30 Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara, California

You will find an astounding amount of things to do in Santa Barbara. There are mountains to explore, flowers to see and beautiful beaches to relax on. You will experience excellent restaurants and shopping, too.

This area is a lovely oasis from the intensity of Los Angeles. You may even want to get out and explore the Channel Islands for extra respite or adventure.

You will enliven your senses with the many fantastic Santa Barbara attractions to which you will have access. You will be able to experience Spanish architecture, lots of history, and of course, California wine.

Don't forget the amazing beaches which help deem this city the "American Riviera." This fantastic city with Mediterranean vibes will inspire and delight you.

The following list of the best things to do in Santa Barbara will have you on your way to a great trip.

Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara, CA

Table of Contents [Show]

1: Old Mission Santa Barbara

Old Mission Santa Barbara
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Old Mission Santa Barbara is one the most historical things to do in Santa Barbara. Built in 1786, it provides an opportunity to connect deeper with California history.

There is a long and complex history associated with the missions of the west. It was not always good. Come here to learn about the struggles and evolution of California.

Today, you can attend church in their beautiful parish. They still have Franciscan Friars on the premises, which is a tradition that has been instated since the erection of the buildings.

In addition to experiencing the rich history, you can visit their museum and historic gardens. This is clearly one the top attractions that must be in your Santa Barbara itinerary.

Address: 2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Website: www.santabarbaramission.org

2: The Channel Islands

The Channel Islands
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The proximity of Santa Barbara to the Channel Islands requires that you make space in your itinerary for this incredible place.

These islands are not really built up and are still quite uninhabited. They have come to be known as “the Galapagos Islands of North America”.

The waters here are pristine. There are more grottos than anywhere else on earth. You can swim through kelp forests or go kayaking.

You will see seabirds, sea lions, and more. Plus, you can hike on land, too. We highly suggest you go snorkeling or scuba diving to experience the humbling beauty of the ocean here.

Address: Ventura, CA 93001

3: Santa Barbara Harbor

Santa Barbara Harbor
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Another great nautical spot in Santa Barbara is the Santa Barbara Harbor.

It is one of the oldest working harbors in the US, where you can watch fishermen come in and out all day.

It provides incredible views and great eats. You can also find the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum here. Plus, it is a launching-off point for many water activities you can experience when you visit Santa Barbara.

Among the popular water activities include sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, scuba, fishing, whale watching and more!

It is also a spot for many festivals and events. Check out their events list, and hopefully, you'll be able to catch one!

Address: 132-A Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

4: Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf
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Stearns Wharf is an absolute must-see when visiting Santa Barbara.

The opportunity this place provides to connect with the ocean is unique. The wooden pier is chock full of restaurants and shops.

This is where you can get those boardwalk vibes with a stop in a candy or ice cream shop.

Additionally, you can learn about sea life at the Sea Center or enjoy fishing off the pier if that's your thing!

The options are varied and have something for everyone. It is absolutely one of the fantastic vacation spots in Santa Barbara.

Address: 217 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

5: Shoreline Park

Shoreline Park

If you're still wondering what to do in Santa Barbara, then head to Shoreline Park. This is one of the most iconic places to visit in Santa Barbara.

This popular spot for community gatherings is quite beautiful. You will start up above the beach in a grassy area.

You can see the Channel Islands and whales from this spot. The best time to whale watch is April through November.

Also, you can see the Santa Ynez mountains from the land above the ocean. From up above, you can walk down the bluffs onto the skinny beach. This small beach is often underwater during high tide.

It is especially great to come here for low tide when the tide pooling is best. When the tide is in, most of the beach gets covered up by water.

Address: Shoreline Dr & Santa Rosa Place, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

6: Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
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The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is quite large for such a small city. You will be impressed to find that there are over 27,000 works of art.

This includes the most extensive collection of Monet paintings in California. There are also other impressionist paintings.

Their specialties include contemporary American and European art and art from China from many points in Chinese history.

Come to this beautiful building to view "paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, ceramics, glass, jades, bronzes, lacquer, and textiles".

You could spend all day here viewing the incredible art that sometimes goes back thousands of years. This includes Greek antiquities.

It is a really special place and should be on your list of things to do in Santa Barbara.

Address: 1130 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Website: www.sbma.net

7: Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Santa Barbara County Courthouse
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Santa Barbara County Courthouse is another example of Spanish revival architecture.

