All of Santa Barbara is beautiful, but downtown is where the action awaits you. If you’re a go-getter that enjoys shopping, dining, and cultural attractions, head to State Street for (at least) a day of sightseeing. The eight-or-so blocks that comprise the downtown district are walkable and packed with fun for the whole family. This area is also very bicycle friendly; take advantage of the bike rentals available at area hotels and other businesses.
See & Do
Many of Santa Barbara's most famous museums and historical sites are located right downtown - you could easily spend a whole day immersed in cultural activities here. Visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to view priceless works of art (including a large collection of Monet paintings), then stop by the Santa Barbara Courthouse and climb the clock tower for a spectacular 360 degree view of the city. If you're unsure of where else to go, take the self-guided Red Tile Walking Tour to ensure you don't miss a thing.
Downtown Santa Barbara is home to so many restaurants that it can be hard to limit yourself to just three meals a day. From bakery cafes to fresh fast food to fine dining, the options are almost unlimited. Many restaurants offer al fresco seating allowing you to take advantage of Santa Barbara's temperate climate. To start your day on the right foot, visit Renaud's downtown location for the best chocolate croissant you've ever had. Lunch might find you at The Natural Cafe, a local favorite for a healthy bite, and dinner... well, that's up to you!
After dark, lower State Street is the place to go for a drink and maybe a little dancing. The three or four downtown blocks closest to the ocean are populated by bars, clubs and late night dining establishments (and pop up restaurants). Most places get really busy around 11pm, when students from any of the five local colleges come out to play. For a quieter cocktail, stop in early at a pub like Old Kings Road or pull up a seat at someplace a little fancier, like the Blue Agave.
There are several lovely hotels located within walking distance of the busiest parts of State Street. The Canary Hotel is a luxe favorite, boasting valet parking, a chic restaurant and a rooftop pool with a view. For an overnight stay that's really in the center of the action, try Hotel Santa Barbara. It's located just across the street from the legendary Joe's Cafe. There's even a nearby stop for the electric waterfront shuttle, Santa Barbara's inexpensive shuttle service that takes you right to the beach.
Santa Barbara's downtown area is a central coast shopping mecca, so come prepared for a little retail therapy. Surf shops, antique stores, home goods, specialty boutiques - State Street has all that and much more. Stroll through Paseo Nuevo, a beautiful outdoor shopping mall, to explore a mix of national favorites and smaller shops. And don't be afraid to wander off into nearby side streets to find some of the best local boutiques, like Lovebird Boutique & Jewelry Bar and A Tropical Affair Lingerie & Bikinis.