Most Romantic Things to Do in Santa Barbara

Most Romantic Spots to Make Out in Santa Barbara

It's no surprise that so many people get married in Santa Barbara. This California beach town is a lovers' paradise. Fresh ocean breezes, swaying palms, sunny skies and glorious sunsets are par for the course here. 

Regular folks tie the knot in Santa Barbara every weekend. And so do celebrities. Drew Barrymore got married here, so did Laurence Olivier and Fergie (not to each other, of course). Even Kim Kardashian celebrated her nuptials in Santa Barbara... the second time around.

But, wait, dear reader! We may be putting the cart before the horse. Not everyone who visits Santa Barbara is getting hitched.

Are you planning a romantic trip to Santa Barbara? A weekend with your special someone, perhaps, but without the fanfare of a wedding?

We've got you covered.

If you're looking for a place to make out in Santa Barbara, this is the list for you. Whether you prefer a little al fresco smooch or carefully coordinated magic moment, this list of the 10 best romantic attractions in Santa Barbara will steer you in the right direction. Lock lips in a helicopter, steal a caress in the clock tower... this guide is essentially the choose-your-own-adventure version of a romantic novel. 

So what will it be, Romeo?


Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Specializing in 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 vistas. Other displays illustrate how to use similar plants, particularly drought tolerant varieties, in domestic environments. Guided tours are available on weekends and themed self-guided tours are accessible at any time. Throughout the year, concerts, lectures and other special programs expand the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden's educational efforts. There is also a retail shop on site, offering books, nature-inspired gifts and locally made wildflower honey.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Because nature is always a turn-on, right? But seriously, this garden provides a lush background for romantic walks.

Geneva's expert tip: Should a certain plant catch your sweetheart's eye while walking about? Stop by the onsite nursery to take home your very own specimen.

Read more about Santa Barbara Botanic Garden →

If you're looking for a romantic wine country experience, Rusack Vineyards is the perfect place for a picnic with a view. Being on the smaller side for a vineyard (situated on just 48 acres), Rusack crafts their wines using both estate grapes and locally sourced varietals from some of the best vineyards in the area. Visit their website for detailed tasting and crafting notes, including the origin of the grapes and fermenting process. This beautiful, rose-bordered winery has a large outdoor picnic area, but you should call ahead to reserve space if you're bringing a larger party. They also have cheese and crackers for sale in the tasting room - ready to assist you in setting up an impromptu feast!

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Wine lovers will enjoy both the varietals and the rolling vineyard views here.

Geneva's expert tip: Rusack Vineyards is best known for their red wines, especially Pinot Noir and Syrah.

Read more about Rusack Vineyards →

Eat This Shoot That Santa Barbara Food and Wine Tours
Photo courtesy of Eat This Shoot That

Do you love food? Is your sweetheart a wine enthusiast? Are you that couple who always has their cameras at hand on trips and during meals? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions - and especially if you answered "yes" to all of these questions - this is one Santa Barbara date activity you shouldn't miss. These fun tours take you to some of the area's best food and wine destinations and give you camera tips and tricks along the way. Tour Santa Barbara's artsy Funk Zone, eating and drinking while you see the sights. Or head downtown to try amazing local wines. Or take their new Solvang tour to indulge in dreamy baked goods. The guides are lovely and the walking pace is perfect for strolling hand-in-hand.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Take a local food tour for a super fun date that lets you sample tasty eats and indulgent sips at several places.

Geneva's expert tip: Follow them on Facebook or Instagram for local tips and occasional surprise discounts!

Read more about Eat This Shoot That Santa Barbara Food and Wine Tours →


Put on your best duds and catch a show at the Granada Theatre, Santa Barbara's most splendid and impressive performing arts venue. Originally built in 1924, the theater underwent a dramatic restoration about a decade ago and, boy, is it gorgeous! A vibrant mural decorates the arch over the stage, seats have been refreshed with improved sightlines, and the original chandelier sparkles once again in its place of honor. Nationally recognized ballet troupes perform here regularly, as well as famous comedians, legendary musicians and inspiring lecturers. Visit their website for a list of upcoming shows and holiday events. Located near many of Santa Barbara's best restaurants and cocktail bars, so plan on dinner and a show!

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Dinner and a show is a classic date night move, and no theater in Santa Barbara is more beautiful!

Geneva's expert tip: Pop into The Good Lion, a cozy cocktail bar right next door, for a festive drink before or after the show.

Read more about The Granada Theatre →

Looking for an award-winning Santa Barbara date? Look no further! Captain Jack's Santa Barbara Tours have won multiple reader's choice awards over the last decade. Offering more than a dozen tours geared toward a variety of interests –" from whale watching to wine tasting and beyond –" Captain Jack's is your go-to contact when you want to plan a day to remember. The company prides itself in making sure each tour is suited to the needs and interests of each guest. Whether you're keep it intimate or on a double (or triple) date, Captain Jack's will take you on a fun-filled adventure, complete with insider information and historical insights shared by a true local tour guide.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Sometimes it's nice to let someone else plan the day for you, and Captain Jack's is the right tour company for the job.

