A Weekend Guide to Santa Barbara

A Weekend Guide to Santa Barbara

It's time to take a trip to the Riviera! The American Riviera. We're heading to Santa Barbara, California for the weekend!

The gorgeous city of Santa Barbara, which sits along a south-facing curve of California, has so much to offer visitors. Coastal views with a backdrop of the mountains, old Spanish style architecture throughout the town, a bustling and thriving culinary scene, luxurious resorts and spas, trendy art-filled neighborhoods, and so much more. Come here once and I guarantee you'll be leaving with your second visit already planned!

Santa Barbara is a perfect destination for families, couples, and even solo travelers of all ages and backgrounds. Use this travel guide to plan your trip and find out where to eat, where to stay, and what to do in Santa Barbara during your visit.

If you're looking for places to eat in Santa Barbara, rest assured, you will not be leaving hungry. This city is full of so many wonderful places to eat with all different types of cuisines, ambiances, and experiences that it will even appease the pickiest of foodies.

Budget:

  1. Pickles & Swiss811 State Street, Ste E -- Really tasty sandwiches and melts
  2. McConnell's Fine Ice Creams728 State Street -- Santa Barbara's very own and some of the best ice cream you'll ever have
  3. The Blue Owl5 W Canon Perdido
  4. On The Alley117 Harbor Way
  5. Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria905 State Street -- Try the Chipotle Chicken Pizza and thank me later (It won a pizza contest award in Italy!)

Also try: C'est Cheese (absolutely must go)Santa Barbara Public Market (my personal favorite inside is Empty Bowl), Renaud's Patisserie, or Mony's Mexican Food

Moderate:

  1. Los Agaves, 600 N Milpas Street
  2. Finch & Fork31 W Carrillo Street
  3. Santa Barbara Fishouse101 E Cabrillo Blvd
  4. Mesa Verde1919 Clif Drive
  5. Milk & Honey30 W Anapamu Street
  6. Cielito Restaurant & Tequila Bar1114 State Street
  7. Lilac Patisserie, 1017 State Street -- A gluten free bakery!
  8. The Brewhouse, 229 W Montecito Street

Also try: Zaytoon, The Hungry Cat, Lucky Penny, Brophy Bros., Opal Restaurant & Bar, or Arnoldi's Cafe

Luxury:

  1. Yoichi's230 E Victoria Street
  2. The Lark131 Anacapa Street, Ste A
  3. Arigato, 1225 State Street
  4. Bouchon, 9 W Victoria Street
  5. Bella Vista1260 Channel Dr -- Boasts incredible ocean views of Butterfly Beach

Also try: Olio Crudo Bar, The Stonehouse, Toma Restaurant and Bar, or Downey's

Budget:

Image via The Wayfarer

Image via The Wayfarer

Santa Barbara's premiere hostel/hotel sits right along the trendy Funk Zone area, making it perfect for people who want to explore this neighborhood or walk around the Urban Wine Trail. The Wayfarer offers both private and dorm-style rooms, which are great options for people looking for a more affordable accommodation in the Santa Barbara area.

Also try: Hotel Santa Barbara ($$), Hotel Indigo ($$), or Hotel Milo ($)


Moderate:

  • Kimpton Canary Hotel, $$$, 31 W Carrillo Street

This charming boutique hotel is conveniently located right in the heart of Santa Barbara and just 5 minutes from the beach. Spanish-style architecture meets modern conveniences at the Kimpton Canary Hotel. Plus, you can't beat the view of the city from the rooftop here!

Also try: Spanish Garden Inn ($$), Simpson House Inn ($$), or The Fess Parker ($$$)


Luxury:

If you want an ultimate luxury experience while visiting Santa Barbara, look no further than the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. This magical wonderland of natural gardens and Spanish architecture is conveniently tucked away in the exclusive enclave of Montecito. It is a beautiful property with beach access and private gardens, spacious rooms with Spanish style influence and modern conveniences, and many more on-site amenities to enjoy. It is my hotel of choice when I visit Santa Barbara. You can read more about what to expect when you check-in right here!

