16 Best Things To Do In Santa Barbara – Attractions, Tours & Sights

(Last Updated On: January 19, 2023)

Santa Barbara is a city on the central California coast, with the Santa Ynez Mountains as a dramatic backdrop.

This charming city by the sea is a popular destination for visitors from all over the world.

Santa Barbara is known for its beautiful Mediterranean-style architecture, its lovely beaches and harbor, and its many attractions and events.

Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities in Santa Barbara, from exploring the city’s museums and art galleries to enjoying the sights and sounds of the vibrant downtown Santa Barbara area.

There are also plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, biking, and kayaking.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing vacation or an action-packed getaway, Santa Barbara has something to offer everyone.

Things To Do In Santa Barbara

1. Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa Barbara Zoo

Located just two miles from State Street, this 30-acre park is home to more than 150 species, including mammals, reptiles, birds and insects

Founded in 1963, the Santa Barbara Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Permanent residents of the zoo include anteaters, leopards, gorillas and penguins.

But the biggest celebrities here are the native California condors and endangered Amur leopards.

There is also the popular Savanna exhibit that features a watering hole, where visitors can watch animals drink and cool off.

One of the best family friendly Santa Barbara attractions, Santa Barbara Zoo can be toured in about two to three hours, but you’ll likely be tempted to linger longer.

The Zoo’s main gift store is located near the entrance and is an exotic emporium of toys, books, and unique souvenirs.

The zoo is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, depending on the season.

Address: Santa Barbara Zoo, 500 Ninos Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

2. Cold Spring Tavern

Cold Spring Tavern

Cold Spring Tavern is part of Santa Barbara’s history, built in 1867 and is located in the San Marcos Pass, just off of Highway 154.

The tavern is a popular stop for travellers on their way to or from Los Angeles.

Cold Spring Tavern is known for its rustic charm, its history, and its excellent food.

The menu at Cold Spring Tavern features a variety of dishes made with fresh, local ingredients, featuring steaks, fresh seafood, and game.

The tavern also has a full bar, serving beer, wine, and cocktails.

In addition to its food and drink offerings, Cold Spring Tavern also features live music on weekends.

Visitors can also purchase souvenirs at the tavern’s gift shop.

Address: Cold Spring Tavern, 5995 Stagecoach Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

3. Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a historic landmark located in downtown Santa Barbara.

The courthouse was built in 1929 and is known for its Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture.

The courthouse is open to the public and features a museum, a gift shop, and an observation deck.

The museum offers self guided tours of the courthouse, as well as exhibits on the history of Santa Barbara and the courthouse itself.

The observation deck offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding area.

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is also home to the Santa Barbara Superior Court, which hears criminal and civil cases.

The Santa Barbara Courthouse is a must see for anyone interested in history and architecture.

Address: Santa Barbara County Courthouse, 1100 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

4. Old Mission Santa Barbara

Old Mission Santa Barbara

Old Mission Santa Barbara, also known as “Queen of the Missions,” is a historic landmark.

Founded in 1786, it is the 10th of 21 missions established by the Spanish Franciscans in California.

The Santa Barbara mission was named after Saint Barbara, the patron saint of artillerymen and miners.

The Old Mission Santa Barbara church is open to the public and features a museum with exhibits on the history of the mission and the people who lived there.

The grounds of Santa Barbara Mission are also open to the public and feature a cemetery, gardens, and a chapel.

Address: Old Mission Santa Barbara, 2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

5. Shoreline Park

Shoreline Park

Shoreline Park is a 15-acre public park located along the Santa Barbara waterfront.

Facing the Pacific Ocean, this long, narrow ocean-side park offers fabulous views of the harbor, the Channel Islands, and the mountains.

The park features a variety of amenities, including a playground, picnic areas, a swimming pool, and a basketball court.

Shoreline Park also has a wide variety of plant life, including native California plants, trees, and shrubs.

The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Address: Shoreline Park, 301 W Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

6. Cabrillo Bike Path

Cabrillo Bike Path

Completed in 1966, the Cabrillo Bike Path is a 6.5-mile oceanfront bicycle and pedestrian path that runs along the coast of Santa Barbara.

