Santa Barbara - City Guide


So, what’s Santa Barbara known for? There are typically two types of tourists that arrive at this location. The first is looking for a place to soak up the sun and relax on warm golden, sands. The others will be celebrity spotting. Keeping an eagle eye out for big stars like Oprah, Justin Bieber, and John Cleese, all of whom have beautiful homes here. But that’s only scratching the surface of what this destination has to offer. Here are some of the incredible things to do and places to explore when visiting this magnificent city.

Let’s Go To The Beach

Santa Barbara has three major beaches - Leadbetter, West, and East. Each of these beaches gives you a reason to take a trip down to explore them.

If you’re visiting in July, you should definitely head to West Beach. This is the home of the destinations stunning Fourth of July fireworks display. You can soak in the sun here too. In the middle of the summer, prepare for quite a crowd. You’ll find plenty of people dotted along this thin stretch of sand.

Leadbetter beach has plenty of spots to relax and enjoy the waves too. It’s also popular with surfers so if you want to give this sport a try. It's also a great place to get lessons. You’ll find the harbor here, along with a range of little shops and cafes to explore near the edge of the sand.

However, if you want the perfect, secluded spot for catching a tan, we suggest East Beach. Since this is a little further from State Street or the area downtown, these beaches are not the typical tourist traps. You’ll also have plenty of chances to try volleyball on the sand with over a dozen courts to choose from. As well as this, the restaurants and a fine selection of dining options make a trip to this beach a must.

Visit The Cafes, Stay For The Art

If you visit Santa Barbara at some point, you will almost certainly find yourself wandering down State Street. The historic plaza is completely pedestrian friendly and welcomes you to wander for countless hours dipping in and out of numerous cafes and shops. You’ll find everything here from national brands as well as smaller shops exclusive to the area. As such, it’s popular with a wide range of visitors.

But it’s not just the cafes and shops that make State Street a must visit. You’ll also find the Santa Barbara Museum of Art here. American, European and Asian art are on display here. Plus there's a diverse range of exhibits from sculptures to paintings and ceramics. Don’t let its size fool you either.

As well as this, on Sundays, you’ll be able to explore the art walk. It's where local artists bring out their work and display them along the beach. It gives you a good chance to purchase a beautiful souvenir as a memento of your visit.

Let’s Go To The Zoo

If you’re traveling with children, the zoo is a classic choice for entertainment. It’s always fantastic fun to see the animals, especially with the little ones. And in Santa Barbara, this is a great place to visit too. Like the art gallery, the zoo is quite small but once again proves that size isn’t everything. You can see lots of animals from gorillas to penguins and even snow leopards. But that’s not all.

There’s also the animal food preparation area. Giving you an opportunity to see the animal’s dinners being made. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see feeding time as well. There’s also a climbing wall that the kids will love to explore.

Botanical Gardens

Bored of the beach and indeed the crowds? If so, make sure you spend at least one day exploring the city's beautiful botanical gardens. Here, you’ll find plenty of unpaved paths to wander around. You will also see some remarkable plants with incredible beauty. There is plenty of diversity here with an array of different colors, shades, and types of plans. It’s serene too. You can get completely lost in these gardens on a quiet day. While you spend time watching the wildlife dart past.

If you want to add something more to this trip, then we recommend paying for the guided tour. The extra cost is well worth it. So you can explore the gardens while gaining expert information.

Humble Beginnings

Today, the city of Santa Barbara is home to the famous and the rich. But, it wasn’t always that way. If you choose, you can explore the colorful past of Santa Barbara. You may wish to begin by visiting the Santa Barbara Mission. This provides visitors with a glimpse into the past. It was founded back in 1786, as an attempt by Spain to convert and colonize the area. Today the Mission is still a place of worship, however, it is also something of a museum. It’s a must-see for those interested in history and also provides a stunning view of the city itself.

Of course, this isn’t the only place where you can explore a gone but not forgotten past. If you head to El Presidio de Santa Barbara, you’ll find a 6-acre state historic park. The park is filled with buildings originally built in 1782, that have since been restored. These include the chapel and bell tower. Findings that have been discovered through archaeological expeditions are also available to view too. Here you’ll be able to see how the Spanish settlers lived in this location hundreds of years ago. Giving you an opportunity to gain insight into a lost community.

As you can see then, there are so many incredible things to see and do in Santa Barbara. So, during your visit, you will be completely spoilt for choice! We recommend booking at least a week or two to make sure that you see everything on offer in this incredible destination.