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Top Activities in Santa Barbara

See all 60 things to do in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Attractions

Perched along the California coast between the Pacific Ocean and Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara enjoys an ideal location. Whether you are on the hunt for new outdoor activities or a palate-pleasing meal, there are things to do in Santa Barbara that will fit nicely on your travel itinerary. The region is also renowned for its wine, beach activities, and quaint neighborhoods. With a relatively small population and a boatload of charm, this Southern California destination is a perfect fit for nearly any type of traveler.

Areas & Neighborhoods in Santa Barbara

Despite its size of only 20 square miles, Santa Barbara still packs quite a few neighborhoods within its boundaries. From bustling, party-filled streets to quiet beachfront walkways, the roadways and atmosphere offered by the regions here are as diverse as they are appealing.

Downtown — Downtown Santa Barbara serves as the lifeblood of the city. Centered on State Street, the district starts at Stearns Wharf and heads out into the suburbs. Fun things to do in Santa Barbara’s downtown region include sipping coffee at independent cafes and grabbing a glass of local vino at a small wine bar.

Upper East Side — The Upper East Side of Santa Barbara is replete with architecturally interesting homes, lovely views, and several landmarks. The most notable attraction in this neighborhood is the Santa Barbara Mission, which has a rose garden and a history dating back to the 1700s.

The Mesa — This area near the ocean is flat and sits above the rest of the city. Views of the region are spectacular from the neighborhood, and it’s a good spot for biking.

Things to See in Santa Barbara

While plenty of things to do in Santa Barbara, CA will keep you moving, there are also lots of things to see and ways to be entertained. Bring your camera to the Santa Barbara Mission to grab some frame-worthy shots, and dedicate some time to walking through the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Anyone with a green thumb can appreciate the flowers often in bloom in this temperate climate, including the displays at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and Santa Barbara Zoo. If you’re looking for a great way to cap off your day, consider visiting a local stage, such as the Granada Theater or Santa Barbara Bowl.

Sightseeing in Santa Barbara

Anyone with a taste for fermented grapes will enjoy Santa Barbara wine tours, where local tasting rooms put their best in show out for a try. Outdoor enthusiasts can feel right at home as well. Thanks to its awesome location along the coast, Santa Barbara’s activities include surfing, kayaking, boat tours, and hiking to local hot springs. You can also enjoy a horseback riding excursion in the hills or try your hand at 18 holes at a world-class golf club. Each spring, visitors and residents alike are invited to the Santa Barbara Fair and Expo, where activities include carnival rides and tons of fair food.

Things to Do in Santa Barbara with Kids

There's fun for the entire family no matter where you go in Santa Barbara. Here are some family friendly experiences you can enjoy together that are sure to make your trip memorable:

Free Things to Do in Santa Barbara

Traveling to Santa Barbara on a budget? The following can be seen for nada.

Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara - Young or old, this place will stimulate your imagination and capture your mind.

Elings Park - You'll enjoy this attraction if you're eager to loosen up and have some fun.

Antioch University - Stop at this modern local landmark and marvel at its design.

Casa de la Guerra - Feel like you've been transported back in time while exploring this historic site.

Santa Barbara Harbor - This happening spot is popular with visitors and locals alike.

El Capitan Lake - Simply being near the water is certain to leave you feeling calm and rejuvenated.

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum - Chat to a local resident and find out why many tourists swing by this place.

Mission Santa Barbara - Gain an insight into the local religion at this place of worship.

Leadbetter Beach - Keep an eye out for exotic shells and other shiny treasures dotted along the shoreline here.

Rattlesnake Canyon Trail - Let the natural surrounds quieten your mind.

De la Guerra Plaza - Grab your picnic blanket, throw together a few snacks and find a cozy area to relish Mother Nature.

Explore The Neighborhoods of Santa Barbara

Montecito

The pristine beaches and ample dining options are top of the list for many visitors to Montecito. A stop by Los Padres National Forest or Butterfly Beach might round out your trip.

BeachesGardensDining

Santa Barbara Beach

Santa Barbara Beach is known for its stunning beaches, and you can see some sights in the area like Stearns Wharf and Santa Barbara Zoo.

BeachesSeaPorts

East Beach

East Beach is known for its stunning beaches, and you can see some sights in the area like Santa Barbara Zoo and Chase Palm Park.

BeachesZooBird Watching

The Funk Zone

Travelers come to The Funk Zone for its beaches, and you can see top attractions like MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation and Santa Barbara Art Foundry while you're in town.

BeachesSeaBird Watching

Upper East

While visiting Upper East, you might make a stop by sights like Mission Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Oak Park

While there might not be top attractions in Oak Park, you can explore the larger area and discover places like Santa Barbara County Courthouse and Santa Barbara Bowl.

Learn More About Santa Barbara | Blog


Frequently Asked Questions

What to do in Santa Barbara on a sunny day?

What to do in Santa Barbara on a rainy day?

If it's bucketing down during your stay, dry off your umbrella and have a go at some of these appealing indoor activities:

What is Santa Barbara famous for?

Get ready to be busy with all of these well-known attractions to tick off your must-see list:

  • University of California-Santa Barbara
  • Mission Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara County Courthouse
  • Presidio Santa Barbara

What should I not miss in Santa Barbara?

Put these things high on your to-do list to make the most of your visit:

  • Santa Barbara Zoo
  • Santa Barbara Botanical Garden
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • Lotusland

What can you do in Santa Barbara for free?

You'll hardly have time to dig your wallet out of your bag with so many fantastic free attractions:

  • University of California-Santa Barbara
  • Mission Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara County Courthouse
  • Chumash Casino