What to do in Santa Barbara, CA

Activities, attractions and tours
Santa Barbara showing theater scenes, night scenes and signage

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.

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Most fun & popular experiences in Santa Barbara

What to do in Santa Barbara

Free Things to Do in Santa Barbara

They say the best things in life are free. Make sure you explore the following around Santa Barbara:

Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara - Stroll around and appreciate the thought-provoking exhibits and collections at this museum.

Elings Park - If you're looking to turn up the dial on fun during your break, this is the place to do it.

Antioch University - Be wowed by the creativity and design of this fantastic example of modern architecture.

Casa de la Guerra - Come to understand some of the unique history of the area through this site.

Santa Barbara Harbor - Spend some time in this lively place and imagine life as a local resident.

El Capitan Lake - Shut your eyes and draw a deep breath — there's nothing like being beside the water for some relaxing downtime.

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum - If you want to see a few of the more important or unique places in the community, it's worth visiting this place.

Mission Santa Barbara - Whether you're spiritual or not, this site is sure to inspire a sense of reverence in you.

Leadbetter Beach - Keep your eyes peeled for exotic shells and other shiny treasures scattered along the coastline here.

Rattlesnake Canyon Trail - You're bound to feel connected with Mother Earth at this spectacular place.

De la Guerra Plaza - Grab your blanket, throw together a quick snack and find a comfortable spot to relish Mother Nature.

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 whole family wherever you go in Santa Barbara. Here are a few family friendly experiences to enjoy together that will make your escape unforgettable:


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Frequently asked questions

What to do in Santa Barbara on a sunny day?
Enjoy the good weather (and give your legs a stretch at the same time) with one or two of these popular outdoor activities:

What to do in Santa Barbara on a rainy day?
A Outlets at Tejon Shop & Play is a perfect indoor activity to try out if the weather forecast isn’t great.
What is Santa Barbara famous for?
You’ll be kept busy with all of these landmarks to tick off your must-see list:

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

What should I not miss in Santa Barbara?
If you’re eager to discover the best of this destination, pencil these attractions into your schedule:

  • Santa Barbara Zoo
  • Santa Barbara Botanical Garden
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • Santa Barbara Natural History Museum

Are there cheap things to do in Santa Barbara?
What can you do in Santa Barbara for free?
You could leave your wallet in the hotel safe for the day, because these fantastic attractions won’t cost you a thing:

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

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