Family Things to do in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Attractions for the Family

It’s not hard to convince someone to visit Santa Barbara. Known as the American Riviera and only an hour and half north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, revered for its vacation-inspired atmosphere, beautiful beaches and countless sun-filled activities, sells itself. Blissfully bereft of traffic jams, honking horns and tall skyscrapers, Santa Barbara sounds like crashing waves and sits on a subtropical latitude framed by high-rising mountains.

A relaxing and idyllic Southern California beach community, Santa Barbara has it all: beaches, natural beauty, world-class resorts, fine dining and mellow beach cafes, art, upscale shopping and a look and feel that mirrors its multi-faceted history.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ocm7OGAgfZc

Known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara welcomes visitors with open arms, sandy beaches, beautiful weather, unbeatable restaurants, and a thriving nightlife. Whether you are in town on a romantic getaway, shopping extravaganza, family vacation, or corporate retreat, you can find what you are looking for and more. Use our guide to explore the best of Santa Barbara’s hotels, restaurants, attractions, and much more and discover why this is one of the USA’s top tourist destinations for movie stars and mortals alike.

Santa Barbara Zoo

500 Niños Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Walking into the Santa Barbara Zoo, visitors must cross the mini-train tracks — an immediate indication that there is a ton of family fun inside. The train, which runs around the perimeter and costs about $2 per ride, is just the starting point of a fun, educational day in the beautiful Santa Barbara outdoors.

When most people think of the Santa Barbara Zoo, only one thing immediately pops to mind: the giraffe with the crooked neck. The crook in her neck developed as she grew, causes her no pain, and makes the giraffe pen one of the most visited sites at the zoo — this giraffe is certainly photo worthy. However, visitors will find much more than a curious giraffe to whet their appetites at this zoo. The truth is that the Santa Barbara Zoo has been delighting SB’s families and visitors for almost 50 years.

Kids also get a big kick out of buying bags of food (about $1 per cup) and hand feeding the sheep in the barnyard. Those lucky enough can also sign up to feed the giraffes but schedules vary according to the needs of the animals so enthusiasts should check when they arrive. The pool exhibitions allow visitors to get up close and personal with graceful animals both above and below water. With over 500 species on hand, there is a lot to learn and explore.

While the zoo can be explored in a couple of hours, a visit could easily be stretched into a half or full day taking in the views of the ocean or the nearby bird sanctuary, lingering over tasty sandwiches and snacks, reading about all the animals, and learning about environmental safety and conservation. By using solar power, widely providing recycling, using reclaimed water, and more the zoo distinguishes itself as a great place to learn to protect the animals that we love to visit, as well as marvel over them.

Goleta Pier

Only 10 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara, North on Highway 101 exit UCSB/217. Turn off Sandspit Rd., which curves around to Goleta Beach and a restaurant cleverly named Beachside. During the week and especially on the weekends, this Santa Barbara pier is packed with fishing poles and locals trying to catch the elusive “keeper.”

Goleta Pier

Old Mission Santa Barbara

2201 Laguna St., Santa Barbara CA; Tel. 805.682.4713

Founded in 1786, the Santa Barbara Mission is the most historical site in Santa Barbara, still functining as a church for many locals. Self-guided tours are available daily from 9am-5pm, giving visitors a panoramic view of the city while surrouned by rose gardens and a large lawn. It is the only place in Santa Barbara that gives its visitors a real taste of Santa Barbara’s history from the Chumash Indians to today.

Santa Barbara Bowl

1122 N. Miplas St., Santa Barbara CA; Tel. 805.962.7411

The Santa Barbara Bowl is not your typical concert venue, but rather one special to Santa Barbara. Nestled next to a large hill, Santa Barbara Bowl is secluded and private and every seat is close to the stage. Booking small acts to big names, the SB Bowl attracts a large crowd. This open-air amphitheater, just a few minutes from downtown Santa Barbara, offers Santa Barbara visitors exceptional music under the stars and close to the artist.

Santa Barbara Piers

Santa Barbara boasts a number of fishing and sightseeing piers that draw locals and tourists alike. Since most everything in Santa Barbara is expensive, smart Santa Barbara visitors know that all they really need is sun, beach and a family of dolphins swimming by to really experience this Southern California Eden. Watch locals pull in halibut or take a long stroll to the end of the pier at sunset and enjoy panoramic views of Santa Barbara’s coastline.

State Street

State Street, Santa Barbara CA

State Street, the cosmopolitan lifeline of Santa Barbara, offers tourists and locals an innumerable amount of restaurants, bars and shopping, all of which flow towards the greatest Santa Barbara attraction of all, the Santa Barbara coastline. Vintage street lamps, red brick sidewalks, palm trees and Spanish Colonial architecture characterize the look of State Street, while the State Street nightlife scene ranges from hip and expensive bars to mellow blues venues. As for restaurants, State Street offers beer-battered fish and chips all the way to white linen California fusion cuisine, all on one easily navigable Santa Barbara strip.

Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf is in downtown Santa Barbara right next to the Harbor and West Beach. Aside from fishing and soaking in vistas, a Santa Barbara visitor can also can also visit any number of oceanic restaurants serving homemade clam chowder and other seafood specialties. Even go wine tasting, eat salt water taffy or get a palm reading from the indelible Madame Roshinka at this nautical Santa Barbara attraction.