One of the mainstays of a visit to the courthouse is the opportunity for 360-degree views of Santa Barbara by climbing the clock tower.

The clock itself is noted for its four faces. Enter the clock gallery to see the clock working behind its faces, and don't forget to look up so you can see the constellations.

They are the same stars that were in the sky when Santa Barbara was named in 1602.

Be sure to check out the mural room, too. It is ornate and gorgeous. Plus, there is a beautiful sunken garden in which you can enjoy a picnic.

Address: 1100 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

8: Cold Spring Tavern

Cold Spring Tavern
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Cold Spring Tavern was once a stagecoach stop and was built in 1868. It has a rich history.

You can now dine in the tavern, sipping delicious California wine and eating traditional American food.

When you tour the quaint buildings, you'll know that you are stepping into a piece of history. It looks like something out of a fairytale book.

It is a beautiful home to numerous small cabins with different histories attached to them. You can learn all about it when you visit.

It's such a dreamy location, perfect for taking photos. You will not want to miss a stop for a beer at the Log Cabin Bar, in addition to a wonderful meal at Cold Spring Tavern.

All in all, this is one the best things to do in Santa Barbara.

Address: 5995 Stagecoach Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

9: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

As previously stated, Santa Barbara is brimming with opportunities to connect with history. In this case, natural history.

This means you'll explore the history of the earth, plants, animals and humans.

There are indoor and outdoor exhibits to enjoy, furthering your opportunity to connect with nature while in the American Riviera.

There is a lovely daffodil garden and many exhibits. Some favorites feature their massive blue whale skeleton and a pygmy mammoth skeleton.

You can also see gems and minerals along with exhibits featuring the sea. This is the best of the best in Santa Barbara attractions.

Address: 2559 Puesta Del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Website: www.sbnature.org

10: Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a collection of different types of gardens. It is a great place to add to your list of things to see in Santa Barbara.

You can visit their desert garden, or you may also want to bask under the canopies of trees. The Arroyo garden and the redwood section are also quite lovely.

There is also a library here. Don't forget to check out the Japanese Tea Garden. It is a beautiful rendition of a sacred Buddhist tradition.

In a place so beautiful as Santa Barbara, you will want to cap it off with a trip to this stunning garden.

Address: 1212 Mission Canyon Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Website: www.sbbg.org

11: East Beach

East Beach
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East Beach will provide you with a relaxing beach experience. There are volleyball courts and lifeguards for swimming.

There is also a lovely beachfront cafe here called East Beach Grill. There is a bike path from East Beach that leads to Butterfly Beach, which is east of East Beach.

Nearby is Andree Clark Bird Refuge which is a lovely place to view animals of all kinds.

Also in this area is Chase Palm Park. Chase Palm Park is a gorgeous park full of palm trees. It is worth a stop for palm tree lovers or those searching for a photo opp.

It is one of the most convenient places to go in Santa Barbara when seeking beaches and nature experiences because of its proximity to other parts of town.

Address: 1400 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

12: Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa Barbara Zoo
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Visiting the Santa Barbara Zoo is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara if you travel with kids. Though, animal lovers of all ages can enjoy the many species of animals found here.

You can see flamingos, tigers, and penguins. They also have a fabulous new Australian Walkabout exhibit. The exhibit allows you to walk through an Australian landscape to see kangaroos, wallabies, and emus.

They also host events and special educational programs. They include their Outdoor Ed class (ages 3-15) or the Zoo Camp (ages 3-12), among others.

There is also a train to ride on and an opportunity to feed the giraffes.

Address: 500 Ninos Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Website: www.sbzoo.org

13: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is a great place to connect with the ocean and learn about sea vessels. One thing is for sure; animal conservation is their goal.

You will notice it has a voice for those who love the sea. Fishers, divers, and sailors were at the helm of its creation.

There are many exhibits and activities to experience. One of the beautiful mainstays of this museum is the art exhibits that come through.

You will see striking depictions of the sea and relevant subject matter by some of the world's most outstanding artists. You don't want to miss this classic Santa Barbara tourist attraction.

Address: 113 Harbor Way STE 190, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Website: www.sbmm.org

14: Cabrillo Bike Path

Cabrillo Bike Path
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Biking is a great way to get exercise, connect with nature, and see the city. This 4.5-mile route will take you from Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara to Butterfly Beach in Montecito.

