The very term Santa Barbara conjures up mental pictures of stunning beaches bordered with palm trees, opulent mansions, and sophisticated buildings designed in the Spanish colonial style. You’ll find all of this and so much more if you pay a visit to this well-known beach town in Southern California, which is located approximately two hours drive north of Los Angeles.
Santa Barbara has always been known for its stunning natural beauty. The Santa Ynez Mountains serve as a backdrop for the sun-kissed coastline, which appears pink in the light of the late afternoon, while the Channel Islands may be seen not far offshore.
Take advantage of this magnificent location to get some fresh air and exercise during your stay in Santa Barbara by going on a hike along one of the city’s many scenic trails, taking a leisurely stroll along the palm tree-lined coastline, viewing whales, and relaxing on one of the city’s many stunning beaches.
Best Places to Visit in Santa Barbara
In addition, Santa Barbara is home to an active calendar of festivities that run throughout the year. The Old Spanish Days (Fiesta) celebration in August and the Summer Solstice Parade in June are two of the most popular events. We hope that this guide to the “American Riviera” will help you make the most of your time in Santa Barbara on your next vacation.
1. The Original Santa Barbara Mission
The Old Mission Santa Barbara is the most well-known and well-recognized landmark in the city. This iconic structure was responsible for giving the entire city its characteristic appearance, earning it the nickname “Queen of the Missions” due to its graceful elegance and picture-perfect location.
Following the devastating earthquake that struck Santa Barbara in 1925, much of the city was reconstructed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, taking its cues from the Old Mission Santa Barbara.
2. The Wharf at Stearns
Stearns Wharf has stunning vistas of the port as well as the beaches, with the Santa Ynez Mountains serving as a backdrop.
One of the most enjoyable and inexpensive things to do in Santa Barbara is to take a stroll along this famous pier and take some pictures. The Santa Barbara Pier is located at the end of State Street, right in the middle of the waterfront tourist district.
Stearns Wharf was constructed in 1872, and at the time of its completion, it held the title of being the longest deep-water pier between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
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Today, this tourist hotspot is home to a variety of establishments that cater to visitors, including restaurants, boutiques, and one of the two locations of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
3. The Courthouse for Santa Barbara County
The Santa Barbara County Courthouse’s construction didn’t finish until 1929 after an earthquake that severely damaged a large portion of the city in 1925. Today, it is recognized as a National (and State) Historic Landmark and is regarded as an architectural masterpiece.
It is highly recommended that you make a trip here during your time in Santa Barbara, not only to appreciate the elegant architecture but also to take in the breathtaking panoramas that can be taken in from the clock tower.
4. Cabrillo Bike Path
Are you looking for a way to combine being in shape and seeing the sights at the same time? One of the best things to do in Santa Barbara is ride bicycles on the Cabrillo Bike Path, which runs along the water’s edge.
There are tall palms waving overhead, a fresh wind sweeps in off the ocean, and you can bike between some of Santa Barbara’s best beaches and some of the city’s top tourist attractions. Santa Barbara is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.
It is possible to rent many types of bicycles, including beach cruisers, mountain bikes, Taga bikes, push buggies, Deuce Coupes, pedal go-karts, and scooters.
5. Unwind on one of Santa Barbara’s Beautiful Beaches
Copyright reserved by Karen Hastings for the photograph of Leadbetter Beach
The beaches of Santa Barbara are consistently ranked among the best in Southern California.
Because the Santa Ynez Mountains on one side and the Channel Islands on the other, both of which are in the immediate background, protect the south-facing shoreline from the open ocean, it is ideal for beachgoers of all stripes.
Both East Beach and West Beach are extremely popular with visitors. These two beaches, which can be reached in either direction from Stearns Wharf, exemplify the quintessential characteristics of the California coast. Along its sandy shoreline, you’ll find towering palm trees and strategically placed volleyball nets.
6. Zoo in Santa Barbara
One of the most recommended activities for families in Santa Barbara is a visit to the world-class Santa Barbara Zoo. The zoo, which has a land area of more than 12 hectares, can be found in a picturesque location on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
It has the feel of a botanical garden because of its expansive open areas and beautiful gardens filled with palm trees and other native species, which makes it a lovely place to roam around.
The wide variety of animals that are present in this tiny zoo will surprise you. The lions, snow leopards, California condors, meerkats, and the superb exhibit of western lowland gorillas are among the attractions that visitors should not miss.
7. Ride the Santa Barbara Trolley
The open-air trolleys provided by the Santa Barbara Trolley Company are a charming and enjoyable way to get around the city and take in its sights. When you first arrive in a new town, this is a fantastic activity to help you orient yourself.
Your three-quarter-hour tour of Santa Barbara on the trolley will begin at the visitor center, which is located at the intersection of Garden Street and Cabrillo Boulevard.
You will get the opportunity to view a number of the most popular tourist destinations in the city as you go through it, such as the Old Mission Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, the enormous Moreton Bay fig tree, State Street, and many more.
8. Visit a Whale-watching center to see humpbacks
Watching a humpback whale breach from the water is one of the most amazing things one can do, and if you’re in Santa Barbara, you can get a front-row seat to the action. Cruises that focus on whale watching get you close to all of the activity.
The waters of the Santa Barbara Channel are home to over 30 distinct species of whales and dolphins, making it one of the premier locations in the United States from which to observe marine mammals in their natural habitat.
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During the months of May through November, humpback and blue whales come to this area to eat, and gray whales go up and down the coast of Santa Barbara County as part of their annual migration.
9. Museum of Natural History and the Sea Center in Santa Barbara
This museum has been there for more than a century, and it includes more than a century’s worth of intriguing displays of the natural history of the area. Both the Mission Canyon campus and the Sea Center on Stearns Wharf are now part of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
The Mission Canyon campus can be found tucked away in a magnificent oak woodland along Mission Creek. The Sea Center can be found on Stearns Wharf and provides a view into the undersea world of the Santa Barbara Channel.
When you arrive at the Mission Canyon campus, one of the first things that will catch your eye is a life-size blue whale skeleton that is 72 feet long and stands at the entrance. This is an excellent display to check out before going out on a whale-watching expedition.
10. The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation, also known as MOXI
Have you ever dreamed of working as a sound designer in a Hollywood movie or climbing inside a gigantic guitar? You can accomplish all of these things and more at MOXI.
This fascinating science and technology museum is located only two streets away from the water’s edge in Santa Barbara. The building is designed in the Spanish Colonial style, and it features amusing sea-themed accents throughout.
Exciting interactive exhibitions, both indoor and outdoor, are organized into categories such as Light, Speed, Interactive Media, Fantastic Forces, and the Sky Garden. These exhibits are spread across three floors.
In the end, There’s no doubt that one of the primary reasons you’re planning a trip to Santa Barbara is to enjoy the city’s picture-perfect sandy beaches and everything else the city has to offer.
Activities such as surfing, sunbathing, and similar pastimes But after you’ve had your fill of Santa Barbara’s magnificent coastline, there’s a whole lot more of the city to discover, and it’s got a lot more to offer than just its sandy beaches.