A giant skeleton of a blue whale greets you at the entrance to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, letting you know that you have arrived at a magical place dedicated to the wonders of nature. Occupying eleven acres in historic Mission Canyon, the Museum of Natural History boasts a beautiful campus, complete with Spanish-style grounds and buildings. Exhibits include a mineral and gem gallery, Chumash Indian culture center, and the much admired dioramas in the Mammal Hall (among many others). It is also home to the area's only planetarium. For a natural history experience with a seaside twist, visit their associate site on the wharf, the Sea Center.
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!
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.
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!
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). Hungry? Parched? Sore? The legendary Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara is just across the street, with a great restaurant, bar and spa that will definitely impress your significant other.
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.
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 cannot 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.
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.
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 over 30 years, the Condor Express crew has been setting out to sea in search of Gray Whales, Humpbacks, Orcas and more. During whale watching season, there are as many as three trips daily. 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.
Head over heels and over the moon? Take your love to the skies for a surprisingly reasonable price with Santa Barbara Helicopter Tours. View Santa Barbara's breathtaking coastline from miles above and go home with incredible photos or videos of your trip. A variety of tour routes let you choose your own adventure, and every seat is a window seat. Explore wine country or soar through sunset skies, it's up to you! As an added bonus, you can add wine or champagne to any flight for a small additional fee. Private happy hour in the sky? Yeah, you can finally check that off your bucket list.