20 Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara, California 2022
Santa Barbara, California, offers free activities for visitors of any age, including beaches, parks, and museums.
The many parks and beaches are undoubtedly the area’s highlight for those who love the outdoors, such as the famous Santa Claus Beach or Alameda Park with its elaborate wooden playground.
1. Old Mission Santa Barbara
The old Santa Barbara mission sits on thirteen acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The mission grounds consist of an impressive Mission Church, the nine-room museum with various historical artifacts and artwork, and the Historic Cemetery and Mausoleum.
Several lush gardens, such as the La Huerta Historic Garden with authentic, ancient trees and plants from the Mission era.
Visitors can explore the spectacular architecture of the church’s façade, as well as enjoy the colonial-era sculptures and art of the beautiful Mission Church on the historic Santa Barbara site.
Address: 2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
2. Santa Barbara Historical Museum
The Santa Barbara Historical Museum celebrates the history of the Santa Barbara community, dating back to the Chumash to the present day, through engaging programs and vibrant exhibits, all conveniently located in the historic heart of downtown Santa Barbara.
The museum is open to visitors on Tuesdays from noon to 5:00 pm and Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. It is closed on Mondays and major holidays.
Visitors can learn about the area’s glamorous film era, aviator pioneers, and the legendary Fiesta festival, along with many events before the 20th century.
Address: 136 East De la Guerra, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
3. The Santa Barbara Public Market
The Santa Barbara Public Market is a contemporary urban market offering regionally and locally sourced food, beer, and wine.
Located in thriving performing arts and cultural district in downtown Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Public Market is one of the city’s top dining destinations for visitors and locals alike, as well as a venue for a diverse group of merchants.
Regular hours for the market are 7:30 am to 11:00 pm Monday through Friday, Saturday from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm, and Sunday from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm. Hours for individual traders, however, may vary.
Address: 38 West Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
4. Santa Barbara Carriage and Western Arts Museum
The Santa Barbara Museum of Transportation and Western Art, located near the Santa Barbara waterfront, was established in 1972. The museum is open to visitors Monday through Friday from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm for self-guided tours of the various exhibits.
Docent-led tours are offered from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm on the third Sunday of each month. Reservations are not required for the docent tours, and visitors may enter through the museum’s front door.
There is no admission fee to visit the Santa Barbara Carriage and Western Arts Museum. Private tours can be arranged with prior reservations.
Address: 129 Castillo St, Santa Barbara, CA 93102
5. Spanish Old Days Feast
The city of Santa Barbara is among the most historic and authentic destinations for tourists who have maintained their Spanish roots from the days of the Mission.
These roots are showcased during the Old Spanish Days Fiesta and held every summer season.
The annual event draws loyal and large crowds to the city each year to celebrate Santa Barbara’s traditions and heritage. The Fiesta of the Old Spanish Days is typically held in the first days of August. It features a variety of fun and entertaining activities, including parades, dancing, fantastic food, and more.
Address: 129 Castillo St, Santa Barbara, CA
6. Miniature and Pot-bellied Pig Rescue and Sanctuary
20 Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara, California 2022
The Lil’ Orphan Hammies Pot-bellied and Miniature Pig Rescue and Sanctuary were founded in 1992 by Susan Parkinson as a rescue home for any unwanted pot-bellied pigs.
This pig sanctuary was created in response to the “pet craze” that began in the late 1980s and resulted in many abandoned pigs. Lil’ Orphan Hammies became a busy non-profit organization by 1994, caring for up to 100 pigs at any one time.
The sanctuary spans five acres and features unique housing and spacious, well-fenced enclosures for the pigs to nap under the trees or in the hay or play outside.
7. Coronado Butterfly Preserve
The Coronado Butterfly Sanctuary is located near Santa Barbara in Goleta, California. The grounds are home to eucalyptus trees, native coastal sage scrub habitat, and many birds and other wildlife that live in the gem of an urban community.
The preserve encompasses 9.3 acres and consists of meadows, woods, the Devereux Creek, several trails, and an outdoor classroom and gathering area.
While there is no admission fee to visit the Coronado Butterfly Preserve, donations to help keep the preserve open are appreciated. It is open every day, throughout the year, from sunrise to sunset.
