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

Free Things To Do in Santa Barbara

If you have extra time, East Beach is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Santa Barbara
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    #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 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 — with more than 300 shops and stores — visitors usually slide into a chair at one of the 160 local restaurants to refuel.

  • #2
    Santa Barbara County Courthouse
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    #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 view of the city and ocean below.

    After climbing the stairs or taking the elevator to the top of the 85-foot "El Mirador" clock tower for a few photos, some visitors suggest you take a docent-led tour to learn more about the courthouse and Santa Barbara history.

  • #3
    East Beach
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    #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. 

    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
    Art Walks
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    #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 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. 

    The art walk runs along more than half a mile of beachfront on Cabrillo Boulevard, starting east of Stearns Wharf and running to Calle Cesar Chavez. 

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