Santa Barbara Travel Tips

Santa Barbara Photo info
Turner Forte/Courtesy of the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Buereau & Film Commission

Keep in Mind...

  • SB is for active beachgoers There is almost always something happening on one of Santa Barbara's beaches, whether there's an art walk or a volleyball game on East Beach. Join in the fun and rent a bike or surfboard at a beachside shop.
  • Don't forget your wallet You won't get far without your credit cards. Santa Barbara drips with casual Californian luxury, which might look free but believe us, sustaining (or staying in) such a lifestyle demands some dough.
  • Pack layers You may be at the beach, but that doesn't come with a sunny guarantee. The mornings are usually foggy and cool until the afternoon, when the clouds leave and temperatures rise.

In the early 20th century when Flying A Studios opened its doors, Santa Barbara was slated to become the epicenter of America's movie-making industry. But the movie stars moved south to Los Angeles, and today's Santa Barbarans wouldn't want it any other way. On "America's Riviera," Santa Barbara aspires for a casual yet fashionable elegance. Just take a look at the well-dressed pedestrians on State Street to comprehend the city's understated indulgence. And although some of America's budget-friendly favorites — like Motel 6 and the McDonald's Egg McMuffin — have their origins here, Santa Barbara's boutique shops and world-class resorts have a reputation for making a dent in your vacation savings. If you can afford the price tag, this quiet, seaside paradise might just be the ideal California retreat for you.

How To Save Money in Santa Barbara

  • Take the bus The city is walkable, but you can also hop on the public shuttle from downtown to the waterfront and zoo for only 50 cents one-way. 
  • Skip the shopping State Street is known for its boutique and speciality shops, but their wares come with a hefty price tag. To save a few bucks, find souvenirs elsewhere. 
  • Snack at farmers markets There is no shortage of farmers markets in Santa Barbara, so grab a fresh snack from local growers and artisans while strolling downtown.

Santa Barbara Culture & Customs

Santa Barbara prides itself on being a city that maintains a small-town feel, but still maintains the refined atmosphere of a European city, which gives the region its nickname: the American Riviera.

The city draws from its history as a colony with Spanish revival architecture and mixes the laid-back vibes of beachgoers with a sophisticated arts scene and vibrant wine country. And with Los Angeles a short drive away, movie buffs could spot a celebrity or two. Instead of splurging on ballet tickets or a pricey painting, visitors can take advantage of 1st Thursdays, when galleries and performing arts venues open their doors for free the first Thursday of each month. 

Residents also like to spend a lot of time outdoors. And because of its location between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, there is no shortage of outdoor activities to partake in year-round. There is an abundance of city parks as well as water sports, hiking and biking opportunities. But locals won't mind if you just want to relax with a glass of wine or soak up the sun one of the public beaches. 

Santa Barbara Dining

Fresh local produce is a staple in Santa Barbara, thanks to a climate that's conducive to a year-round growing season. While you're walking downtown and along the waterfront, you're likely to run into multiple farmers markets, but for the ultimate experience check out the Public Market.

With its beachfront location, some of the most popular restaurants in town, including The Hungry Cat and The Lark, have seafood prominently features on their menus. If fish isn't your thing, try some of the artisan California-Italian cuisine at places like Olio Pizzeria. For a more romantic setting with views of the ocean, reserve a table at Toma.

No matter what cuisine type you choose and where you decide to dine, you're sure to find an extensive wine list. Santa Barbara County is known for being part of wine country. Just a short drive outside the city and you'll find an abundance of small vineyards and wineries that inspire the local cuisine. While you're in town, check out the area known as the Funk Zone, where you'll happen upon several wine bars and art galleries. 

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