Address: 495 Coronado Dr, Goleta, CA 93117
8. Fernandes Manor
The Fernald Mansion is a prime example of the Victorian Queen Anne style of architecture in Santa Barbara, California. The house is the former residence of Charles Fernald.
Fernald was one of the most prominent figures in the city as a lawyer, sheriff, and even mayor during the latter part of the 19th century.
The mansion and some original furnishings were not demolished and moved to the current site in 1959 by the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and are open for public tours today. Charles Fernald’s house was originally located at 422 Santa Barbara Street.
Address: 414 W Montecito St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
9. Alameda Park
Alameda Park is one of the oldest parks in Santa Barbara. Alameda, a two-block urban park, includes walk-in, reservation-able picnic areas, a bandstand, restrooms, unique and rare trees, and Kid’s World, which is an 8,000-square-foot playground that features two reserved party sites, slides, swings, and a castle.
Kid’s World is one of the city’s most popular and largest playgrounds. The various sections of the Kid’s World playground are designed for children from two to twelve years old. Alameda Park is the site of many celebrations in the city, such as the summer solstice event.
Address: 1400 Santa Barbara St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
10. Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park
Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park is home to a small cave with walls carved out of large sandstone boulders and featuring some of the best remaining examples of rock art created by Chumash Native Americans.
After parking, visitors can check out the historical sign and start climbing about a dozen stairs to the small cave. This cave is closed to protect the cave and the art inside. There are two holes in the barrier, one for adults and one for children, to give guests an excellent opportunity to see the cave or take pictures.
Address: CA-154, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
11. Stearns Wharf
Visitors can enjoy the sounds and sights of the sea at Stearns Wharf, which is one of Santa Barbara’s most iconic landmarks. Located at the end of the city’s State Street, the pier is named after builder John Stearns and is the oldest operating pier in California.
It is also an excellent place to take in the stunning views of the blue Pacific Ocean, soak up the salty breezes, and soak up the sun. Stearns Wharf is also home to the city’s famous waterfront with unique shops, artisanal ice cream, and boat rides, among many other attractions.
Address: 219 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA
12. Sunday Arts and Crafts Show
Santa Barbara’s Sunday Arts and Crafts Show is one of the city’s living pieces of history and highlights the creative talents of many of the area’s local artisans. The arts and crafts show takes Cabrillo Boulevard from Cesar Chavez Street to Stearns Wharf.
Every Sunday throughout the year and on Saturdays during major holiday weekends, around two hundred Santa Barbara County artists exhibit their original work in a setting that encourages people to talk to the many artists and see them creating works of art. The official time for the Arts and Crafts Show is 10:00 am until dark.
Address: Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, CA
13. El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park
El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historical Park is surrounded by the bustling city of Santa Barbara and is home to the last military outposts built by the Spanish along the Alta California coast.
The trailers in the original presidio buildings have been restored, while other buildings have been rebuilt.
Established on April 21, 1782, the Santa Barbara Presidio was one of four presidios built by the Spanish, three in Monterey, San Francisco, and San Diego. The Barracks is the oldest building in Santa Barbara and the second oldest building in California.
Address: 123 E Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
14. Andree Clark Bird Sanctuary
The Andree Clark Bird Refuge is an open space park that encompasses forty-two acres, including a lake that stretches across twenty-nine acres that is an estuary artificially modified to support brackish wetlands.
There are three islands in the entire lake. The Andree Clark Bird Refuge offers several relaxing outdoor recreational activities, including biking, hiking, and bird watching. Visitors should note that fishing, boating, and wildlife feeding are prohibited.
Guests can enjoy the views from the scenic highways and see both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. There is a bike path that also runs around the lake.
Address: 1400 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
15. Coast Park
Shoreline Park is a popular 14.6-acre park along the coastal bluff in Santa Barbara, just west of Leadbetter Beach. Amenities at the park include a group picnic area, two restrooms, a playground, beach access stairs, park benches, sidewalks, individual barbecue grills, and picnic tables.
Visitors can also enjoy panoramic views from the park of the shoreline, the Santa Ynez Mountains, and the surrounding city of Santa Barbara. Visitors can also have the opportunity to see whales from Shoreline Park. Kids love the playground, and it’s an excellent place for family picnics.
