Santa Barbara Tourism

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains approximately 150 miles north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, California is considered paradise to many. Known as the American Riviera and blessed by natural beauty, a temperate climate, cool ocean breezes, and a beautiful backdrop, you’ll quickly see why so many locals call it home. Whether it’s your first time here or if you’re a frequent visitor, you’ll be amazed at all that this little community has to offer.

Santa Barbara Background

For those visiting Santa Barbara, it’s important to recognize one of its most defining characteristics: its prime location at the ‘north/south’ divide of the state. This unique positioning creates our perfect climate as well as what is referred to as a biological ‘hot spot,’ a confluence of cooler, northern temperatures and warmer southern temperatures that result in tremendous biodiversity on both land and water, along with conditions that allow the growing and harvesting of food year-round, and, of course, our fantastic beach weather and ideal grape growing conditions.

The natural resources of the region are one of the reasons that the Chumash – the area’s native american people – survived and thrived here. They took advantage of the land and sea and all its resources. When visiting, one should make it a point to learn more about the native culture and the natural history of the area by visiting the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. Immerse yourself!

Of course, the history of Santa Barbara is intricately connected to both Spanish and Mexican cultures. From the first Spanish explorers who cast their eyes upon the California coastline to the missionaries who settled here and elsewhere across the state to Mexican vaqueros who wrangled cattle and managed large acre ranches. It’s this history that is now deeply woven into the fabric of this seaside community and reflected in the architecture, the street names, the food, and some of Santa Barbara’s most popular community festivals like Old Spanish Fiesta Days.

santa barbara tourism

Things to do in Santa Barbara

Beyond the amazing natural heritage and area’s rich culture, Santa Barbara knows how to throw a party. If you’re visiting in April, make sure not to miss the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival. The modern day environmental movement sprung out of the 1969 oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel, and as a result, the local Earth Day festival is one of the largest in the nation, boasting 30,000 visitors, hundreds of vendors, kids activities food, and the longest ‘green car’ show in the nation – all over two days in Alameda Park.

Later in the summer when the weather is hot, Santa Barbarans and 100,000 visitors from across the country descend onto State Street for the annual Summer Solstice Celebration, where colorful floats, dancers, drummers, mermaids, and others fill the streets in honor of the longest day of the year.  

Finally, if you visit in August, remember to take part in Old Spanish Fiesta Days festivities. The city teems with vibrant Latin culture including music, dance, food, and more. Performances and vendors take over daily life, with the Santa Barbara Mission, Santa Barbara Courthouse, De la Guerra Plaza, and other locations serving as host to dancers and entertainment. Viva la!

Old Spanish Days Fiesta

No matter when you choose, anytime is a good time to visit Santa Barbara. But if you’re looking for the best weather, locals often say that September and October are ideal. And while you won’t find many of the large events and festivals referenced above during the fall season, you will find warm weather, warm ocean temperatures, and a light breeze to make you feel right at home. And to answer the question of ‘what to wear in Santa Barbara,’ keep it looking good but keep it casual. You may want to dress nice when visiting our wine country (it can get warm!) but also be prepared for cooler temperatures in the evenings and a generally relaxed atmosphere. Bring your sandals or flip flops, a nice pair of shoes, bathing suits, and your reef friendly sunscreen and you’ll be all set!

There’s much to do here and usually not enough time. You might even have to plan more than one visit! One way or another, while you’re here, we expect you to visit our world famous wine country on one of our luxury tours. It goes without saying that our wine country has emerged as one of the world’s best, and we look forward to showing you all that you need to see, hear, and taste about our terroir and wine history.

In between your wine adventures, don’t miss out on some of our most treasured local highlights. These include:

 

Fun and adventure abounds! Take advantage of your time and enjoy all that makes Santa Barbara so special. We truly hope you enjoy your time here and come back with your friends.

Click here for a full list local attractions.

Getting to Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara Airport might be one of the easiest airports to fly in and out of in the country. We highly recommend flying directly here if possible to avoid Los Angeles traffic, stress, etc. Once you land at SBA, you can rent a car or grab a cab, Lyft, or Uber.

Otherwise, if you’re driving north from L.A. or LAX, the 405 freeway to the 101 freeway is your best route. You might opt to take Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) along the ocean for a much more scenic (and lengthier) drive north. And if you’re headed to Santa Barbara from San Francisco or anywhere north, you can drop right down the 101 straight into Santa Barbara. Once in town, you can rent a car, bike, scooter, or a number of other transportation options to move you around. The downtown area is super walkable but if you want to venture further, a rental car will most likely be needed. 

When you visit Santa Barbara, know that you’ll be well taken care of. Our lodging options run the spectrum, from boutique hotels and bed & breakfasts to luxury spas and 5-star hotels. If you’d like to be close to the action, consider lodging near State Street or the Funk Zone. Otherwise, there are options near the waterfront (Cabrillo Blvd.), Montecito, Goleta, and even closer to wine country near Santa Ynez. Click here to view accommodations. 

Santa Barbara is one of the top agricultural producing counties in the state. We also have an abundance of fresh and local seafood. Combining both of these results in a world class dining experience that caters to the needs of any palate. From sushi and seafood on State Street in Santa Barbara’s downtown to California cuisine and asian inspired dishes in the Funk Zone to great mexican and seafood in Montecito – it’s all here! So grab your friends, your partner, or your kids – there’s something here for everyone. Click here to view fine dining options.

You won’t run out of things to do when coming into town! If you like history, the old Santa Barbara Mission, Presidio, or courthouse might be of interest. If you’re an outdoor type, Stearns Wharf, the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, the world famous rose garden, or a local whale watching trip might catch your fancy. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Zoo, the Ty Warner Sea Center, and Lotulsand are other popular attractions. There’s so much more to see and do! Make sure you make the time to take it all in. Click here to view attractions.

This history of Santa Barbara County’s wine culture is as rich and deep as the history of the county itself. Only recently has Santa Barbara become a top destination for those seeking out the finest wines and wineries, with visitors arriving from wine regions near San Diego, San Francisco, and beyond to see (and taste) what makes Santa Barbara wines so unique. Read about our local wine history here.