The path begins at Arroyo Burro Beach Park in the east and ends at Stearns Wharf in the west.

Along the way, it passes through some of Santa Barbara’s most popular beaches, including West Beach, Leadbetter Beach, Shoreline Park, and East Beach.

It also provides stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands.

The Cabrillo Bike Path is named after Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer who was the first European to set foot on what is now the state of California.

Despite its relatively short length, the Cabrillo Bike Path is one of Santa Barbara’s most popular recreation areas.

It is used by locals and visitors alike for walking, jogging, rollerblading, and, of course, biking.

It is also a popular spot for fishing, picnicking, and simply enjoying Santa Barbara’s coast.

Address: Cabrillo Bike Path, 301 W Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

7. Arroyo Burro Beach Park

Arroyo Burro Beach Park

Referred to as “Hendry’s Beach” by locals this beach is just a ten minute drive along the Coast from downtown Santa Barbara.

This nice sandy beach is popular for swimming, sunbathing, surfing, and picnicking.

Arroyo Burro Beach Park is also home to the Arroyo Burro Beach Cafe, a beachfront restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The cafe features a patio with ocean views.

It is the perfect beach for families because of its mild surf and proximity to local parks.

Address: 5995 Stagecoach Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

8. Santa Barbara Harbor

Santa Barbara Harbor

Located along the Santa Barbara waterfront, this natural historic harbor is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara for water activities.

There are a variety of choices including sailing, sea kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, whale watching and more.

The Santa Barbara Harbor is also home to a variety of businesses, including boat dealerships, charter companies, and restaurants.

The Harbor is home to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, which features exhibits on the history of the harbor and the people who have lived and worked there.

The museum offers guided tours of the harbor, as well as boat rides on vintage vessels.

Address: Santa Barbara Harbor, 113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, California 93109

9. Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf is a wooden pier that is located in the Santa Barbara Harbor.

It is the oldest working wharf in California and one of the only remaining wooden wharves on the West Coast.

Stearns Wharf is home to numerous restaurants, candy stores, ice cream shops and a children’s playground.

It is also a popular spot for fishing, whale watching, and simply enjoying the view of the Santa Barbara waterfront.

Address: Stearns Wharf, 107 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

10. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Renovated in 2018, the Museum sits on 17 acres of oak woodland along Mission Creek.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History was founded in 1916, and is dedicated to the study and preservation of the natural history of Santa Barbara and the surrounding area.

The Santa Barbara museum of Natural History features a variety of exhibits, including a fossil hall, a butterfly garden, and a nature center.

The museum also offers a variety of educational programs, including classes, workshops, and field trips.

Address: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta del Sol Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

11. Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is a world-renowned museum dedicated to the maritime history of Santa Barbara and the surrounding area.

The museum houses an extensive collection of artefacts, paintings, and photographs that tell the story of Santa Barbara’s rich maritime heritage.

Visitors can explore the museum’s many exhibits, which chronicle the city’s maritime history from its early days as a Spanish port to its present-day status as a major tourist destination.

This Santa Barbara museum also offers a variety of educational programs and events that are perfect for families and children of all ages.

Whether you’re a lifelong resident of Santa Barbara or just visiting for the first time, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is sure to be a memorable experience.

Address: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

12. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a 78-acre botanical garden located about one mile north of downtown Santa Barbara, California.

The garden includes five distinct ecosystems: a redwood forest, vernal pool, chaparral, riparian woodland, and meadow habitats.

Founded in 1926, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Santa Barbara County and one of the ten oldest in the state of California.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is home to over 8,000 unique plants, many of them California native plants.

The Garden is open to the public year-round and offers a variety of educational programs for all ages.

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

13. Casa del Herrero

Casa del Herrero

Casa del Herrero is a historic house museum and botanical garden located in Montecito near Santa Barbara, California.

The house was designed by George Washington Smith, a leading architect of the Spanish Colonial Revival style and built in the 1920s.

The house is a registered National Historic Landmark and is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the United States.

