Things to do in Santa Barbara
With beaches like Santa Barbara's, where even the sand feels more refined than that of L.A. or San Diego, it's easy to fill your days just by walking along the shore. But given the great weather, the colorful history and the amazing shopping, there are many other things to do in Santa Barbara. Some highlights:
Ride a bike down the beach. Bike rentals abound in the downtown area, and paved paths extend for miles.
Go to a wine tasting. One of the top things to do in Santa Barbara is to take a day trip into the Santa Ynez Valley to visit numerous wineries. If you don't want to make the trek, you can sample and shop at tasting rooms in town, such as Oreana Winery and Santa Barbara Winery.
Visit El Presidio State Historic Park. The Spanish military established this stronghold in 1782, and its historic adobe guardhouse is the second oldest building in California.
Take a peek at grand homes. Taking a tour of Lotusland is a great (and non-nosy) way to scope out some stunning architecture. The sprawling 37-acre estate was home for decades to Ganna Walska, an eccentric opera singer. The estate has its own outdoor theater, as well as fascinating, over-the-top gardens.
Shop State Street. The mix of high-end and mainstream stores makes the area lovelier than your usual Main Street or mall.
Plan a kid-friendly outing. The Mission makes for a short but deeply educational visit. The Santa Barbara Zoo is also impressive, and it's small enough that you can cover it thoroughly in less than a day.
Six blocks from the town courthouse, this weekly market is the perfect place to watch gray-haired hippies, dreadlocked surfers, and well-heeled natives hunt for Central Coast olive oils and zingy lemon-flavored pistachios.
Check out the Japanese teahouse and wander through the 65 acres of over 1,000 species of plants and flowers.
Sample the freshest area produce and meats, including wild boar and colorful local heirloom tomatoes, escargots, pepper-crusted venison.
The elaborate architecture is equal parts alcazar and Palazzo Vecchio. The view from the clocktower stretches from the Channel Islands to the Santa Barbara Mission.
The Arlington Theatre resides in the center of downtown’s main drag and evokes another era, complete with Mission Revival architecture and red seats surrounded by yellow Spanish-style “villas” that form the walls.
The school is located a block from prime paddleboarding territory on East Beach.
Considering the small waves and cool climate, Butterfly Beach isn’t exactly a destination for surfers or sunbathers, but the palm-lined stretch of shore in Santa Barbara’s most affluent neighborhood–Montecito–certainly holds appeal for people who want to dip their feet in the surf.
Eat local by booking one of these guided tours that lead the culinarily curious to fresh foods at the farmers’ market, fishermen’s market, C’est Cheese, and Our Daily Bread—all of which are also ideal spots for picking up picnic fixings for lunch to pair with Central Coast wine.
Charles Banks and business partner Stanley Kroenke, perhaps best known for Screaming Eagle, own this 600-acre winery north of Santa Barbara in the hill-filled town of Buellton.
Part cheese shop and part lunch stop, C'est Cheese sells more than 100 varieties, as well as artisan goods such as jams, olive oils, salumi, and various wines from France, Italy, Spain, and California.
Known for its fresh, high-quality baked goods and inventive breakfast dishes, D’Angelo is situated on a side street near downtown Santa Barbara, not far from the 1902 train station.
Catch up on early California history at the beautiful, centuries-old Santa Barbara Mission.