The Harbor

At the foot of Santa Barbara’s main State Street lies the Harbor and its adjacent stretch of beach. Hundreds of commercial and recreational boats bob idly in the blue water and because Santa Barbara is all coastline, both storage of boats and water-related activities are common. If a walk along the water’s edge isn’t enough, Santa Barbara’s harbor offers a variety of activities such as kayaking and sportfishing to get the visitor off the land and into the Pacific.

Santa Barbara Festivals

Find out more about annual festivals and events in Santa Barbara, California. From the Old Spanish Days Celebration to the annual Summer Solstice Festival, Santa Barbarans will use any excuse to have a giant family-friendly party by the beach or in one of its many parks.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival

To honor and remember Santa Barbara’s former status as the world’s film capital (before Los Angeles took over), the annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival invites hundreds of filmmakers to Santa Barbara, California from late January to early February. The festival has film exhibitions, educational programs relating to new filmmaking techniques and celebrity tributes. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival always draws big names; past attendees have included Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey. Santa Barbara’s is a non-profit film festival.

Santa Barbara Wineries

Another popular activity is visiting the Santa Barbara wineries. There are tasting rooms right in town as well as the Santa Ynez Valley wine country to explore. Travel to nearby Santa Ynez and Los Olivos, sip the finest that Santa Barbara County has to offer, stroll the vineyards, enjoy lunch al fresco, and taste, taste, taste. Santa Barbara is a worldwide wine destination. Come and discover why.

Santa Barbara and its adjacent counties are home to around 200 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms. There are two main routes for exploring Santa Barbara’s wine country, each offering numerous wineries equipped with their own tasting rooms.

The Santa Ynez wine trail winds in and around Solvang and Los Olivos. This wine country route offers smaller wineries that are closer together. The Foxen Canyon trail offers grander, ranch-style wineries. Any tourist information booth in Santa Barbara offers a map with all the wineries and driving directions for getting there. But if finding and exploring Santa Barbara’s wine country alone is too confusing, guided tours are also available.

Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours

Tel. 805.965.6654
Take a guided jeep ride through the Santa Ynez valley, visit four different wineries and enjoy a complimentary picnic lunch and a rustic view of Santa Barbara for around $100 per person.

Winedventures

Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara CA; Tel. 805.965.9463
Departing from Stearns Wharf in downtown Santa Barbara at 9:45am, a small wine-colored bus takes passengers to four unique wineries and this wine country tour provides a gourmet lunch, discounts at the wineries and the all-important designated driver for $79 per person.

Santa Barbara Restaurant Guide

This is our guide to Santa Barbara’s upscale restaurants, hip cafes, and nighttime pubs and bars. From beachside bistros and decadent delicatessens to enlivening eateries and budget bites. Chow down after-surf grub with the locals and clink glasses with wine connoisseurs at some of the finest dining establishments in the US.

El Encanto Hotel

1900 Lasuen Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Gourmet Magazine calls the El Encanto Hotel restaurant “the most beautiful dining room in Santa Barbara.” The restaurant features a menu derived from the bounty of California’s land and shore.

Enterprise Fish Co. – Santa Barbara

225 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
The Enterprise Fish Co. restaurant in Santa Barbara operates in a century-old brick building, originally home to an industrial linen service for seaside hotels. While the Douglas fir floors, soaring ceilings, and glassed cupola have always been features of this historic structure, the sweeping arches facing State Street were added after much of the building crumbled during the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake.

Piatti – Montecito

516 San Ysidro Road, Montecito, CA 93108
Italian Casual Dining. Great food in comfortable surroundings remains Piatti’s trademark. Specialties include housemade pastas, wood fired pizzas and mesquite grilled meats. Seasonal ingredients keep the menu exciting throughout the year. The restaurant has a unique character and casual, rustic atmosphere. $$
Wine Cask – Santa Barbara

813 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Wine Cask is located in the heart of Santa Barbara’s historic El Paseo. Guests enter through a secluded garden courtyard in to a dramatic dining room complete with hand painted beamed ceilings and a baronial fireplace. Wine Cask is a premium food, spirit, and service provider with restaurants, wine sales, and catering.

Santa Barbara Hotels

It’s not hard to convince someone to visit Santa Barbara. Known as the American Riviera and only an hour and half north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, revered for its vacation-inspired atmosphere, beautiful beaches and countless sun-filled activities, sells itself. Blissfully bereft of traffic jams, honking horns and tall skyscrapers, Santa Barbara sounds like crashing waves and sits on a subtropical latitude framed by high-rising mountains.

A relaxing and idyllic Southern California beach community, Santa Barbara has it all: beaches, natural beauty, world-class resorts and coastal hotels, fine dining and mellow beach cafes, art, upscale shopping and a look and feel that mirrors its multi-faceted history. A magnet for Los Angeles locals and tourists from around the world, Santa Barbara’s hotels range from beach-bum motels to coastal resorts fit for celebrity weddings and retreats.

From stunning 5-star luxury hotels with amenities that would put even celebrities to shame, to budget choices within a stone’s throw of the sandy beaches, Santa Barbara has the perfect accommodation to suit everyone’s needs.

  • Hotel Santa Barbara
    533 State St., Santa Barbara CA 93101
  • Inn of the Spanish Garden
    915 Garden Street, Santa Barbara CA 93101
  • Pacifica Suites
    5490 Hollister Ave., Santa Barbara CA 93111

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