Santa Barbara Travel Guide

USA  #13 in Best Family Beach Vacations in the U.S.
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Free Things To Do in Santa Barbara

If you have extra time, State Street is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Santa Barbara
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    #1 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. 

    The shoreline may still fill up more on the weekends, but East Beach is a bit more removed from State Street and the downtown area than the other beaches, offering more space to stretch out or take a walk along the sandy shores. You may have to protect yourself from the occasional rogue volleyball though, as there are more than a dozen sandy courts here. 

  • #5
    Santa Barbara County Courthouse
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    #5 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 view of the city and ocean below.

    Try to stop by when you can also take a peek into the clock tower in the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery, to see the impressive clock, which still works. It is only open to the public Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Surrounding the clock is an impressive 60-foot mural depicting the history of timekeeping.

  • #6
    State Street
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    #6 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 attractions, including 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.

    After a few hours of shopping, visitors usually slide into a chair at one of the dozens of local restaurants to refuel.

  • #9
     Arroyo Burro Beach County Park
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    #9 in Santa Barbara
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Also called Hendry's Beach by locals who love to walk their dogs here (there are even dog-washing stations), Arroyo Burro Beach is a pretty stretch of sand with plenty of options for outdoor fun. Visitors can sunbathe, swim, surf, whale watch, surf fish and or enjoy a picnic and take advantage of on-site grills.

    Recent beach-goers admired the beauty and serenity of the area, with many calling the park "wonderful" and "relaxing." If you get hungry, the Boathouse at Hendry's Beach is a popular spot for dining and happy hour drinks.

  • #10
    Stearns Wharf
    View all Photos
    #10 in Santa Barbara
    Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Stearns Wharf, located next to the harbor, offers plenty of diversions, including restaurants, a shellfish market, a bait and tackle shop, shops, a Channels Islands exhibit hall and a marine museum, not to mention great views. Constructed in 1872, it became the longest deep-water wharf between San Pedro and San Francisco and is the oldest working wooden wharf in California.

    Recent visitors said the wharf is a fun place to visit, with plenty to see and do. Even if you're not in the mood for seafood or souvenir shopping, reviewers said it's a great place for a stroll.

  • Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
    View all Photos
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

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