Fun & Free Things to Do in Santa Barbara

We're going to let you in on a little secret: although Santa Barbara has been long regarded as the playground of the rich and famous, there are also plenty of free activities in the area to entertain visitors of all ages. Museums, parks, beaches and more - just stick to our top 10 free activities list, and you won't be emptying your wallet on this trip!

Do you like the outdoors? Then beaches and parks are the way to go. Santa Claus Beach is a favorite with Santa Barbara natives. Its wide, sandy shore and mild to medium waves make it a fun destination for groups and families. If you have little ones in tow, head to Alameda Park to let them run wild on an elaborate wooden playground that's popular with the younger set.

If you're looking for more cultural activities, join the fun by participating in a downtown art walk on the first Thursday of every month. Or hit the beach on any given Sunday to check out a local institution, the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show along Cabrillo Blvd.

Check out this list of completely gratis things to do from sea to shore to schedule your very budget-friendly itinerary. 

One of the most popular hiking destinations in the Santa Barbara area, Inspiration Point offers a scenic view of Santa Barbara, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands beyond. Although there are several place to pick up the trail, the most...  Read More

Santa Claus Beach
Photo courtesy of Leah Schmidt

A local favorite, Santa Claus Beach is one of Santa Barbara's best kept secrets. Made up of a wide stretch of soft white sand, Santa Claus is actually located in Carpinteria, a sleepy beach town just a short drive (or long bike ride!) from...  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

The Carriage and Western Art Museum of Santa Barbara was founded in 1972. Located just steps away from beautiful West Beach, this free museum features historical carriages and carriage-related art. You will enjoy admiring one of the largest...  Read More

Along the waterfront, local artists set up their wares each fair weather Sunday and on special holidays, inviting residents and visitors to stroll along the waterfront and examine whatever catches their eye. Since 1966, the Arts and Crafts Show...  Read More

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 art exhibits and...  Read More

Santa Barbara
Alameda Park
Photo courtesy of Nico Lette

Kid love this downtown park, which boasts the very best playground in town as well as wide, open areas. There are plenty of trees and picnic benches, and a gazebo shelters musicians who play when the weather's warm. Alameda Park is a great...  Read More

Santa Barbara

Skater's Point opened in 2000 as part of the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreations Department. This free skate park is open to skaters of all ages and situated in a choice location... it's right on the beach! The smooth concrete park was designed...  Read More

A joint effort of Franciscan vision and Chumash Indian labor, this graceful structure was founded by Franciscan Friar Fermin de Lasuen on the Feast of St. Barbara, December 4, 1786. Architectural details were reworked until the 1830s. Referred...  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


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