Geneva's expert tip: If your sweetheart loves adventure, book the Heaven on Earth tour. It starts with an ocean kayak tour and finishes with a horseback ride!

Read more about Captain Jacks Tours →

Butterfly Beach
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Cuddle with your cutie while watching the sun set over the Pacific. Butterfly Beach looks west, unlike most of Santa Barbara's south-facing beaches. That makes it one of the few Californian beaches where you can watch the sunset instead of the sunrise. This beautiful sandy beach is perfect for romantic strolls. Bring a bottle of champagne and take a seat on the rock wall that lines the upper part of the beach, offering a comfortable vantage point with stunning views (even on not-so-sunny days). Because it's located in the celeb haven of Montecito, there is no shortage of nearby post-beach fun. Fancy shopping, award-winning eats and luxury spas are just minutes away.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Pack a picnic to enjoy on one of the nicest beaches in Santa Barbara. High tide? Snag a seat on the beach wall.

Geneva's expert tip: You have two solid pizza options when you take a date to this beach. 1) You can pick up at nearby Bettina on your way. 2) You can get Rusty's delivered; they're used to beach drop-offs!

Read more about Butterfly Beach →

Santa Barbara

Be a prince (or princess) and take your date on a sunset hike to a castle! Built in 1916, this rich man's "castle" was destroyed by a fire in 1940, leaving only crumbling stone ruins with a clear view of the hills, town and sea. This scenic spot is ideal for snapping romantic photos. The drive is a little long and winding, but the hike is short, less than a mile roundtrip, so you won't break out in a sweat before you get the perfect shot. Plan on a 20-30 minute drive from downtown and a 10 minute or so hike.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Every lover should have a surprise romantic destination in their back pocket. This one is free and doesn't require reservations.

Geneva's expert tip: Check the sunrise or sunset times to make sure you get the most dramatic photos.

Read more about Knapp's Castle →

Whether you want to get hitched, steal a kiss or enjoy a picnic, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is the place to do it. Considered one of the most beautiful government buildings in America, there are three sights you absolutely can't miss while you're here: the sunken gardens, the Mural Room and the El Mirador clock tower. The gardens are emerald green, very photogenic and open to the public all year long. The Mural Room, a popular site for weddings, is the jewel of the Courthouse, showcasing a romanticized version of Santa Barbara's history over 6,000 square feet of wall space. Not to be outdone, the clock tower allows for a breathtaking 365-degree view of the city. And don't worry ... although one end of the building was originally used as a jail, prisoners are no longer housed in this must-see attraction.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Lush, tropical gardens surround the Courthouse, ideal for an afternoon picnic, some al fresco sketching or a quick elopement (no pressure).

Geneva's expert tip: Climb or ride to the top of the courthouse clock tower for a 360-degree view of Santa Barbara.

Read more about Santa Barbara County Courthouse →

Santa Ynez

Self-driven wine tour? Anyone can do that. How about a horseback wine tour? Now that's the stuff that lifelong memories are made of! If you're looking for a Central Coast vineyard experience that is unforgettable, this is it. Hit the dusty trail with your honey and saddle up for a private ride with Vino Vaqueros to experience some of the most beautiful ranches and vineyards in the region. Enjoy an afternoon on horseback accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. After the ride, sample two local wines and then enjoy the glass of your choice. Offered seven days a week, this is the perfect adventure for riding enthusiasts of any age and skill level.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Enjoy an afternoon of horseback riding and wine drinking that will be better than pretty much any romantic outing you've seen in a sappy movie.

Geneva's expert tip: Wear sensible, close-toed shoes. As it turns out, horse trails and stilettos don't mix!

Read more about Vino Vaqueros →

Santa Barbara

Take to the high seas with your sweetheart. Santa Barbara is a great place to go whale watching, and the Condor Express is one of the best-loved tours around. For more than 30 years, the Condor Express crew has set out to sea in search of Gray Whales, Humpbacks, Orcas and more. During whale watching season, there are as many as three trips daily. Worried about creature comforts while at sea? Don't be! There is a galley on board that serves hot and cold breakfast and lunch so you don't have to bother with packing a meal. (Better still, there's a full bar.) Book online or call to schedule your trip. You can also charter the Condor Express for private events, like wedding cruises and corporate trips.

Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: For an outing that's a whale of a good time, you can't do much better than a trip on the Condor Express!

Geneva's expert tip: No matter how warm the weather is, pack a sweatshirt. (It gets mighty cold on the high seas.)

Read more about Condor Express →


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