Places to Go and Things to Do in Santa Barbara

With all of the things to see and do in Santa Barbara, choosing how to spend your time here can be a tough decision. From museums to cultural events to renowned gardens, there’s something to enjoy morning, noon, and night in this pretty city by sea.
A sample day might begin with a trip to the beautiful Santa Barbara Zoo (the giraffes have an ocean view!), include an afternoon spent picnicking in the rose garden in front of the Santa Barbara Mission and end with an evening spent strolling the downtown galleries for First Thursday.

And if you’re lucky enough to visit at the right time, you’ll soon discover that the locals love to get together and celebrate... almost anything and everything! This city has so many parades - even a boat parade - and festivals, it’s a wonder anyone ever makes time to go to work. One of the most enjoyable celebrations by far is the Old Spanish Days Fiesta, a week full of great music, food and dancing honoring the town's Spanish heritage.

So what are you waiting for? Get over here; Santa Barbara is waiting to show you its best and brightest. This list will get you started with activities suited for individuals, couples and the whole family, whether you’re in town for a entire week or just a weekend.

1st Thursday is a monthly evening celebrating art and culture in downtown Santa Barbara. On the first Thursday of every month, participating galleries, shops and other art-related venues open their doors, offering free access to exhibits and...  Read More

Photo courtesy of brewbooks

Designed by eccentric Ganna Walska, a Polish opera singer, this estate garden is the product of decades of effort and attention. Fantastical vignettes feature a wealth of unusual plants, including cycads, which were present in the era of the...  Read More

Possibly the most wonderous of all natural wonders in Santa Barbara, California. The Coronado Butterfly Preserve is a place where - from late October through early March - monarch butterflies migrate to spend the winter. They hang in clumps and...  Read More

Santa Barbara

Built in 1872 to handle incoming freight and passengers, Stearns Wharf is one of the coast's oldest wooden piers. Following renovations in 1981, the wharf became a magnet for both tourists and locals. Shops, eateries and even a wine tasting room...  Read More

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Specializing in native West Coast flora, this stunning botanic garden features a variety of habitats that focus on showcasing - and conserving - California's native plants. Across 75 acres of terrain are desert, meadow, ridge and redwood forest...  Read More

Considered one of the most beautiful government buildings in America, Santa Barbara's historic Spanish-Moorish style courthouse draws thousands of visitors each year and is actually the second courthouse on this site, constructed after an...  Read More

A giant skeleton of a baby blue whale greets you at the entrance to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, letting you know that you have arrived at a magical place dedicated to the wonders of nature. Occupying 11 acres in historic Mission...  Read More

Santa Barbara

Elephants, flamingos, lions and even penguins... some of the most intriguing members of the animal kingdom are waiting for you at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Over 500 species are showcased on 30 lush acres overlooking the beach. Special features...  Read More

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Museum of Art

A local museum that enjoys a national reputation, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art offers a rare display of the artistic achievements of a variety of cultures and periods. Home to 27,000+ works of art (not including traveling exhibitions), this...  Read More

No trip to Santa Barbara is complete without a visit to the Santa Barbara Harbor! This is a great place to stroll, eat, shop and see the sights. The breakwater was completed in 1930 and provides safe harbor for commercial and private boats, as...  Read More


Meet Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 on a whim (ok, and to go to college) and never looked back. She loves Santa Barbara because it’s really one of America’s greatest small towns - it...  More About Geneva