You will also bike past notable landmarks like the Santa Barbara Cemetery and along multiple beaches.

Over the State Street and Cabrillo Boulevard is an excellent spot for renting bikes. You may want to up the ante with a surrey rental.

Either way, you will have a lovely time in the sun riding along Cabrillo Boulevard Bike Path. It provides a convenient way to get around the town and see a bunch of Santa Barbara landmarks.

Address: 1118 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

15: Downtown Santa Barbara (State Street)

Downtown Santa Barbara (State Street)
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You will want to head to downtown Santa Barbara for many reasons, primarily because it is quintessential Santa Barbara.

There is a character here in the architecture. You'll find many unique boutiques, galleries, shops, museums and the historic Granada Theater.

Downtown Santa Barbara is also the place to eat. Seriously! There are incredible restaurants from some of the best chefs in the state.

For even more eats, you will want to get your "foodie" on with a Santa Barbara Public Market visit. There is a wide selection of groceries and cuisines that can be everyone's ultimate delight.

State Street is by far one of the busiest spots in Santa Barbara. It is a bloodline of the city. So even if you do not intend to hit State Street, you probably will just by moving around the city.

Address: State St, Santa Barbara, CA

16: Cachuma Lake

Cachuma Lake
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This spectacular lake, located in the Santa Ynez Valley, provides stellar views of the San Rafael and Santa Ynez Mountains.

There is not really any camping in Santa Barbara, so Cachuma Lake is the place to go. Better yet, you can go glamping.

They have many ways you can do this. There are many RV/tent campsites, yurts and cabins to rent. You can go fishing and hiking. You can also take a boat cruise if you so desire.

They have everything you might need for a relaxing getaway by the lake. This includes a general store, gas station, showers, nature center, playgrounds, and a marina.

You can spend one night or one week here and have an excellent time no matter what. It is simply gorgeous!

Address: HC 59 - Highway 154, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

17: Santa Barbara Scenic Drive

Santa Barbara Scenic Drive
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A great way to get to know any new place is to drive around it. This scenic drive can take up half a day if you want to soak in all the things to do in Santa Barbara.

It is 25 miles long and begins at the Santa Barbara Visitor Center. You will pass by many of picturesque spots, like Old Mission Santa Barbara and Hendry's Beach.

You can fuel up at any number of restaurants along the way, too. This would be a great time to get some seafood as you will be passing by many seafood restaurants.

Safely drive as you see the beautiful sights and take many photos. This may even be an excellent activity for you if you want to get some shots of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.

This drive will show why Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the US.

Looking to visit other amazing places in California? Check out our lists of things to do in San Diego & things to do in Sacramento!

18: Arroyo Burro Beach County Park

Arroyo Burro Beach County Park
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This is a stunning beach and is among the favorite of locals. When you head down to the beach from the top of the bluffs, you land at the bottom, which offers jaw-dropping cliff views of the bluffs.

It is locally known as Hendry's Beach. It is a spot for recreation of all kinds, like running, swimming, and walking. There is also a restaurant here, the Boathouse Restaurant.

At the top of the bluffs are more areas for recreation like the Douglas Family preserve. The preserve will provide you with hiking trails, birdwatching and great views.

Keep in mind; sometimes the water is too toxic to swim safely in the ocean below. Check with a lifeguard before you go for a swim.

Address: 2981 Cliff Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

19: Winery Tasting Room Tour

Winery Tasting Room Tour
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If you are visiting California, you probably already know it is where some of the best wine in the world is made.

You can get wine with locally grown grapes and delicious tastes. Santa Barbara's tasting rooms are among the best in the state.

You will be able to enhance your meals or just go for some tastings at one of their many tasting rooms. Follow the wine trail through the Funk Zone and Presidio neighborhoods.

Be sure to visit Jamie Slone Wines Tasting Room and Grassini Family Vineyards with their grapes grown in Happy Canyon. Also, check out Deep Sea wines at Stearns Wharf.

If you are looking to tour a vineyard, then venture out of Santa Barbara to one of the many vineyards in the surrounding area.

Sunstone Vineyards & Winery in Santa Ynez or Andrew Murray Vineyards in Los Olivos are some great options.

20: Leadbetter Beach

Leadbetter Beach
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Enjoy more of the American Riviera when you visit Leadbetter Beach. This is a great public beach with all of the amenities.