Also try: Belmond El Encanto ($$$), San Ysidro Ranch ($$$$), or Bacara Resort & Spa ($$$$)

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Things to do in Santa Barbara:

  • Walk the Urban Wine Trail - The Urban Wine Trail is basically a self-guided "wine tasting" crawl. You walk from tasting room to tasting room  around the cool downtown Santa Barbara area. Each tasting room typically has a flight special that you can try multiple wines at once. Download the app on your smartphone and enjoy your tastings! *My favorite rooms were Grassini Family Vineyards, Jamie Slone, Cebada Winery, and Santa Barbara Winery; but there are so many others that are wonderful and cute as well!
  • Spend a morning at Ganna Walska Lotusland - This incredible botanic collection is located in depths of Santa Barbara's suburban area. It's a spectacular natural beauty that you must see during your stay! Read more about my visit to Lotusland and what you can expect right here.
  • Explore the cool galleries and shops of the Funk Zone - The Funk Zone is a new, up and coming neighborhood of SB. There are hip and trendy galleries, boutiques, and restaurants popping up all the time now. It's definitely worth it to walk around, check out some of the shops, and then stop in and eat at one of the great restaurants there.
  • Walk around the Presidio - The Presidio is another neighborhood of Santa Barbara that you should spend some time walking around. What you'll find here is a lot of the beautiful Spanish-style architecture and influence, fun places to eat and drink, and even some great boutiques to stop in around. 
  • Do a Santa Barbara Food Tour - There's no better way to get to know a city than by tasting the cuisine. My personal favorite food tour is Taste Santa Barbara Food Tours. You can read more about it and what you can expect right here.
  • Ride the town's Hop-On, Hop-Off Trolley - I'm a big fan of any Hop-On, Hop-Off tour, and especially this one. Instead of those overbearing double-deck buses that you normally have in major cities, this one is a cute little trolley! Sure, it's a little touristy; but it's the best way to get around and see a lot of stuff in a short amount of time. The trolley takes you by great landmarks, such as the Old Mission Santa Barbara, where you're able to get off to explore until the next trolley comes around.
  • Watch the sunrise AND sunset over Butterfly Beach - Because Santa Barbara is located along a south-facing curve of California, people are able to catch the beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the same coastline. Head to Butterfly Beach, which is located just in front of the Four Seasons Resort, and catch the breathtaking views.
  • See the view from the top of the Santa Barbara Courthouse - If you want a spectacular view of the city, walk up the steps to catch a view from the top of the Santa Barbara Courthouse, which is just as beautiful as the view! 
  • Attend the weekly farmers market on State Street - Check the local schedule to see when the weekly farmers market is being held. It's a great time to meander around State Street and buy some local goods.
  • Explore the downtown area around State Street - Downtown Santa Barbara is full of so many cute boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and more! You should definitely spend a good amount of time just walking around the State Street area. Walk through La Arcada, check out the Art Museum, or stop in somewhere to eat!
  • Visit the Santa Barbara Zoo - The Santa Barbara Zoo is a beautiful, world-renowned zoo and a great place to spend the day with the family!
  • Spend a day on the waterfront - Walk around the Stearns Wharf, spend the day paddleboarding and/or kayaking, bike along the  waterfront, or even head out on a boat tour to go explore the Channel Islands or go whale watching.
  • Go museum hopping - Santa Barbara has tons of wonderful museums and cultural landmarks for visitors to enjoy. You can check out the Old Mission, Casa del Herrero, Museum of Natural History, Museum of Art, or Cold Spring Tavern. Pick a category that suits you best (architecture, art, nature, etc.) and just explore it! There's something for everyone to enjoy in Santa Barbara.
  • See a show or attend a seasonal festival - Santa Barbara has tons of amazing seasonal events and festivals for visitors and locals to attend. Check out events like the Outrageous Film Festival, the Flamenco Arts Festival, the Art Walk, or the Pride at the Beach Festival!
  • Escape to Montecito or Summerland for the day - Check out the small towns of Montecito or Summerland, which surround Santa Barbara. They are cute, quaint, and full of personality. Drive through and maybe stop to walk around a bit!

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Have you been to Santa Barbara? What are your favorite things to eat, places to stay, or things to do? Comment below with more recommendations!

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travel guide to santa barbara

Thank you to Visit Santa Barbara, Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, Ganna Walska Lotusland, and Taste Santa Barbara Food Tours for providing various services and/or accommodations during my visit to Santa Barbara. This post may include affiliate links, which comes at absolutely no cost to you. All proceeds go directly back into maintaining this website and making it better for you. All opinions are my own.


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