Welcome to Santa Barbara - we've been waiting for you! This may be your first trip to our beautiful beach town, but we want to make sure that it's not your last. This helpful itinerary will acquaint you with much of the best that Santa Barbara has to offer... in just one day! Transform from novice to native in just 24 fun-filled hours. Imagine, the next time you come back with friends, you will be the local expert.
When you first get into town, you know where to go, right? The beach! That's the first place people will ask you about when they hear you've been to Santa Barbara. Fortunately we have miles and miles of white sand coastline for your to choose from. Head for East Beach to optimally position yourself the rest of the day.
Start your day on the beautiful white sand of East Beach — Photo courtesy of Andrew Allio
East Beach is a nice, wide beach that has a little something for everyone. There are public volleyball nets, swings in the sand and, importantly, public restroom facilities. An onsite restaurant, the East Beach Grill, serves delicious pancake breakfasts, refreshing root beer floats and crowd-pleasing burgers.
If the beach is foggy or your group is anti-sand, it's no problem. Head directly across the street to the Santa Barbara Zoo. Spend some time admiring the penguins and lions - even a robotic Tyrannosaurus rex - before moving on to your next stop: lunch!
Visit Stearns Wharf for seafood and a little souvenir shopping — Photo courtesy of Damian Gadal
When you start feeling peckish, go toward Stearn's Wharf. If you like seafood, you'll hit the jackpot at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company located at the end of this old wooden pier. Live crabs, lobsters and abalones occupy tanks that line one side of this little restaurant. In addition to whole crustaceans, they also serve great steamed mussels, fresh ceviche and the best clam chowder in town. Enjoy full-service inside the restaurant or at outdoor booths. There's also a walk-up window for takeout orders that you can eat anywhere along the pier.
Now that you have a full belly, you have two options - shopping or wine tasting. The brave may even try to accomplish both, but here's a hint: shop first, drink second. Fortunately, both options are very close at hand.
If a little retail therapy sounds good to you, pick up souvenirs right there on the wharf or head north on State Street to go into downtown Santa Barbara. Many of the area's best shopping centers are located within walking distance of each other, including Paseo Nuevo and La Arcada.
If, however, an afternoon spent sniffing and sipping some of Santa Barbara's famous 'grape juice' is more your speed, head to the Funk Zone (just a short walk from the wharf) to do some tasting along the Urban Wine Trail. Wine tastings usually range from $5 to $15 and can easily be shared by ambitious couples hoping to visit more than a few tasting rooms.
Sample local wines along Santa Barbara's Urban Wine Trail — Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail
For dinner, plan to enjoy some delicious local fare. Make reservations at Anchor Woodfire Kitchen, on the edge of the Funk Zone, for a night of handcrafted everything: cocktails, pizza, pasta, pickles. They make almost everything in-house! Or plan to go into downtown for dinner, eat somewhere tasty like Bouchon or Opal, and then go out into the night for a few drinks. You can consult our list of best bars to begin and then consult the locals as you go. You can trust us; we're a friendly bunch. And we want you to have a good time so you'll be sure to hurry back.
Try a local specialty - like the fresh ridge back shrimp pizza at Anchor Woodfire Kitchen — Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives