Located in the heart of California, the beautiful city of Santa Barbara is a great travel destination. The old Mediterranean-styled buildings, Spanish culture, excellent resorts, and small quaint cafes are just some of the gems found in Santa Barbara Downtown. The best time to visit this city is March to May or September to November. There are countless great spots for day trips from Santa Barbara, which will soothe your traveling spirit.
My travel month to Santa Barbara was December. Even though most of you have heard enough about sunny California, winter temperatures do dip. So if you are traveling from December to February(to avoid crowds), don’t forget to carry winter jackets for hiking. I took many quiet hikes in Santa Barbara, wearing my hiking jacket, and it was such a thrill!
Are you thinking about what to do in Santa Barbara? Here are a list of things to do in Santa Barbara to jump-start your vacation planning. These activities will fill your satisfy your travel spirit, and you have us to thank for that!
Where Exactly is Santa Barbara Downtown?
Falling 97 miles northwest to LA, Santa Barbara rests at the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains in central California. You will find unique things to do in Santa Barbara downtown, as most activity of this city is centered here.
13 Things to do in Santa Barbara Downtown
1. Explore Stearns Wharf
Stearns Wharf is always packed with tourists – It welcomes 5 million people a year. There are various attractions like seafood restaurants, wine-tasting, bike rides, breezy sea waves, Old Wharf Trading Company’s merchandise, architectural buildings, and gift shops galore. You can take hours roaming this spot, and it is one of the best things to see in Santa Barbara.
Tip: If you are a wine lover searching for the best Santa Barbara wineries, go to the Deep Sea Tasting Rooms in Stearns Wharf.
One of the best spaces to enjoy hot and cold beverages, Yogurtland is located at 621 State Street. It is typically crowded with many tourists, but you can make a reservation. Since 2006, it has been a hot spot for people who enjoy a variety of desserts.
3. Visit State Street
You are bound to love State Street when you visit Santa Barbara! It is full of excitement with various restaurants, spas, bars, cultural spots.
Fond of wine? Visit the Santa Barbara Brewing Company, Urban Wine Trail, or Santa Barbara Winery. These are the best Santa Barbara wineries, and you should check them out. The Farmers Market and Moxi Museum are also great attractions in Santa Barbara downtown.
4. Day Visit to Old Mission
Located at 2201 Laguna Street, with the background of the San Ynez mountains, this is the most beautiful spot in Santa Barbara, in my opinion. The bell towers, flower-filled gardens will give you a feel of the entire history of this city. This is one of the greatest attractions in Santa Barbara; when it is the holiday season, it remains packed with tourists. It has a museum, church, Sacred Garden, and cemetery.
5. Taking Photos at The Chromatic Gate
Visiting Santa Barbara and looking for cool picture spots? One of the unique things to do in Santa Barbara is visiting Chromatic Gate. It is filled with beautiful palm trees and a much-talked-about rainbow! Pose for beautiful pictures under the sun during your visit to Santa Barbara.
6. Trip to The El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park
This Historical Park is a must thing to see in Santa Barbara. Controlled by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, this park welcomes tourists from 11 am to 8 pm every day. You can find many people lounging, taking slow walks, playing with their leashed pets here. The many restored historical buildings present in this park are great attractions in Santa Barbara.
Tip: You can also picnic here, but permission needs to be taken at the front gate from security. Many food stalls are available outside the park. Mostly they serve Spanish fast food which you will thoroughly enjoy on your visit to this Historical Park.
7. Walk Down State Street
Not a fan of the crowded places in State Street? We have the best plan for you. State park roads get quieter after 7 pm. So take a romantic walk with your partner and enjoy the cool winds of Santa Barbara. Avoiding the hustle of this loud city, taking a quiet stroll through the lanes of this street might prove to be one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara for you. You can also pop in a wine shop to taste their best drinks!
8. Day Trip to The Santa Barbara Zoo
This zoo is open from 9 am to 5 pm, and watching different animals and birds is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara with kids. The background of the Pacific and Santa Ynez mountains makes it a spectacular sight. You can plan an entire day trip in this zoo with your children who will enjoy the monkeys and the tigers roaming in the open-air habitat here!
Tip: If your kids get hungry suddenly, do not worry! There are many snacks counter here which sell packaged food and drinks.
9. Biking Across The Cabrillo Bike Path
If you are looking for free things to do in Santa Barbara, choose the Cabrillo path, You can enjoy your quiet afternoons and evenings strolling or biking through this beautiful pathway full of palm trees. You can also take bike tours from guides available near the security gates.
However, these tours are not free but the experience is spectacular. The scenery changes and you can ride from Shoreline Park to the Bird refuge in Montecito.
Tip: Stop by the Spanish food stalls available at the side of every beach on your way. Look out for the natural fruit lollies. These are handmade Spanish treats and are very popular among tourists.
10. Santa Barbara Trolley Tour
This trolley tour company has been in service for the past 30 years. You can enjoy all the unique things to do in Santa Barbara just by enrolling yourself on this 2-hour trip. Santa Barbara Courthouse, Santa Barbara Zoo, Museum of Natural History, the historic Santa Barbara Mission, and many more tourist spots can be visited and enjoyed with local guides.
11. Santa Barbara Funk Zone Food and Photo Tour
Fond of learning local customs and dishes? There are plenty of things to see in Santa Barbara. Sign up for the Funk Zone food tour and experience a great time eating the best of local food items and drinks. The tour starts from lower State Street and takes about 3 hours. You can meet many other people on the tour, sipping wine, tasting Mexican seafood, having the best time.
12. Visit the Handlebar Coffee Roasters
If you are wondering what to do in Santa Barbara for a quiet day date, we have you covered. Visit the Handlebar Coffee Roasters, one of the many lovely cafes in Santa Barbara. Many vegan-friendly and Keto friendly lunches and snacks are available. If you are a coffee lover, you can buy raw coffee from this cafe, and it will be a fun activity in Santa Barbara for you.
13. La Super Rica Taqueria
Don’t let its casual nature fool you! This budget-friendly Mexican eatery is not just a favorite of Julia Child but of the droves of people you’ll regularly lined up at their doors. Located on the East Side of town on Milpas street, it’s worth a spot on your Santa Barbara itinerary.
We have you covered for all the best things to do in Santa Barbara. This city remains filled with tourists because of the spectacular beauty and tourists spots it possesses. You will find many fun things to do in Santa Barbara, and it will be the best holiday for you. Pack your bags. Santa Barbara is waiting for you!