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Things To Do In Santa Barbara For Explorer’s

by Pankaj Upreti
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Things To Do In Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a really famous town in California. A glamourous place built in Spanish style and boasting a spectacular setting of beachfronts and backed by mountains. An earthquake in 1925 destroyed Santa Barbara completely and it was revived in the Spanish Architectural style.

The city has a lot of things that you can find, and what’s best, most of them lie close to each other, making Santa Barbara, California easy to explore. The city has a lot of museums, beaches, boating expeditions and festivals that go on throughout the year. There is a lot of natural beauty to behold in Santa Barbara, with the ocean on one side and the Santa Ynez mountains on the other.

This article brings to you the best attractions and things to do in Santa Barbara. Make sure to read to the end and also comment to let us know your thoughts. Without further ado, lets move on to the best things to do in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Zoo

Number of interactive experiences can be experienced at Barbara zoo.
Santa Barbara Zoo | Photo Credit – Linda Tanner

Based on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific, the Santa Barbara Zoo is one of those touristy destinations that this city is known for. Sized over 30 acres, the zoo features open gardens, palm trees and pathways making it a really great place to walk about and take in the natural beauty the city has to offer.

The Santa Barbara zoo features a number of great exhibits with a large variety of animals that include lions, snow leopards, elephants, gorillas and condors. There are a number of interactive experiences to be made best of here, such as the giraffe feeding station and the Barnyard. There is a zoo train here that will take you on a tour of the zoo’s exhibits and through the beautiful scenery of the zoo.

Great for kids and to spend time with your family, there are family themed exhibits and things to do such as Sleepover Safaris and more. All in all, the Santa Barbara Zoo is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara, California. The zoo is located at 500 Ninos Drive in the city.

Stearns Wharf

Food lovers should visit Harbours restaurant in Santa Barbara.
Harbours Restaurant Stearns Wharf | Photo Credit – Damian Gadal

With the Santa Ynez mountains in the background and with the harbor and beaches right in front, the Stearns Wharf in Downtown Santa Barbara, California was built in 1872 and during that time it was the longest deep water pier between the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Find the Sea Center and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History here along with many dining options as well as special shops.

The Wharf is a really great place to take a stroll with ice cream in your hand. The lunch options within Stearns Wharf are really great when coupled with the scenic views of the ocean. Renting a bike and going along the beach walk is a great way to explore the Stearns Wharf.

There are many beach resorts and hotels along the coastline nearby making Stearns Wharf a potential center for you to stay while you take your trip in Santa Barbara. Stearns Wharf is really great for kids as well: do try the Lil’ Toot Water Taxi while you are here with your family. Stearns Wharf also allows you to cast a line at the end of the pier and if you are lucky, you might be able to get a glimpse of one of the harbor seals.

Santa Barbara Museum Of Art

Antiques and sculptures lovers should visit Santa Barbara Museum of art.
Santa Barbara Museum Of Art | Photo Credit – Sean P. Burrus

Located at 1130 State Street, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art showcases over 5000 years of history. Its collection of over 27000 works makes it one of the best museums you will ever come across in your life. The Portrait of Mexico Today is a 1932 mural that is the only surviving specimen of David Siqueiros’ work in the US today.

It graces the entry point of the museum, making it the first thing you will look at as you enter the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The museum has a lot of exhibitions and a children’s gallery as well. While you are here at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, check out their museum store, library and cafe as well.

The Santa Barbara Museum is quite well known for its painting collections, featuring the works of Claude Monet, and more artists. While you are here, you will also find classical antique pieces, along with artworks spanning all major continents. Find the link to the official website of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art here.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Santa Barbara County Courthouse | Photo Credit – Nick Amoscato

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse was completed in 1929, after the destruction caused by the earthquake of 1925. Built in the Spanish Colonial revival style, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a really large building, taking up the space of an entire block.

Take a full guided tour of the place while you find yourself here, and admire the tilework, the paintings on the ceilings and the chandeliers of wrought iron. The history of Santa Barbara, California can be found in the Murals of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. While you are here, check out the surrounding sunken garden, a place that harbors plants from over 25 countries.

This is the venue for many events in the Santa Barbara community such as concerts, weddings and more. The El Mirador clock tower is a 85 feet long tower, featuring an elevator that takes you up to the top that features beautiful views of the ocean and the cityscape.

Santa Barbara Museum Of Natural History And The Sea Center

One of the beautiful place in Santa Barbara.
The Sea Center | Photo Credit – Damian Gadal

The regional history of the Santa Barbara region find expression in the Santa Barbara museum of Natural History. There are two campuses of the museum in the city, the mission canyon campus and the sea center. The mission canyon campus has exhibits on the Chumash Indians, the mammal hall and the Gladwin Planetarium featuring interactive exhibits on space. There is also a nature trail that goes along the creek . As soon as you enter the Mission Canyon campus, you will come across a life size skeleton of a blue whale, over 72 feet long.