There are picnic areas and barbeques to reserve. There are also restrooms and showers. You can enjoy time on the sand or in the waves.

This is a popular spot for surfing, windsurfing, paddleboarding, kayaking and more. If you are looking to hit the ocean, then you should definitely come here.

Many of the beaches of Santa Barbara end up underwater for a portion of the day. There is usually sand to enjoy here, no matter what the tides are doing.

Address: Shoreline Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

21: Moreton Bay Fig Tree

Moreton Bay Fig Tree

California is known for having some of the oldest and largest trees in the world. It is famous for its redwoods, giant sequoias and bristlecone pine trees.

The redwoods are the tallest in the world, and the sequoias are the largest by volume. Bristlecone pine trees are the oldest in the world.

Keeping with California style, this tree is the largest of its kind. It is believed Santa Barbara's Moreton Bay Fig Tree, also known as, Ficus macrophylla, is the largest in the world.

You can visit it at the intersection of Montecito and Chapala Streets at 209 State Street.

There are a few other places to see these trees around town, but this is where you'll find the largest one. It is quite a sight to behold when you visit. It is one of our favorite attractions in Santa Barbara.

Address: Chapala St & Montecito Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

22: MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation

MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation

This interactive museum is one of the amazing things to do in Santa Barbara. Learn about science, technology, music and art in one-of-a-kind exhibits.

All of your senses will be fully engaged. There is a Racetrack exhibit and a music recording exhibit called Sound Track.

Check out the Fantastic Forces Courtyard to explore gravity, magnetism, propulsion, centripetal force and more. Check out their outdoor exhibit, the Sky Garden, too.

If you need a snack, check out the Mountain View Terrace. You will have an incredible time at this museum, especially if you have kids. There is just so much to do!

Address: 125 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Website: www.moxi.org

23: The Funk Zone

The Funk Zone
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This neighborhood is located on the end of State Street, which is a bloodline of Santa Barbara.

It is also near the waterfront, giving you the opportunity to experience why Santa Barbara is considered the American Riviera.

You get nightlife and possible access to the sea. Just what Santa Barbara is known for.

This funky neighborhood was once an industrial center. It is now home to many wineries, restaurants, galleries, shops, hotels, and more.

There are fantastic tacos in this spot. Plus, you'll come across vibrant street art and bustling nightlife.

You will certainly also want to check out the Funk Factory, where you can make paint splatter art. Also, find MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation in this neighborhood.

Address: 137 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

24: Casa Del Herrero: House of the Blacksmith

Casa Del Herrero: House of the Blacksmith

Casa Del Herrero is another beautiful estate located in nearby Montecito. Connect with the 1920s and 30s when you visit this home.

It was originally owned by George Fox Steedman and was designed by George Washington Smith.

It is considered one of the great renditions of Spanish Revival architecture in the world, and it is stunning.

There are incredible gardens to take in natural beauty. This includes their California Cactus Garden and a forest. You can get a tour which is a great way to get all the information about this cool place.

You will see where the blacksmithing was done, plus an incredible room with sewing machines and spools of thread. It looks really cool. It is definitely worth a stop on your trip to Santa Barbara.

Address: 1387 E Valley Rd, Montecito, CA 93108

Website: www.casadelherrero.com

25: Reagan Ranch Center

Reagan Ranch Center
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The Reagan Ranch Center is a museum and gallery on the grounds of former US president Ronald Reagan's Ranch.

You can view Rancho Del Cielo (translates to "Ranch in the Heavens"), where the president used to come for retreat.

It was previously an oasis for Reagan. He spoke many times of the peace his ranch afforded him, at times calling it "heaven on earth".

There is a lovingly preserved adobe house from 1872 on the property and galleries to visit.

This beautiful attraction is nestled in the Santa Ynez Mountains and one of the top places to visit in Santa Barbara.

Address: 217 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

26: Susan Quinlan Doll and Teddy Bear Museum and Library

Susan Quinlan Doll and Teddy Bear Museum and Library

This museum holds the biggest collection of dolls & teddy bears across 150 exhibits and the world's largest research library of books related to the same subject.

You will see dolls and teddies of all kinds spanning many years and styles. They are beautiful and artistic. So, if you’re looking for a unique spot on your list of things to do in Santa Barbara, this is it!

