Santa Barbara Travel Guide

USA  #13 in Best Family Beach Vacations in the U.S.
Credit

Courtesy of Gary Weathers/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara

Most visitors come to Santa Barbara to relax along the beach. But when they don't have their feet in the sand, you'll find them trying on the latest fashions on State Street, gazing at watercolors in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and getting in touch with nature at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Families are most likely picnicking in the Santa Barbara Zoo. After a grueling day of "relaxing," retire to the luxury resort of your choice — San Ysidro Ranch and the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara are two indulgent options.

How we rank Things to Do
  • #1
    Things to do in Santa Barbara
    View all Photos
    #1 in Santa Barbara
    Cafes, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Cafes, Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Santa Barbara's most famous avenue, State Street cuts through downtown and leads right onto Stearns Wharf. It's nearly impossible to miss with its shops, art galleries, theaters and museums like theSanta Barbara Museum of Art. You can grab a ride on the electric shuttle for 50 cents, but most travelers

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  • #2
    Santa Barbara County Courthouse
    View all Photos
    #2 in Santa Barbara
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Most travelers scoff at the idea of visiting a courthouse while on vacation. Really dry and boring, right? Wrong. The Santa Barbara County Courthouse epitomizes the Spanish-Moorish architecture that is found across the city. Completed in 1929, the complex impresses visitors with its intricate tile mosaics, colorful gardens and jaw-dropping

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  • #3
    East Beach
    View all Photos
    #3 in Santa Barbara
    Beaches, Recreation, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Recreation, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    There are three major beaches in Santa Barbara: Leadbetter, West and East. While Leadbetter has the harbor and West Beach is home to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, East Beach is the best stretch to catch some rays without being mobbed by crowds. 

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  • #4
    Old Mission Santa Barbara
    View all Photos
    #4 in Santa Barbara
    Churches/Religious Sites, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    In the northwest part of town just four blocks from State Street, the Santa Barbara Mission offers visitors a glimpse at the city's early origins. 

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  • #5
    Art Walks
    View all Photos
    #5 in Santa Barbara
    Recreation, Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    While taking a stroll onState Street, you'll notice Santa Barbara's prominent love of art. And every Sunday — as well as some Saturdays — local artists partake in the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show. 

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  • #6
    Santa Barbara Zoo
    View all Photos
    #6 in Santa Barbara
    Parks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Neighboring the Andree Clark Bird Refuge in the east part of downtown, the Santa Barbara Zoo gives visitors a taste of the exotic just a block from the sandy shore. Recent visitors say the small zoo packs a lot of entertaining creatures into a clean, well-designed property. The zoo also

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  • #7
    Santa Barbara Museum of Art
    View all Photos
    #7 in Santa Barbara
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    In the heart of downtown on bustling State Street, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art infuses some high culture into this laid-back Californian community.

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  • #8
    El Presidio de Santa Barbara
    View all Photos
    #8 in Santa Barbara
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Take a step back in time with a visit to the El Presidio de Santa Barbara. The nearly 6-acre state historic park consists of restored buildings that make up the last Spanish military settlement built in northern California.

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  • #9
    Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
    View all Photos
    #9 in Santa Barbara
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    North of downtown, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a refuge for bored beachgoers and nature enthusiasts alike. Visitors walk on unpaved paths through what, at times, looks like unremarkable brush. However, what you see here is carefully designed. According to the officialwebsite, the garden is committed to protecting plants

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Explore More of Santa Barbara

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