderful animals. Some of the most popular are California condors, anteaters, leopards and gorillas. The staff is very helpful and they really care for the animals and the whole Zoo is perfectly clean. Besides the animals, you can enjoy many other attractions, such as the kitchen where the animals’ food is prepared, rock climbing, carousel ride or feeding animals. There is also a wonderful Volentine Gallery with exhibitions related to the nature and the mission of education, conservation and research.


  • Name: Santa Barbara Zoo
  • Address: 500 Ninos Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
  • Price: Adults: $15
    Children (ages 2 to 12): $10
  • Opening hour: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Website: sbzoo

3. Old Mission Santa Barbara

All those who want to experience a bit of the city’s past and origin, should visit this marvelous place founded back in 1786 by the Spanish who were trying to convert the local people to Roman Catholicism. Today, it is still a full operative house of worship. This great building set on a hill also features a wonderful museum with a variety of colonial pieces of art as well as some of the most beautiful photographs of the early city. For your pleasure, there is a big garden called La Huerta where you can see how Spanish agriculture influenced this stunning landscape. Some of the plants here date back to the time when this Queen of Missions was founded.


  • Name: Old Mission Santa Barbara
  • Address: 2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
  • Price: Adults: $7
    Students, Seniors and Military: $5
    Children (ages 5 to 15): $2
  • Opening hour: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Website: santabarbaramission

4. El Presidio de Santa Barbara

If you like to step back in time and enjoy a piece of history, you must definitely go to the El Presidio de Santa Barbara. This is a historic park with restored old buildings set around a square called Plaza de Armas. You can also see a reconstructed chapel, a bell tower, as well as numerous archeological findings. You can learn about the first people who settled here 13,500 years ago and how the first settlers from Spain lived when they arrived here. There is also an exhibition on the history of immigrants from Asia.


  • Name: El Presidio de Santa Barbara
  • Address: 123 E Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
  • Price: Adults: $5
    Seniors: $4
    Children (under 15): Free
  • Opening hour: 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

5. Santa Barbara Museum of Art

This is a perfect place when you want to take a break from the hectic State Street downtown and have a look at wonderful art. You can enjoy some permanent art collections including paintings, sculptures and ceramics from America, Europe and Asia or some of the special temporary ones which bring some high culture into this relaxed community. The museum features a small gift bookstore and a café where you can buy a nice souvenir and relax before you get out into the busy street again.


  • Name: Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • Address: 1130 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
  • Price: Adults: $10
    Children (ages 6 to 17): $6
    Seniors and Students: With ID
  • Opening hour: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

6. Santa Barbara County Courthouse

You will certainly be among thousands of visitors who visit this building every year. It is simply something you shouldn’t miss when you come to Santa Barbara. This historic courthouse of wonderful art and architecture is one of the most beautiful buildings of this type. Take a tour through the building and enjoy the marvelous art on its hand-painted ceilings and walls. Climb the famous clock tower and enjoy the stunning view of the whole city. Enjoy the walk through the great gardens. It’s a memorable experience.


  • Name: Santa Barbara County Courthouse
  • Address: 1100 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
  • Opening hour: Week day hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    Weekend hours: 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Website: santabarbaracourthouse

7. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

If you get bored with the beach and crowd, one of the best places to visit is the Botanic Garden. Take a walk along the easy unpaved paths and enjoy the view of some lovely plants, small mammals, the sound of birds and insects so close to the city. Everything is thoughtfully designed and the garden’s goal is to protect unique plants from this region and the diversity is what makes this park different from the others.


  • Name: Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
  • Address: 1212 Mission Canyon Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
  • Opening hour: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m
  • Price: $10
  • Website: sbbg

8. Art Walks

One of the first things you notice when you walk along State Street is how much people of Santa Barbara love art. That is one of the reasons why you can enjoy Arts and Crafts Show at the art walk that stretches for more than a mile along the beachfront. A lot of local artists from Santa Barbara County have been coming to this show for years and it has become a staple in the local art scene. This is a great opportunity for you to enjoy the local art, even talk with some of the artists and buy a nice souvenir.


  • Name: Art Walks
  • Opening hour: From 10 a.m. to Dusk
  • Price: Adults: $10
    Children: Free

9. State Street

This is the most popular avenue in Santa Barbara and it stretches along the city center down onto the famous Stearns Wharf. Take a perfect walk and feel the true atmosphere of the area. It is filled with shops, restaurants, bars, museums, art galleries and theaters and it will remind you of a huge outdoor shopping center. Enjoy shopping in some of the unique and specialty shops or your favorite chain stores set inside the beautiful old buildings lining the street. Or you can just choose to walk and take in the scene!


  • Name: State Street
  • Address: State Street, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Activities: Shopping, Entertainment, Food & Drink, Museums, Theaters

10. Santa Barbara Public Market

If you want to get a feeling of a real California life then you must visit this urban marketplace. The whole market is wonderfully clean, perfectly lit and full of amazing restaurants and shops. The place offers locally grown and produced food and wine and hosts various and special food events. The atmosphere is great and the food delicious. You’ll love some of the best soups, fresh fish, noodles, cakes, ice creams and a good selection of wine and beer. The staff is extremely helpful and knowledgeable.


  • Name: Santa Barbara Public Market
  • Address: 38 W Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
  • Opening hour: Mon – Thurs: 7:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
    Fri & Sat: 7:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.
    Sun: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

11. Granada Theater

This magnificent old theater in the heart of Santa Barbara was built in 1924. It has recently been restored and become the number one venue of this historic and cultural place. It is open throughout the year and hosts various local, regional and national company performances. In order to appeal to diverse audiences, it offers an extensive range of shows, performances and artists. The theater is well designed with wide and navigable aisles and it offers perfect acoustics. Whether you choose to go to an opera, symphony, or dance performance, you will certainly have a great evening.