Another campus of the Museum of Natural History is the sea center. Not only does this place have interactive exhibits where you can touch baby sharks and more. The sea center offers you a glimpse of the underwater life in the Santa Barbara channel. There are many exhibits here keeping creatures like sea anemones, hermit crabs, jellyfishes and more.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Best place to explore in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden | Photo Credit – Anna Irene

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is located at 1212 Mission Canyon road. It is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara and one you must take time to visit while you are here. There are over 5.5 miles of paths that travel across the 78 acres of natural woodland.

There are scenic views of mountains and ocean here and the Botanic Garden is home to over 1000 types of native California flora. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden also includes the Mission Dam that provides water to the Santa Barbara mission. There is a redwood grove here along with a Japanese teahouse and garden.

There are guided tours to help you take in the most of this beautiful place. Take away a potted plant home as a souvenir and be sure to visit the gift shop and museum while you are here.

El Paseo

This place in Santa Barbara is listed as a Historic place on the national register.
El Paseo | Photo Credit – La Citta Vita

One of the best Santa Barbara things to do is to visit El Paseo, a small village built around the Casa de la Guerra adobe. It was constructed in 1920 in the Spanish revival style and is composed of restaurants, galleries and shops. This place is listed as a Historic place on the national register and there is a museum here for you to visit.

The history of this place is that it was built by Jose de la Guerra, who was the commander of El Presidio de Santa Barbara. His family was raised here and it wasn’t long until it became a sociopolitical and cultural center.  There are guided tours to help you get the best out of this place, just be sure to book them in advance.

The entrance to El Paseo is located at the 800 block of State Street. El Paseo is the venue for the Old Spanish Days Festival, and there is a courtyard here that is just great for lunch.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Great place for children in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara Maritime Museum | Photo Credit – Al R

This City has had a rich maritime history and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is a homage to the same. Check out exhibits on surfing, Chumash Indians, fishing and diving, antique instruments and even military history. The Munger theatre here showcases movies that are related to the theme and this museum is exceptionally great for children.

Enjoy scavenger hunts, periscopes and other exhibits that will make you want to come back to the museum for more. The top floor viewing deck provides a great vantage point to click some gorgeous photographs of the overlooking ocean and the city.

The nearby Santa Barbara Harbor is a great spot to tie up to your visit to this area. Enjoy views of sailboats in the ocean as well as harbor seals (if you’re lucky). Try the Brophy Bros, a Santa Barbara hotspot known for excellent sea food.

El Presidio De Santa Barbara State Historic Site

A visit to the El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Site is one of the best things to do.
El Presidio De Santa Barbara | Photo Credit – Prayitno / Thank you for (12

A visit to the El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Site ought to over one of the best things to do. Santa Barbara, California is a place full of history, and the many landmarks and buildings of the city prove it. This historical site located in downtown Santa Barbara is a place you must see.

Spending your day here will have you looking at a fortified military settlement whose two out of four buildings stand still. Take a tour that will guide you through exhibits from the visitors center to a history of the place. The Chapel, Comandancia and Padre’s Quarters are few of the many attractions you will like. Back in the day, this place housed the heritage garden and the presidio’s lieutenant, a two story tower.

Shopping At State Street

Visiting the Paseo Nuevo in Santa Barbara during the holidays can be exceptionally rewarding.
Paseo Nuevo | Photo Credit – Damian Gadal

No trip is complete without a shopping excursion. Santa Barbara in California brings to you the best you can find when it comes to shopping. Take a gander at what shops have to offer you here at Santa Barbara. To do things that are more touristy, come find State Street, a place to take away the best in Souvenirs from here.

There are specialty shops, malls, antique stores and boutiques. There is also the Santa Barbara Farmers Market which is the main highlight of State Street on Tuesdays. Another attraction at State Street is the Paseo Nuevo, which is a picturesque outdoor shopping mall.  Visiting the Paseo Nuevo during the holidays can be exceptionally rewarding. Beautiful and picturesque, it is decorated during that time.


Japanese Garden Lotusland | Photo Credit – J Brew

The enclave of Montecito features Lotusland, which has been classified as one of the most beautiful gardens of the world. Ganna Walska, a famous Polish opera singer transformed this garden into what it is now. A beautiful display of carefully arranged plants and flowers.

There are sculptural agaves, cactuses in various shapes and cycads that are dramatic and absolutely gorgeous. Find Lotus flowers in the swimming pool. There are many gardens here, all of which you are bound to like and which will make your day vibrant and lovely.

These gardens are art in themselves, and add to the beauty of the already beautiful city of Santa Barbara. Come here and see the Blue garden, the palm garden and the Japanese garden. Then there is also the theatre garden which is collection of antique stone figures from France.