There is a vast collection and even a 5-foot bear to take a photo with. You can find the bear in the Tea Room, where you can enjoy a complimentary cup of coffee or tea. It will be a quaint and quirky stop.

Address: 122 W Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

27: Andree Clark Bird Refuge

Andree Clark Bird Refuge
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The Andree Clark Bird Refuge is an incredible oasis and a favorite for attractions in Santa Barbara.

This 42-acre park has a beautiful lake with three islands. Come here for bird watching, hiking, biking, observe turtles and other wildlife.

There are multiple observation decks as well as a bike path around the entirety of the lake.

It should be noted, over 200 species of birds have been seen in the estuary. Swimming and boating are prohibited in order to maintain the integrity of this ecosystem.

Their primary mission is to provide a safe and clean environment where the birds and other animals that live here can thrive.

Address: 34a Los Patos Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

28: El Presidio De Santa Barbara State Historic Site

El Presidio De Santa Barbara State Historic Site
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Are you looking to connect with history? Look no further. Head to El Presidio De Santa Barbara. The Spanish built this military settlement in 1782, so the connection with history is far-reaching.

Some of the original buildings are still standing. Be sure to check out Canedo Adobe and El Cuartel. There are some great views from the two-story observation tower. There is also a lovely heritage garden where you can interact with "old era plants."

The Whitaker Orchard is also worth a visit. There are also exhibits to explore. One such exhibit is about the Japanese community in Santa Barbara.

Keep in mind; this place is for self-guided tours. You can get a map when you enter. Plus, there are cafes and great places to eat. Consider checking out La Playa Azul Cafe or Three Pickles.

Address: 123 E Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

29: Thousand Steps Beach

Thousand Steps Beach

While yes, 1000 steps sound daunting, it is actually only 150 steps. You will climb down these steps to the beach, which offers access for resting on the beach or tide-pooling at low tide.

The tide-pooling opportunities are exquisite in California, in general. You get to see starfish, anemones, and maybe even octopuses!

This beach is a welcome respite and often not very crowded. This is due to the limited parking at the top of the steps. Keep this in mind when you head here.

However, there are plenty of other beaches right nearby if you can't get a parking spot. You can even explore Shoreline Park which is within a walking distance.

Address: 1429 Shoreline Dr, Santa Barbara, CA

30: Santa Barbara Orchid Estate

Santa Barbara Orchid Estate

All flower fanatics are sure to love this orchid collection and nursery. It is a magnificent place with beautiful sights to see in Santa Barbara.

It is home to a wide range of species of orchids. It is fun to come here to see what is in bloom.

You may want to time your trip with the Orchid Festival or the weeks surrounding it. You will find many blooms during this time.

No matter the time of year, this is a lovely place to view the beautiful flowers and maybe even purchase some from their nursery.

Address: 1250 Orchid Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93111

Website: www.sborchid.com

Ready to explore Santa Barbara?

As you can see, there are many wonderful attractions in Santa Barbara. It is full of opportunities to connect with nature from the mountains to the sea. And, there is a myriad of things to do in Santa Barbara that provide a cultural experience.

From historical landmarks and wine tasting to art galleries, you will find Santa Barbara has more than enough to offer you on your trip. There is a reason it is called the American Riviera.

Come to Santa Barbara to relax and enjoy as you take in the sights, sounds, and good vibes of this small but magical city. You will love your time in beautiful Santa Barbara.

What should you pack on a trip to Santa Barbara?

Santa Barbara is far enough south in California that you can expect the weather to be relatively warm and sunny all year round.

However, it can get a little chilly, especially at night. It also rains from time to time. So, you want to prepare. Pack comfortable clothes and shoes. You might also want to pack something a little more fancy for a night out.

Don't forget your bathing suit, hat, sunglasses, sandals, and sunscreen. Be sure to bring a sweater and some long pants for those chilly nights, too. A day pack for hikes and hopping around town is also advisable.

How to get around Santa Barbara?

There are lots of ways to get around Santa Barbara. You can use their public train system. The one that runs up State Street is perfect for exploration downtown.

Biking is also a very popular method. As you have learned, the Juan Cabrillo Bike Trail will lead you to many destinations in the city.

There are many neighborhoods that are also quite walkable. Overall, the city is relatively bike-friendly. Of course, you can also rent and drive your own vehicle. You may also want to use rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft.

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