The Santa Barbara Travel Guide for Vacationers

Santa Barbara is one of my favorite places!  I know what you’re thinking…you’re from Santa Barbara, so that doesn’t count. To you, I ask, but have you been? There are so many places to visit here that even the locals love to go!  I have collected ALL of my favorite spots and put them here just for you!  So when you inevitably plan your vacation to our amazing city, reference this guide to help you plan your trip!

For the Family

MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation This interactive science museum is great for everyone, literally everyone!  The Moxi is three floors full of interactive exhibits, science installations, an exploration lab, and an innovation workshop space.  This museum encourages you to explore, make, and create while there.  As an added bonus for those with littles, Toddler Tuesdays are from 10-12 each Tuesday!  No field trips and exhibits are made more accessible to little ones! Click here for more info.

Kids' World at Alameda Park -  This park is a MUST for anyone visiting with children or is still a child at heart!  Kids’ World (an 8,000 sq ft playground) is just one of the amazing sections of this park!  Home to beautiful trees, amazing playgrounds, and a great spot to spend a morning in Santa Barbara. Click here for more info.

The Natural History Museum - Did you know that Santa Barbara has a Natural History Museum?  This museum has over a million specimens that cover everything from mammals to anthropology!  Learn about our area's natural history and then explore our area’s nature in the Museum's Backyard. Click here for more info.

The Sea Center on the wharf - This quaint and oh-so-fun stop will interest toddlers up to grandparents. With hands-on touch tanks and interactive exhibits, there's fun for everyone! Afterward, make sure to get a scoop of ice cream from McConnell's, just a block away on State Street. Click here for more information about The Sea Center.

The Santa Barbara Zoo - This 30-acre zoo has been referred to as one of the world’s most beautiful zoos!  Housing over 100 species of animals, the Santa Barbara Zoo is a quaint zoo with opportunities for animal encounters, train rides around the zoo, and even a stop in the kitchen to see what each animal is eating!  How cool is that! Click here for more info.

Rose Gardens - Want a relaxing after? Then, check out the Rose Gardens!  This park is perfect for a picnic and an afternoon of frisbee or reading! Click here for more info.  

Getting Outside

Wheel Fun Rentals - These surrey and electric bikes are the perfect way to make your way down Cabrillo Blvd!  This oceanfront road is full of shops, restaurants, and everything else our wharf has to offer! Click here for more info.

Land Shark Tours - Don’t feel like biking but still want to see the sights?  Then, the Land Shark Tours are just for you!  These amphibious vehicles show you the sights via land AND water! Click here for more info. 

Walking Food Tour - Experience all the best flavors Santa Barbara has to offer with Taste Santa Barbara Food Tours. The owner is a blast and the food is amazing! You get to see, feel and eat the best of downtown Santa Barara. You see the sites, hear the history, get (a little) exercise and fresh air, all while eating of course! Click here for more info.

Arroyo Burro (AKA Hendry's) Beach -  Arroyo Burro Beach is a must for those that are looking for a beach day while in Santa Barbara.  Grills, equestrian trails, swimming, surfing, restaurants, and of course, the option to catch a fish or two!  This is known as one of Santa Barbara's best-walking beaches and is dog friendly!  If you bring your furry friend with you, turn left. If not, turn right! Click here for more info.

Santa Barbara Hikes - Santa Barbara has so many wonderful trails for hikers of all sizes and abilities! Some of my favorites are at San Marcos Preserve, Ellwood Bluffs, Jesusita, Cold Springs and Hot Springs Trail.  A good hike is always fun, and there are a plethora of options for you. Check out my blog about Santa Barbara hikes here.

City of Goleta - Another great option for bike riders is the 102 cycle routes of Goleta!  There is something for everyone!  Short, long, serious riders, or just on a stroll, there is something just for you!  Regardless of which one you pick, the views are stunning!

Stearns Wharf - Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara is credited to be Santa Barbara’s main attraction!  The wharf has a variety of activities for you and your family!  Fishing, a sea center, restaurants, and of course shops!  Grab some ice cream and take a stroll down to the edge! Click here for more info.

Family Photos - Book your family photo session with me, of course! For all the reasons why you should book a photoshoot on your next family vacation, click here.

Coffee Shops

Handlebar Coffee - From cycling to coffee, this couple has transitioned from a life of competitive cycling to a life of roasting the best cups of coffee in the Santa Barbara area.  They have multiple locations and the best coffee in town! For more info, click here.

Dune Coffee - Julia and Todd’s love for serving coffee started in 2009 when they borrowed a friend's espresso machine!  Since then, they have opened four different locations around Santa Barbara!  They want their specialty coffee to be accessible, approachable, and fun! For more info, click here.

Dart Coffee -  Dart Coffee holds a special place in my heart.  Not only do they service craft-roasted, delicious coffee, but they also have the Yanonali Street Artist Fund.  A percentage of every bean sold will go to this fund that helps sustain artist studios in Santa Barbara!  Pretty awesome, right? Also, if you have a moment, check out the garden across the street! For more info, click here.


The Public Market -  The Santa Barbara Public Market is perfect for lunch (or casual dinner) when you can’t decide on the same thing!  There are so many options here, and there is something for everyone!  This food hall has an array of restaurants, seating inside and out, and Rori’s…the best ice cream I have ever had!

Rosewood Miramar Hotel - This historic property was recently rebuilt into a glamorous and lavish estate hotel. I don't know which is better, the amazing board walk views from right above the sand, the drinks, or the service?! It's really the whole experience of the highest-end hotel in Montecito and perfect for celebrating a special occasion! Click here for more info.

I could go on and on and on about the amazing food that Santa Barbara has to offer.  Instead of gushing on and on about the seriously so good options, I’m just going to share my favorites with you! When in Santa Barbara, you must check out;  Bettina Pizzeria, Sama Sama, Barbareno, Loquita, La Paloma, Eleven 14 Sports Bar, The Revere Room at The Rosewood Miramar! I’m sure I’m missing a thousand others, but these are a great start!

Other Options

Concerts - Santa Barbara also has many concerts throughout the year!  One of my favorite spots to catch a show is at the Santa Barbara Bowl!  If you know when you’re coming, you can do a quick search online to see who will be in town during your stay!

Wine Tasting - We also have several wineries in the area!  Regardless if you prefer the drys or the sweets, there is a place for you!  One of my personal favorites is in the Funk Zone!

Water Activities -  You can’t come to the coast of California and not go to the ocean, right?!  We have several spots for surfing, swimming, and paddle boarding!  Miramar Beach is still a personal favorite for me!

Entertainment - Again, pending on the time of year that you visit, there are several other options for entertainment!  You can catch a play or performance at the Lobero or the Granada.  Or catch a movie at the Arlington Theatre!

Family Friendly hikes - I dedicated a while blog post to Santa Barbara family friendly hikes, check it out here!

Regardless of when you come or for how long, there is something for everyone while staying in Santa Barbara!  I am so excited for you to visit my city, and I can’t wait to hear what your favorite part was! If you have any questions about my favorite spots or want to add a session to your trip, let me know! I’d love to meet you and hear all about your stay!