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One Day in Santa Barbara

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Driving into Santa Barbara, especially from the north, is like descending into some magical, couldn't-possibly-exist world. Majestic mountains rise up around one curve, while the sea stretches out before you around the next. Add in an average of 300 sunny days a year, and it's no surprise that Santa Barbarans are so happy and active! Here are 24-hours' worth of adventures to keep first-time visitors to this coastal paradise entertained.

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nightlife Seeker
  • Nature Lover
  • Foodie
  • Peace and Quiet Seeker
  • Beach Goer
  • Trendsetter

10 Places

5 City Tips

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Map

10 Places

D'Angelo Bakery

Restaurants

Cabrillo Bike Path

Hiking Trails

Stearns Wharf

Piers & Boardwalks

Funk Zone

Other Food & Drink

Santa Barbara Public Market

Other Food & Drink

Red Tile Tour

Walking Tours

Old Mission Santa Barbara

Points of Interest & Landmarks, Historic Sites

The Palace Grill

Restaurants

Arlington Theatre

Theatres

Joe's Cafe

Restaurants

Suzanne R's City Tips

  • Between shuttles, bikes, and your own two feet, it's easy to get around Santa Barbara — and even some surrounding cities — without a car, but a vehicle will be helpful for hikes.
  • Amtrak is a beautiful way to reach Santa Barbara, and many restaurants and hotels offer discounts for visitors traveling car-free. Search online for more info.
  • Santa Barbara is laid-back and super friendly. Don't be afraid to chat up the locals. You may learn of more cool things to do — or at least have some good conversation.
  • The Santa Barbara Trolley company provides a fun and easy way to get around. The historic trolleys stop at many major sights, and you can board free all day with a pass.
  • It is customary to tip 15-20% in restaurants. At bars, $1 per drink is the usual.
  • Save
    D'Angelo Bakery
    Restaurants (American, Cafe)
    See more photos
    Suzanne R Says:

    Whether you sit down to enjoy perfectly poached eggs in this cheery space, or pick up a coffee and buttery croissant to take to the beach, D'Angely Bakery will get your day started off right.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Celebrity Chef Cat Cora (of "Iron Chef" fame) named the "Eggs Rose" (poached eggs with artichoke paste on kalamata olive bread) her favorite dish.
    • Pastries sell out fast, so it's worth getting here early!
    • The outdoor patio is a pleasant place to kick off the morning. And it's dog friendly!
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #70 of 458 restaurants in Santa Barbara
    • Great take home bread and in house breakfasts 16/09/2018
    • As rude as I have ever been treated by waitstaff 27/08/2018
    • D'Angelo Bakery
    Address:
    25 W Gutierrez St
    Santa Barbara, CA 93101-3449
    Phone:
    +1 805-962-5460
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    07:00 - 14:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Cabrillo Bike Path
    Hiking Trails
    See more photos
    Suzanne R Says:

    Broad Cabrillo Boulevard hugs the coastline, with its biking and walking paths affording stunning views of the Pacific. While it is perfectly lovely to stroll along the path (or on the beach), there is something iconic in traversing the area by beach cruiser as part of the Santa Barbara experience.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • There are several bike rental shops along and around State Street, offering all manner of bikes and accompaniments (like helmets and child attachments).
    • If you have a group of three to six, opt for a surrey. They are a bit silly, but there are many laughs to be had.
    • Every Sunday is the Cabrillo Arts and Crafts Show, during which local artists showcase and sell their works on the promenade. It's a great place to pick up unique souvenirs.
    • Because of the art show, stick to walking on Sundays — biking through the main part can get a little hairy.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #5 of 189 things to do in Santa Barbara
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Just beautiful 05/09/2018
    • GREAT Bike Path!!! 04/09/2018
    • Cabrillo Bike Path
  • Save
    Stearns Wharf
    Piers & Boardwalks
    See more photos
    Suzanne R Says:

