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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

#1 in Santa Barbara

Free
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 the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. You can grab a ride on the electric shuttle for 50 cents, but most travelers and locals recommend you walk to truly appreciate the ambiance.
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Cafes Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
State Street
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 the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. You can grab a ride on the electric shuttle for 50 cents, but most travelers and locals recommend you walk to truly appreciate the ambiance.
... more

#2

#2 in Santa Barbara

Free
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 view of the city and ocean below.
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Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Santa Barbara County Courthouse
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 view of the city and ocean below.
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#3

#3 in Santa Barbara

Free
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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Beaches Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
East Beach
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

#4 in Santa Barbara

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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Churches/Religious Sites Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Old Mission Santa Barbara
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

#5 in Santa Barbara

Free
While taking a stroll on State 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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Recreation Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Art Walks
While taking a stroll on State 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

#6 in Santa Barbara

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 features attractions like a 26-foot rock climbing wall and the animal kitchen where visitors can observe animal food preparation. 
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Parks and Gardens Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Santa Barbara Zoo
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 features attractions like a 26-foot rock climbing wall and the animal kitchen where visitors can observe animal food preparation. 
... more

#7

#7 in Santa Barbara

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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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
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

#8 in Santa Barbara

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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Historic Homes/Mansions Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
El Presidio de Santa Barbara
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

#9 in Santa Barbara

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 official website, the garden is committed to protecting plants unique to central California's coastal region — indifferent to their individual beauty. And it's this diversity (along with Santa Barbara's stunning mountain views), which differentiates this botanical park from others.
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
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 official website, the garden is committed to protecting plants unique to central California's coastal region — indifferent to their individual beauty. And it's this diversity (along with Santa Barbara's stunning mountain views), which differentiates this botanical park from others.
... more
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