For a historical view of the city, take Santa Barbara's Red Tile Walking Tour. This self-guided tour takes you around 12 of Santa Barbara's most beautiful downtown blocks. See 22 historic adobe buildings - built in the 1700 and 1800s - at 17 designated stops. It's easy, just follow the map and start walking. This tour is designed to take you about an hour, but you may find yourself stopping at shops and restaurants along the way.
Red tile roofs are a signature of Santa Barbara architecture. — Photo courtesy of Damian Gadal
Begin your tour at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, considered one of the most beautiful government buildings in America. Rebuilt in 1925 after an earthquake destroyed the original, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is home to beautiful tile work and masterful murals. Be sure to climb - or ride - to the top of the clock tower for a jaw-dropping panorama of the city. Don't forget your camera.
Next, the tour takes you west towards State Street. You'll see the Santa Barbara Public Library and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Then you'll continue heading down State Street, past specialty stores and sunny cafes.
This map shows you the way — Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara CVB
Walk about two and a half blocks and you'll come to the heart of the tour. The majority of historic adobe buildings are located along De La Guerra Street. These include Casa De La Guerra and the Orena Adobes. Casa De La Guerra was once the residence of the fifth comandante of the Presidio de Santa Barbara, long before California was even a state. The Orena Adobes were built in the 1840s and 1850s; these are examples of the types of storefronts and homes once owned by the area's wealthy families.
After viewing the adobes, you'll cross Anacapa Street to visit Presidio Avenue, the oldest street in town. Next up is a visit to the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and then it's time to turn around. On your way back to the courthouse, you'll admire El Presidio De Santa Barbara State Historic Park. This park is home to the Presidio Chapel - a popular wedding location with beautiful interior murals - and the Caneda Adobe.
Your path back to the courthouse takes you past the Spanish Deco-style post office and the Lobero Theater, a venue for stage and musical performances. Once you're back where you started, you can enjoy a picnic on the stunning grounds of the courthouse or easily walk back to State Street to hunt for souvenirs at the local boutiques.
The Red Tile Walking Tour was originally created by the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce. For additional guidance and insight, download Beyond the Rooftops, a podcast narrating the tour, hosted by John O'Hurley.