    Built in 1872 to handle the transfer of cargo (and people) onto the shore, Stearns Wharf is California's oldest working wood wharf. It changed the course of the history of Santa Barbara, previously very isolated due to natural barriers, and despite fires and other calamities, the wharf has endured as the pulsing heart of the city. It is home to heritage, tourist shops, and a few great restaurants.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • History Buff
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • Visit the Channel Islands exhibit hall. One day in the area is not enough to get out to the islands themselves, but at least you can learn about the fascinating archipelago.
    • There is a bait and tackle shop on the wharf, in case you feel like doing a little fishing.
    • Don't miss the requisite Santa Barbara photo op in front of the dolphin fountain.
    • Stop in for a tasting at Deep Sea Wine Tasting Room, where the views rival the wines.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #28 of 189 things to do in Santa Barbara
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Take a walk to the end. You may be greeted with the beauty of leaping dolphins 24/09/2018
    • Its a pier 24/09/2018
    • Stearns Wharf
    Address:
    219 Stearns Wharf
    Santa Barbara, CA 93101-3581
    Phone:
    +1 805-962-6210
    Other:
  • Save
    Funk Zone
    Other Food & Drink
    Suzanne R Says:

    Situated just off of the wharf and State Street, the Funk Zone channels the grit of the area's industrial past into edgy arts and wine spaces. On this urban wine trail, you'll find more than 20 tasting rooms, plus a smattering of microbreweries, one distillery, and a whole lot of art. Go ahead, taste away.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Trendsetter
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Most tasting rooms charge nominal fees to taste, but some offer weekday discounts.
    • If you don't feel like walking around here (or if you buy lots of wine), pedicabs are a popular mode of transit in the area.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #66 of 189 things to do in Santa Barbara
    • Nothing funky about it 21/09/2018
    • Walking through the Funk Zone 12/09/2018
    • Funk Zone
    Address:
    Yanonali Street
    Santa Barbara, CA 93101
    Phone:
    +1 805-965-3021
    Other:
  • Save
    Santa Barbara Public Market
    Other Food & Drink
    Suzanne R Says:

    Santa Barbara Public Market offers myriad options to suit every palate, making it a great spot for lunch. Featuring both traditional groceries and a 'foodie court' of freshly-made prepared foods, this place is both a foodie hub and a neighborhood gathering place, showcasing regionally and sustainably made foods.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • In the spirit of sampling, try picking up small bites from several of the stalls.
    • Don't forget to visit Enjoy Cupcakes to cap off your feast, or organic Green Star Coffee to keep you moving through the afternoon.
    Plan to stay:
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #51 of 189 things to do in Santa Barbara
    • Many Choices 07/09/2018
    • Good place to eat with a group 30/08/2018
    • Santa Barbara Public Market
    Address:
    38 W Victoria St
    Santa Barbara, CA 93101-3165
    Phone:
    +1 805-770-7702
    Hours:
    Sun
    08:00 - 22:00
    Mon - Thu
    07:00 - 22:30
    Fri - Sat
    07:00 - 23:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Red Tile Tour
    Walking Tours
    Suzanne R Says:

    Meandering through the picturesque streets of downtown, this self-guided walking tour is a great way to take in the iconic architecture that makes Santa Barbara stunning. Passing 22 historic adobe buildings in approximately 12 blocks, the Red Tile Tour features 17 important stops, including the stunning Presidio and Courthouse.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • The entire route takes about an hour, but be sure to allow for additional time to linger or take photographs.
    • The podcast "Beyond the Rooftops" adds to the experience with additional information about each sight.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #56 of 88 Tours in Santa Barbara
    • So glad we did this self guided walk 22/09/2017
    • Thoroughly enjoyed 23/01/2017
    • Red Tile Tour
    Other:
  • Save
    Old Mission Santa Barbara
    Points of Interest & Landmarks, Historic Sites
    See more photos
    Suzanne R Says:

    Arguably one of the most beautiful structures on California's mission trail, Mission Santa Barbara sits atop a hill with the stately Santa Ynez Mountains as its backdrop. The stone facade and twin bell towers are unique among the missions, and the museum contains a variety of fascinating colonial artifacts.

