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Santa Barbara is an incredible destination for all types of travelers. Whether you're looking for a romantic getaway, an adventure-filled family vacation, or a solo escape to relax and recharge, this is a great destination. From beautiful beaches to incredible wineries, this stunning city has no shortage of things to do. We've put together this comprehensive travel guide to help you make the most of your trip. At the American Riviera, you'll find tips on the best places to stay, must-see attractions, and more!
Santa Barbara's history runs deep through many cultures. It is also evident in the current city. Cultural diversity is everywhere, and when you enter the city, it's a trip back to Hollywood in the early days. Santa Barbara's rich history includes boat-building techniques used by the Indians and the Spanish Colonial influence seen all around the corner.
Moreover, before they created Los Angeles' film scene, this city was a bustling center for the silver screen. It was home to Flying A Studios, the first big movie studio here. Santa Barbara was also the location of hundreds of silent films. Charlie Chaplin used to visit the area in the 1920s.
The area's maritime tradition dates back to the beginning of time. The Stearns Wharf is California's oldest operating wharf and was built by John Peck Stearns in 1872. Visitors today enjoy strolling Stearns Wharf. Here, you will also find many restaurants and other local businesses.
Furthermore, Santa Barbara made a notable contribution to the planet's history when it hosted the first Earth Day celebration worldwide in 1969. However, the Earth Day Festival still takes place every April at Alameda Park. Santa Barbara celebrates its history with a variety of events and festivals. Old Spanish Fiesta Days will bring back the joyous Latin heritage.
The best time to visit Santa Barbara is between March and May or September to November. This is because the temperatures are mild all year. However, you will not have to contend with crowds if you travel in spring or autumn. Summer is the high season for beach vacations. Also, make sure you bring an umbrella for the winter months. Santa Barbara receives the majority of its rain between December and February.
These are some of the best things to do and places to visit in Santa Barbara.
This museum is on State Street in Santa Barbara. It was established in 1941. Today, it houses over 27,000 pieces of art. It was once the Santa Barbara Post Office. It was then renovated in 2005.
With 40 programs, the museum is focused on education and offers lectures, seminars, and other activities. It is also one of Santa Barbara's top attractions. In addition, McCormick House is home to the Ridley-Tree Education Center, which covers 11,500 square feet. Tours are also possible.
Santa Barbara Zoo offers open habitats for over 500 animals, including reptiles, birds, and mammals. The zoo is in a lush botanic garden that features many ornamentals, native plants, trees, cacti, and succulents. Moreover, Santa Barbara's zoo is a top-rated small zoo and a great place to take kids.
The Zoological Gardens was established in 1963. Since then, it has continued to fulfill its mission to preserve, conserve, and enhance the natural world. Furthermore, the zoo offers many special events and programs such as Zoo camp and multi-disciplinary hands-on activities for kids like Be A Zoologist for a Day.
This courthouse might be the only place you want to spend a day in court. Although the Spanish-Moorish building is impressive from the inside, the spacious archway will take you inside one of the most stunning government buildings in the country. Moreover, you can take the stairs or the elevator up to the top of the Seth Thomas Tower Clock to enjoy spectacular city views. Also, make sure you stop at the historic Mural Room.
The most appealing reasons to visit Shoreline Park include the stunning views of Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Mountains, and the Santa Barbara coastline. The attraction is free; you might spot passing whales if lucky. The popular park covers 14.6 acres and is on a coastal bluff. Moreover, it has playgrounds, barbecues, sidewalks, benches, and other amenities. This is the perfect place to go if you're looking for things to do in Santa Barbara with children.
For a truly unique natural experience, hike to Inspiration Point. Inspiration Point offers stunning views of Santa Barbara's coastline and distant Channel Islands. Besides, there are two routes to it. It takes about 3.5 miles round trip to reach Inspiration Point. The shorter route starts at Tunnel Trail. The trail begins on a paved road and goes about a mile before turning to a steeper section. Another option is to start at Jesusita Trail. This trail is about 7 miles long and steep in certain areas.
This museum on State Street recently underwent a six-year renovation. This project brought new galleries and public spaces to the museum. There are also a variety of rotating exhibitions as well as highlights from the permanent collection. These exhibits focus heavily on Southern California abstraction and Impressionism. In addition, you can find jewelry, books, and toys in the museum shop.
Stearns Wharf is a great place to find fresh seafood. You can wait for the boats to unload their catch at Stearns Wharf until the early morning to get your fish. It is also cheaper, easier, and more fun to buy fish directly from the boats, then take it home on ice. Moreover, the pier, California's oldest operating wharf, offers an aquarium for children and more. There are also many shopping and dining options. However, it can become touristy after mid-morning.
Many tourists choose to visit this beautiful resort town with the sole purpose of discovering the streets and parks that were featured in their favorite TV series. However, many festivals and other celebrations still make the resort so appealing. Moreover, each event is unique, and each has its history.