This garden is home to two of the rarest plants on earth, gigantic cycads that are now extinct elsewhere. Reserve in advance for the two hour guided tours on Wednesday to Saturday from February to November.

Whale Watching Tours

The Santa Barbara channel is home to over 27 species of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. Whale Watching cruises are a major tourist attraction in Such places offering chances to see these glorious mammals in their natural environment. Come to these places from May to November and see for yourself these glorious creatures.

You can even get to see orcas, sea lions and dolphins if you are unable to catch the whales. There are cruise companies here that guarantee a whale sighting. They do this by allowing you to take a trip with them another day for free if you miss sighting a whale the first time around. One of the best things to do is, you sure will like if you get to see a Humpback whale in the waters.

Mission Santa Barbara

Mission Santa Barbara | Photo Credit – Dirk DBQ

The most iconic landmark the city of Santa Barbara has to offer and a huge influence on the architectural style of the city, Mission Santa Barbara has also been called the “Queen of the Missions”. The place offers a picturesque setting and gorgeous exteriors. A community of Franciscan friars lives here to this day and is the only California mission to remain. 

The church was completed in 1820 and was built by the Chumash Indians. It is a parish church today. There is museum here that you must see that contains a lot of colonial artifacts. The La Huerta Historical Garden is filled with mission era plants such as grapes, pears and more.

There is a cemetery here with a lot of history. Tour the place on your own or sign up for a guided tour. There is also an aqueduct here that you must not miss as well as the Mission Rose Garden.  Mission Santa Barbara is located at 2201 Laguna Street.

Funk Zone

Funk Zone | Photo Credit – Sergei Gussev

A street that has collated the best in restaurants, wine tasting rooms, breweries, hotels and more, the Funk Zone in Santa Barbara is a place that you must not miss. One of the best things to do in this place , the Funk Zone is located near State Street and Waterfront.

It was once a place which was an industrial area and a place for early wine manufacturers in the city. Funk Zone is the place to go for Tacos, and you must try them during you day trips. You will like the beauty of the 13 block neighborhood when you enjoy the Funk Zone art walk.

There are many places to eat and there are enough wine tasting rooms that you can stay here for days. You will like the Funk Factory and be sure to have a cup at the Dart Coffee Co.


MOXI | Photo Credit – Nick Amoscato

Have you ever wanted to be inside a guitar? Well isn’t this a funny thing to imagine. At MOXI, you will be able to do this as their is a giant guitar here that will house you. The building is a classic Spanish colonial architectural masterpiece. It houses a science and technology museum located on such waterfront.

There are three floors to visit here with indoor and outdoor exhibits. The place has been divided into sections, which have been named Light, Speed, Interactive media, Fantastic Forces and the Sky Garden. Check out 3D printers here and create customized masterpieces to take home.

The rooftop deck at MOXI offers great views of the Santa Barbara city scape. There are scopes here to help to take in all the attractions of the best you can. MOXI is located at 125 State Street, Santa Barbara.

What should We Do In Santa Barbara?

There are so many things to do in this place. Our list listing many of above attractions will help to plan your trip to as it is a place that can take you days and days to discover. Apart from the usual attractions,this place will let you dive into history, let you enjoy beach life, and even let you gaze into the beautiful cityscape it has to offer.

The city is not that big and that means that it is extremely walkable. Make your own walking tour gathering pictures as you stroll through the attractions of the city, the the murals, take a bite at restaurants serving delicious food and more. The beach is always there for you if you want to swim, surf, or just relax on your holiday. You will find so much to do here that you might just extend your vacation indefinitely.

Is Santa Barbara Worth Visiting?

Of course. it is one of the most visited places in California and for good reason. The beautiful weather, along with the lovely beaches, this is a place that is magical. Great for people of all age groups, your trip to this place will surely be a doozy and you will remember the time you spent here forever.  There are many attractions here most of which are so diverse that you will be surprised on every turn.  From gardens to beaches, lighthouses, buildings, museums and much more, this is a place that is worth visiting.

We hope you enjoyed our article about 15 of the best things to do in this place. We have tried to be as detailed as we can and have tried to include as much as we could. Certainly, the beauty of this place is such that it offers much more than can ever be written down.

You must visit the city and see for yourself the breathtaking beauty that has been attracting tourists for so long. Delve into the history of this great place, and you will learn so much that you will carry with you for your lifetime. Your experience at such beautiful place is bound to be a really great one, we guarantee it. 

From whale tours, to gardens, churches and museums, technological areas and amusement parks, this is the place to be at. Spend a week here and you are sure to return for more.

While you are travelling, please be sure to take care of all social distancing norms and precautions in light of the COVID 19 pandemic. Be safe and take care of your family as you travel. Reserve hotels as early as you can and then relax. Just let go in the serene beauty of this place , truly, a paradise on earth.

Please also read about things to do in Brentwood.

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