    Good for
    • Peace and Quiet Seeker
    • Must See
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • The mission is open daily, except on holidays.
    • The grounds are free to visit, but you'll need to buy a ticket to view the garden, cemetery, and museum.
    • In the front of the church, you'll find a trough with a carved sandstone lion's head — this may be the oldest piece of public art in California.
    • Literature fans: Juana María, the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island who inspired the classic story "Island of the Blue Dolphins," is buried here behind one of the towers.
    • The grounds are a pleasant place to relax with a snack from the Public Market — or to just kick back and take a nap.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #15 of 189 things to do in Santa Barbara
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • The sixth Mission in the Camino Real of California trail 20/09/2018
    • Interesting Place with a self-guided walking tour 18/09/2018
    • Old Mission Santa Barbara
    Address:
    2201 Laguna St
    Santa Barbara, CA 93105-3611
    Phone:
    +1 805-682-4713
    Other:
  • Save
    The Palace Grill
    Restaurants (American, Seafood, Cajun & Creole)
    See more photos
    Suzanne R Says:

    A Santa Barbara mainstay, The Palace has been turning out Louisiana-style dishes (some with an Italian twist) to happy locals for years. The popular place flies in fresh seafood daily, but it's known as much for its convivial atmosphere as it is for its incredible eats. Here, the dining room is always abuzz, especially during sporadic sing-a-longs (you'll know it's coming when the scrolls come out!), and the folks are always happy.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Nightlife Seeker
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • The Palace takes reservations Sunday-Thursday, and for the 5:30pm slot on Friday and Saturday. If you have a movie or show on the latter days, the early reservations are advised.
    • Even if you don't make a reservation, the wait is part of the experience. While you stand in line, the restaurant often sends out free appetizers and even entertainers.
    • Your server will usually suggest early in the night that you consider the dark chocolate soufflé, which takes a long time to cook. Just say "yes!"
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #26 of 458 restaurants in Santa Barbara
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • If you like Cajun food it is worth a visit 11/09/2018
    • Disappointed 09/07/2018
    • The Palace Grill
    Address:
    8 E Cota St
    Santa Barbara, CA 93101-1617
    Phone:
    +1 805-963-5000
    Price range:
    US$20 - US$35
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    11:30 - 15:00
    17:30 - 23:45
    Other:
  • Save
    Arlington Theatre
    Theatres
    Suzanne R Says:

    It may seem strange to catch a movie while traveling, but it's worth seeing whatever is showing at the Arlington, if just for a glimpse at the stunning interiors, all done up to look like a Spanish courtyard.

    Good for
    • History Buff
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    • Like a Local
    Tips
    • Plays, concerts and other performances often show at the Arlington in the evenings. Check the calendar to see what's on during your visit.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #41 of 189 things to do in Santa Barbara
    • Silent film 19/08/2018
    • Terrible food and coach seating!! 28/07/2018
    • Arlington Theatre
    Address:
    1317 State St
    Santa Barbara, CA 93101-2647
    Phone:
    +1 805-963-4408
    Hours:
    Sun
    10:00 - 16:00
    Mon - Sat
    10:00 - 18:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Joe's Cafe
    Restaurants (American, Bar, Cafe)
    See more photos
    Suzanne R Says:

    Having dominated State Street since 1928, Joe's is a classic spot to begin or end any night. While the steaks are great and the nostalgic atmosphere lovely, this spot is best known for its (very) stiff drinks.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Like a Local
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • No joke about the stiff drinks here. It feels right to sip a martini at one of Joe's checked tablecloths, but be careful — they sneak up on you.
    • The spot gets lively as the night goes on. It's fun, but if you're looking for something a little quieter, you might want to start the night off here instead.
    Plan to stay:
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #63 of 458 restaurants in Santa Barbara
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Joes is worth a visit 22/09/2018
    • Strong Drinks great Atmosphere! 04/09/2018
    • Joe's Cafe
    Address:
    536 State St
    Santa Barbara, CA 93101-1602
    Phone:
    +1 805-966-4638
    Price range:
    US$15 - US$20
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    07:30 - 23:00
    Other:
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