The Santa Barbara French Festival is one of the most bizarre events in America. This festival is held annually in a central city park. There are main entertaining and festive events. Besides, the festival transforms the park into a true oasis of France, with the entire territory reconstructed from French landmarks and sites. Internationally acclaimed French culinary experts often perform and showcase their signature dishes at the festival.
There are also many French delights and numerous musical performances and theatrical performances. You can also find exciting exhibitions of amateur painters or sculptors. In addition, the festival will offer tourists the opportunity to purchase original souvenirs, memorable gifts, and garnishes.
Santa Barbara has an excellent climate for growing fresh local produce all year. Moreover, you'll likely encounter many farmers' markets while walking along the waterfront. But, for an unforgettable experience, visit the Public Market.
The beachfront location means that many of the city's most loved restaurants, such as The Hungry Cat or The Lark, feature seafood on their menus. On the other hand, Olio Pizzeria offers California-Italian cuisine if fish is not your thing. And Toma offers romantic dining with stunning views of the ocean.
You'll also find a wide variety of wines, whether where you dine or the cuisine you choose. Santa Barbara is a famous wine country. A short drive from the city will take you to small wineries and vineyards that inspire the local cuisine. You can also sign up for one of the top wine tours if you want to get the assistance of a local. Furthermore, you can visit the Funk Zone area, which is home to many wine bars.
These are some of the best areas to stay in Santa Barbara. Choose from boutique hotels in downtown Santa Barbara or outside on the shoreline.
Santa Barbara's most sought-after area is West Beach. This narrow but beautiful stretch of sand lies between the Harbor and Stearns Wharf. Many shops and restaurants offer ocean views and the Museum of Natural History Sea Center. Moreover, Brophy Bros. is a prominent fixture in the yacht-filled harbor. The Maritime Museum is also featured. This location also has the upscale Castillo Inn.
This part of the beach is home to many boat tours. West Beach also has a lovely beach accessible by bike or foot. The Los Banos Del Mar Pool is at the harbor, a great swimming pool open to the public. Furthermore, the Downtown Shuttle connects West Beach to Downtown, along State Street. There is also a Waterfront Shuttle that takes you to East Beach and the zoo. West Beach also has a variety of expensive accommodations.
East Beach is an excellent choice for families, first-time tourists, and people who want peace and quiet. Although it is a little further from the city center, you can still reach most places in 5-10 minutes. East Beach is located east of State Street, Stearns Wharf. Besides, the East Beach Volleyball Courts are located at the eastern end, and the Santa Barbara Zoo.
Hilton Beachfront Resort dominates the central section of this beach. And although East Beach may seem isolated, it is close to the rest of the city.
Goleta is an excellent choice for those seeking tranquility in Oceanside and beautiful scenery. This area is also home to the University of California. Besides, there is also the luxurious Ritz-Carlton. It offers stunning views of the coast's bluffs and 2 miles of natural beaches.
The Funk Zone is a small neighborhood. It is made up of old warehouses located between East and West Beaches. This area is home to the city's growing art scene. It boasts many artisan shops, galleries, hip eateries, wine tasting rooms, and award-winning microbreweries. It has also created a cutting-edge dining scene with names like The Lark, Loquita, and Lucky Penny.
Moreover, this area is your best option if you want art, nightlife, and easy access to the beach. Although there are few places to stay in Funk Zone, most hotels on West Beach are within walking distance.
Downtown is about a mile inland from the beach. It is known for its unique "Santa Barbara Style" architecture that blends Spanish Colonial Revival with other Mediterranean styles. There are also many historic attractions downtown. The Santa Barbara Historical Museum is also nearby as the Museum Of Art. It would be best if you also visited the County Courthouse. This magnificent Spanish Revival pile offers spectacular views.
Moreover, downtown's food scene is a significant draw. El Paseo is a famous Mexican restaurant. It's also a celebrity hotspot. They host parties for Ginger Rogers and celebrities like Salvador Dali and Quentin Tarantino. Besides, you'll find the Public Market right next to you. This upscale food hall features a variety of cuisines.
Walking is the best way to explore Santa Barbara. Downtown is home to most major attractions, shops, and restaurants. This city is well-known for its green transportation options, including a car-free program and walking maps. There are also alternative transportation options like the numerous bus and shuttle services that run around the city.
There are several ways to get from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Santa Barbara. This is the closest major airport, located approximately 90 miles southeast. Santa Barbara also has its regional airport (SBA), which receives flights from several major airlines. It serves several significant cities, including San Francisco, Phoenix, and San Diego.
Amtrak also has two routes through Santa Barbara. It's also easy to reach the city by car. Moreover, the Pacific Coast Highway and the station for public transportation run downtown.
Santa Barbara has a moderate overall risk. According to the Police Department, crime statistics for 2020 show that burglary and theft are more common than the national average. However, homicides and robberies are lower, and aggravated assault is less common. While most scammers target locals by phone or email, there are also some rental scams.