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. 



Work up a sweat and see the best view in town! One of the most popular hiking destinations in the Santa Barbara area, Inspiration Point offers a scenic panorama of Santa Barbara, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands beyond. Although there...  Read More

Santa Claus Beach
Photo courtesy of Leah Schmidt


A local favorite, Santa Claus Beach is one of Santa Barbara's best kept sandy secrets. A relatively uncrowded wide stretch of soft white sand, Santa Claus is actually located in Carpinteria, a sleepy beach town just a short drive (or long bike...  Read More



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



Local artists sell their wares along the beach each fair weather Sunday and on special holidays, inviting residents and visitors to stroll the waterfront and take home handmade treasures. Since 1966, the Arts and Crafts Show has been a city...  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


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



The breakwater at the Santa Barbara harbor is fancy. It's intended to minimize the effect of wave action on pricey yachts. It's also free. The long curved walkway that juts out into the sea is perfect for strolling on sunny weather and warm...  Read More

Santa Barbara
Alameda Park
Photo courtesy of Nico Lette


Kid love this downtown park, which boasts the very best (recently updated) playground in town as well as wide, open areas. There are about a million trees and picnic benches, and a gazebo that hosts musicians on special occasions. Alameda Park...  Read More



If you go to Santa Barbara and didn't take a picture of the Queen of the Missions, does your trip even count? Most locals would say no. A joint effort of Franciscan vision and Chumash Indian labor, this graceful structure was founded by...  Read More



Free summer movies, free flamenco shows in August, free 365-degree views of the city from the clocktower... the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a mecca of free, fun things. It's also stunning! Considered one of the most beautiful government...  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