Casa del Herrero is designed in the Moorish style, with intricate tile work, carved woodwork, and hand-painted murals throughout the house.

The house is furnished with original art and furniture from the Stuart family collection.

The gardens are open to the public year-round, and the house is open for tours from Wednesday through Sunday.

This historic house tucked away in Montecito, is one of the perfect Santa Barbara locations for a lover of history, art, Spanish-Colonial architecture and gardens.

Address: Casa del Herrero, 1360 E Valley Rd, Montecito, CA 93108

14. Santa Barbara Orchid Estate

Santa Barbara Orchid Estate

The Santa Barbara Orchid Estate is a public garden and nursery.

The estate was founded in 1954 by Helen Kilgore, an orchid enthusiast and collector.

Kilgore’s collection of over 1,000 orchids was one of the largest private collections in the world at the time.

In addition to orchids, the estate also grows a variety of other tropical plants.

The gardens are open to the public year-round, and there is also a museum on site that houses a collection of Kilgore’s personal artifacts.

Address: Santa Barbara Orchid Estate, 1520 Mission Canyon Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

15. Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Santa Barbara Museum of Art is located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara.

The museum showcases a collection of ancient through to contemporary art works and photography.

Particular emphasis is given to Classical, American and Asian art, European painting and sculpture, and 20th century art and photography.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art also has a museum store, cafe and special children’s gallery.

One of the best things to do in Santa Barbara for art lovers.

Address: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State St, Santa Barbara, California 93101

16. Santa Barbara’s East Beach

Santa Barbara's East Beach

East Beach is a family friendly Californian beach, with the Pacific Ocean, golden sand and tall palm trees that line the boulevard behind the beach.

The beach is located along the Santa Barbara coast, east of State Street and the Stearns Wharf Pier area.

There are beach volleyball courts, lifeguard towers and the backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains rising steeply behind the city.

East Beach Park is a long, wide grassy stretch at the eastern end of Santa Barbara City’s waterfront parks. It offers picnic tables and a playground.

The beach welcomes visitors from sunrise to 10 p.m. daily.

Address: Santa Barbara’s East Beach, 1118 E Cabrillo Blvd Santa Barbara, California 93103


Is Santa Barbara worth visiting?

Santa Barbara is a delightful beach town, packed with outdoor activities, museums and brimming with wine tasting rooms and restaurants spread out around town.

Sandwiched between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara is an ideal vacation for people of all ages.

When is the best time to visit Santa Barbara?

The best time to visit Santa Barbara is from March to May or from September to November.

Temperatures are fairly mild year-round, hovering in the 60s and 70s,

What time of year can you see whales in Santa Barbara?

Late spring through early fall, the Santa Barbara Channel offers regular sightings of humpback whales and the largest mammal on earth, the colossal blue whales.

You might also spot other marine life such as the shy minke whale, Pacific white-sided dolphin, and the coastal bottlenose dolphin.

Where is the Santa Barbara Channel?

The Santa Barbara Channel is nationally recognized as an incredibly diverse and biologically sensitive ecosystem.

The Channel extends from Point Conception to Point Mugu and is located in the Southern California Bight.

When is Santa Barbara Farmers Market open?

Located in downtown Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Farmers Market is open: Tue 16:00 – 19:30; Sat 08:30 – 13:00

How old is the Moreton Bay Fig tree in Santa Barbara?

Over 120 years old, Santa Barbara’s Moreton Bay Fig Tree is claimed to be the largest of its kind in the nation, with a trunk measuring 38 feet in circumference.

The tree was planted in 1877 from a cutting from Australia by Adeline Crabb.

What is Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara known for?

Santa Ynez Valley is famous for its wineries, and lovers of great wine need look no further than the Valley for some of the best wine tasting around.


  • Tamara M

    Hey there! My name is Tamara, welcome to my little world! I’m a 20-something-year-old from Toronto, Canada (though I’m rarely there) and I’m super passionate about exploring the world, photography, and cooking delicious plant-based recipes. I created this blog to share my favorite places, adventures, restaurants, accommodations, and travel tips with all of you and keep a bit of a travel diary for myself.

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