Address: Shoreline Dr & Santa Rosa Place, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
16. The Santa Barbara Public Library
The Santa Barbara Public Library is part of the City of Santa Barbara public library system and one of the easiest things to do in Santa Barbara, California.
The Central Library branch of the library system is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm, and Sunday from 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm.
In addition to the books and other activities at the library, visitors may also have the opportunity to explore art exhibits at the Santa Barbara Central Library.
Address: 40 E Anapamu St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
17. American Riviera Franceschi Park
The American Riviera Franceschi Park is the former estate of Francesco Franceschi, a famous botanist, and offers panoramic views of Santa Barbara and its incredible surroundings.
In addition to being a green space for visitors and locals to relax, Franceschi Park is also a peaceful resource for community gardening, where the pioneering work of Dr. Franceschi is continued and honored.
The American Riviera Franceschi Park promotes horticultural education, encourages passive recreation, and celebrates the landscape aesthetics of the Mediterranean climate. Franceschi imported more than nine hundred plant species into the Santa Barbara climate from 1894 to 1913.
Address: 1510 Franceschi Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
18. Red Tiles Self-Guided Walking Tour
The Red Tiles Self-Guided Walking Tour is a pleasant stroll through downtown Santa Barbara that introduces visitors to some of the city’s most fascinating historical landmarks along about twelve blocks, beginning with the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.
Saint Barbara. Many shops and restaurants are located along the walk. Sites visitors can see on the self-guided Red Tile Walking tour include the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, the Public Library, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Hill-Carrillo Adobe, the War House, Presidio Avenue, and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.
The City of Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce initially developed this walking tour.
19. Santa Claus Beach
Santa Claus Beach is a famous beach with locals and one of the best-kept secrets in the city of Santa Barbara. Sandy Treasure is a shallow stretch of wide beach with soft, white sand.
Santa Claus Beach offers great gentle waves for ocean fun like boogie boarding, paddle boarding, swimming, and general beach fun.
The beach’s shoreline provides a gradual and shallow entrance to the ocean, making Santa Claus Beach an ideal beach for children as well. Visitors may want to bring an umbrella with them as there is little shade.
Address: Santa Claus Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
20. Santa Barbara County Courthouse
Visitors to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse have the opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful public buildings in the United States.
The courthouse was designed using the Spanish-Colonial architectural style, built-in 1929. It is still a working courthouse and an iconic Santa Barbara landmark due to its distinctive red tile roof, four-sided clock tower, greens, and sunken gardens, and graceful arches.
Open daily to the public, guests can learn more about the Santa Barbara County Courthouse through one of the free tours held daily at 2:00 pm and weekdays at 10:30 am.
Address: 1100 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA
Frequently Asked Questions: Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara
Is Santa Barbara worth visiting?
Santa Barbara is a quintessential beach town, packed with outdoor activities and brimming with wine tasting rooms and restaurants spread out around town. Sandwiched between the San Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara is an ideal vacation for people of all ages.
Is Santa Barbara worth a day trip?
One of those nearby getaways is Santa Barbara — at only 90 miles from LA, it makes for the ideal day trip. A small and active city nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific ocean, you might need some pointers on how to make the most of a single day in the coastal city.
Is Santa Barbara for rich people?
Many rich people live near Santa Barbara (Oprah spent $50 million on her digs in nearby Montecito). Still, most people who live in the city proper are decidedly not wealthy. At the 2000 Census, the median household income in Santa Barbara was $47,498. The per capita income was only $26,466.
Where do celebrities go in Santa Barbara?
Coast Village Road and the Upper Village boast numerous shops and restaurants frequented by celebrities. Catch a polo match at the Santa Barbara Racquet and Polo Club; people-watch during the match, then stick around for the After Hours party.
How many days do you need in Santa Barbara?
With so much to do and see, you’ll need at least three days to get the full Santa Barbara South Coast experience. To help you stay just one more day, we’ve made it easy to book a serene coastal getaway.
What is the best time to visit Santa Barbara?
The best time to visit Santa Barbara is from March to May or September to November. Temperatures are fairly mild year-round, hovering in the 60s and 70s, but traveling in early spring or fall ensures you won’t be fighting crowds, and rates will be less expensive.
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20 Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara, California 2022