  • Name: Granada Theater
  • Address: 1214 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
  • Website: granadasb

12. Santa Barbara Glass Blowing Studio

If you like doing new and unusual things, then this is something you mustn’t miss. You’ll get a completely new and amazing experience in a fun and friendly environment. Professional and the patient artist will teach you some glassblowing and you will create wonderful items to display back home, or give to the people you love. You will find out how capable you are of creating a piece of art. The place is packed with numerous creations and some of them are really breathtaking. Enjoy!


  • Name: Santa Barbara Glassblowing Studio
  • Address: 706 E Mason St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
  • Price: $250 for two-hour private couples’ glass-blowing class
  • Website: sbartglass

13. Cabrillo Bike Path

This wonderful long, flat and easy bike path is a must for bike ride lovers. It follows the coastline from Leadbetter Beach to Butterfly Beach and the grassy sites along the way are ideal for picnics and different sports. You will enjoy the ride as well as the sounds and sights along the coast. When you get tired, there are some nice restaurants along the way and some bathrooms, too. If you are on a family vacation, remember, this is an easy ride, so it is also perfect for your kids.


  • Name: Cabrillo Bike Path
  • Address: Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
  • Website: bikepath

14. Stearns Wharf

One of the most visited places in Santa Barbara, the old pier, offers not just a walk, but also stunning views of the beach and ocean. Perfect for families it features fun recreation activities, fine restaurants and specialty shops. Enjoy the great food and delicious candies, visit a fine gallery display of fossils, shells, minerals, as well as gifts and jewelry from all over the world or simply go fishing.


  • Name: Stearns Wharf
  • Address: Stearns Wharf, 219 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
  • Website: stearnswharf

15. The Funk Zone

This dynamic and ever changing artistic neighborhood by the ocean is the place you will visit again whenever you come back to Santa Barbara. It has become one of the favorite and most frequented places. It combines history, art and shopping among wineries and breweries. You will simply enjoy wonderful cafes, tasting rooms, shops and galleries set in adapted houses and warehouses decorated with stunning modern wall art. Very often you can enjoy some live music, or art shows with a glass of marvelous wine. You will love the visit!


  • Name: The Funk Zone
  • Address: 34 Anacapa St Santa Barbara, CA 93101
  • Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
  • Parking: Street
  • Wheelchair Accessible: Yes
  • Website: funkzone

16. Inspiration Point Hike

When you go hiking in Santa Barbara you must have in mind that the area is mountainous and not flat. But Inspiration Point is an easier hike perfect for families. Walk along this well maintained trail if you want to combine a good hike with stunning views and access to some great sites such as Seven Falls and enjoy the breathtaking scenic view of Santa Barbara, the mountains and the ocean.


  • Name: Inspiration Point Hike
  • Address: Tunnel Rd and Mission Rd Santa Barbara, CA 93190
  • Hiking Distance: 3.5 miles round trip
  • Hiking Time: 1.5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 800 feet

17. The Coronado Butterfly Preserve

Among the different natural wonders in the city of Santa Barbara, the Coronado Butterfly Preserve is probably the most astonishing. From October through March monarch butterflies migrate for the winter and hang down in huge clusters from the eucalyptus trees. Don’t miss this perfect scene if you come in the right season. But this preserve is always a great place to visit offering a great variety of wildlife and birds, a beautiful Devereux Creek, nice trails, meadows and woodlands.


  • Name: The Coronado Butterfly Preserve
  • Address: Ellwood Mesa, Goleta, CA
  • Opening hour: Every Day from Sunrise to Sunset
  • Price: Free to the Public

18. Skater’s Point

The skate park in Santa Barbara is a very fun park ideally located along the Cabrillo bike path and close to the beach. It is open for everybody and for all ages. The concrete is very smooth and the park offers different elements such as transition rails, grind rails, a half pipe, even more. So, take your elbow and kneepads and helmets and go for it. If you are not a skater, you can enjoy watching other people skating from a very comfortable viewers’ area or great views and relaxation in the beautiful California sun.


  • Name: Skater’s Point
  • Address: Santa Barbara, CA 93101
  • Opening hour: Every Day from 8 a.m. Until Half an Hour After Sunset

19. Santa Barbara Helicopter Tours

If you want to experience something really unique and amazing, take a helicopter tour above Santa Barbara. This has become one of the best activities in this area. A friendly, informative and funny pilot will make you feel completely safe. Enjoy the view of the great Channel Islands National Park, beautiful mountains, wonderful wineries and vineyards of the valley, or go whale watching over the ocean. You will be completely enchanted by the breathtaking scenery.


20. Painted Cave Kayak

If you want to spend a whole day at sea, take a trip from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz. You should never miss the chance to paddle through one of the biggest sea caves in the word. You will first relax aboard a wonderful boat offering fine breakfast and lunch and enjoy whale or dolphin watching and great panoramic views on the way to the great Painted Cave, where you will take a marvelous kayaking tour of the series of amazing caves and bays. Enjoy exploring this magnificent place and experience its sounds and beauty.


  • Name: Painted Cave Kayak
  • Destination: Painted Cave, Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park
  • Starting point and time: Santa Barbara Harbor, 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • Level of difficulty: Intermediate to advanced welcome, no paddling experience is necessary

A lively arts scene, stunning panoramic views for miles and the variety of recreation, together with one of the best food and wine culture will make you love Santa Barbara.

Have a good trip and travel!