In what felt like my millionth trips to LA, it seemed about time I visit Santa Barbara and do the coastal drive from Malibu. If you’re wondering what to do in Santa Barbara, the answer is EVERYTHING and most of it is doable in a weekend, but who doesn’t want a full week in paradise? Most of the action centers around State Street, which has the majority of the shops, bars and restaurants in the area. It also borders the pier and beach, as well as “funk zone” where you can do the Urban Wine Trail and sample local vineyards. If you need help planning your trip make sure to stop by the Visitor Center at 1 Garden Street (across from the beach). They are incredibly helpful in helping you find the best hotel deals, plan your wine tour and other activities. Our complete guide below!
What to do in Santa Barbara
- Urban Wine Trail (most of the wineries are dog friendly)
It’s a charming series of wineries and some breweries with tasting menus. It’s a very cool way to try local vineyards all in the comfort of downtown Santa Barbara. Make sure to start or at least make it to “the funk zone” and visit the Santa Barbara Winery (the oldest winery in the county), Santa Barbara Wine Collective, Corks n’ Crowns, and Paradise Springs. If you’re a fan of sparkling wines, Riverbench Winery is not to be missed. These are all within blocks of each other. For the sunset, head to Deep Sea Wine on the pier (about a 5 minute drive or 15min walk), sit outside and take in the view as you enjoy their exceptional wines. If you’re higher up on State Street, check out Jamie Sloan, Au Bon Climate and a few others in the area. Make sure to stop by the visitors center or website for a complete map.
- Santa Barbara Courthouse
It’s free, right in town, and you can take the elevator to the top for the best 360 panoramic view of the city. It’s an active courthouse and equally as stunning on the inside as outside, make sure to take a moment on the rooftop and in the garden.
- Walk/run/eat/drink/sunset cruise/eat ice cream/bike on the pier The boardwalk and pier is lovely and has several restaurants and tourist shops along the course to stop in. The walk/bike path goes along the water, and is a great way to start or end your day. For bike rentals of all sizes check out Wheel Fun Rentals. They have three convenient locations, and carry everything from electric to cruiser bikes (or our favorite the surreys).
- Shopping From the pier (at the bottom of State Street), to the top the street has stores for miles. Everything you could ever want from contemporary chains to specialty boutiques, antique, to second hand shops, bars and restaurants.
- Salt Cave Located right in town on State Street, it’s the largest underground crystal salt cave in North America. We’re talking floor to ceiling healing Himalayan salt to open your lungs! The air in the caves are infused with microparticles of the salt. Make sure to stop in for a “Walk in Session” which is a 45 minute relaxation in the cave. They also offer spa services, skincare products, yoga classes and other events (check out their website for more).
- Whale/Dolphin Watching There are a few sailing options, we did the Double Dolphin sunset cruise and hopped aboard the 50-ft catamaran and drank wine while we cruised by sea lions and even a whale in the yonder.
- Santa Barbara Trolley – See below under transportation options. This is one of the most fun and affordable ways to get around Santa Barbara and hit all the major attractions.
Additional attractions not in downtown: Santa Barbara Zoo, Museum of Natural History, the historic Old Mission,