Things to do in Santa Barbara Guaranteed to Make You Happy

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Bike leaning against a small wall with the beach and ocean in the background. Biking is one of the things to do in Santa Barbara.

The coastal town of Santa Barbara is known as the California Riviera, and for good reason. It has all of the amenities, attractions, and ambiance of a French or Italian beach town, without the long airplane ride! Because of its mild winter temperatures, visitors can enjoy a plethora of activities at any time of year. Let’s take a look at several of the things to do in Santa Barbara.


Price: Free

Why You’ll Love It:  If a quick trip to Denmark is your pleasure, head straight to Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley. Settled by Danish immigrants, the town celebrates its heritage with windmills, bakeries, and horse-drawn carriages.  And because it’s in the middle of Santa Barbara wine country, you can indulge in wines of every vintage and classification on virtually every corner. Check to see if there are any Harvest Hosts available in the area. PS – the classic wine lover’s movie “Sideways” was filmed all over this valley.

Address: 1639 Copenhagen Drive Solvang, CA 93463

What’s the Word: A recent review from Trip Advisor says, “It’s a beautiful town just a couple of hours drive from LA… but what an amazing place to be. When you get down and smell the air, you will have to remind yourself that you are not in Europe!! 

Santa Barbara Getaway Score: 9.5/10

Danish style buildings with a windmill in the background, this is Solvang, one of best things to do in Santa Barbara
Solvang Danish Town

Pea Soup Anderson’s

Price: Starting at $10

Why You’ll Love It:  Come for the pea soup, stay for the great entrees and atmosphere.  Pea Soup Anderson’s is built in the Dutch style, and the restaurant caters to all who enjoy a good home-cooked meal.  They also specialize in Danish pastries and have a small grocery space offering their name brand foods and ingredients. 

Address: 376 Avenue of the Flags Buellton, CA  93427

What’s the Word: A recent review on Yelp says, “I have been eating here whenever my travels take me up Highway 101 for over 40 years.  My father loved it, and I’ve introduced it to my husband and children–it’s just as much a treat for them to eat here as for me.  The pea soup recipe has been tried and true, and they haven’t messed with it!  Always worth getting at least a bowl.”

Santa Barbara Getaway Score: 9.2/10

State Street

Price: Free

Why You’ll Love It:   There is something for everyone along State Street, from boutique shopping to taquerias, exquisite hotels and patio dining.  Unique local stores and restaurants thrive in this open-air, outdoor environment.

Address: State St and Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

What’s the Word: A recent review from Yelp says, “For 1 mile from the ocean/pier, more than 300 shops and stores and 160 restaurants should fill your need for adventure.”

Santa Barbara Getaway Score: 9.8/10

Santa Ynez Valley Wine Tour

Price: $139

Why You’ll Love It: What’s not to like about a door-to-door shuttle pickup at your hotel, a leisurely tasting tour of 3 local wineries, lunch in the valley, and time to explore your surroundings?  It’s all wrapped up with a wine connoisseur who will guide you through Central California’s wine country! 

Address: 34 E Haley St. Santa Barbara, CA 93101

What’s the Word: A recent review from Trip Advisor says, “What an amazing tour. Dustin, our tour guide, had loads of information about the area and was extremely helpful and friendly The winery’s and wines were really wonderful.”

Santa Barbara Getaway Score: 9.8/10

Vineyard with yellowish leaves and mountains in the background. Wine tasting is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara.

Stearns Wharf

Price: Free

Why You’ll Love It:  With the best views in town, Stearns Wharf also harbors great restaurants, unique shopping venues and a Sea Center that highlights local marine life.  You can take a water taxi, grab a bite to eat, do a bit of shopping and bait your fishing pole for dinner’s catch, while never leaving the wharf!

Address: 217 Stearns Wharf Santa Barbara, CA  93101

What’s the Word: A recent review from Trip Advisor states, “This is a must see when you are in Santa Barbara. The wharf has restaurants that serve delicious seafood, with various shops, and an Ocean Museum. We have seen dolphins, harbor seals, and other marine life from the wharf.”

Santa Barbara Getaway Score: 9.7/10

MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

Price:  Starting at $12

Why You’ll Love It:  With mass appeal for kids, adults, too will find MOXI an amazing experience of interactive play, learning and science.  This museum of exploration has exhibits that challenge visitors to think outside of the box and put their own creativity to the test.  There are scientific experiments, musical instruments to study and technology the encourages exploration by every age group.

Address: 125 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA  93101

What’s the Word: A recent review from Yelp says, “This place is awesome! There’s so much for the kids to do and yet they practically have to drag me away! Definitely can spend hours here. The views from the rooftop are amazing also.”

Santa Barbara Getaway Score: 10/10


Price: $25 to $50

Why You’ll Love It: If botanicals are your thing, Lotusland will certainly not disappoint.  Located on a private estate in Montecito, the vast gardens host more than 3,000 plants from around the world.  It’s a quiet respite on 3,700 acres as you wander among this amazing museum to Mother Nature.

Address: 695 Ashley Rd, Montecito, CA 93108

What’s the Word:  A recent review from Yelp states “This whimsical botanical garden in Montecito is a must see. Ganna Walska created this flora version of Disneyland over the course of several decades which was largely financed by marrying well six times over. The palm, cactus, lotus, Japanese, rose, topiary and succulent gardens which anchor the estate are an absolute delight to behold.”

Santa Barbara Getaway Score:  9.2/10

Spanish style architecture building with cacti around out front
Outside of Lotusland

El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Site

Price: $5

Why You’ll Love It:  California’s history as a Spanish acquisition is represented well at this, the last fortress built in Upper California in 1782. Envision early life in the Golden State behind these adobe walls, then walk outside the Presidio for present day views, as it is located right downtown.

Address: 123 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, CA  93101

What’s the Word:  A recent review in Trip Advisor says, “A great place to see history of California and the town of Santa Barbara. The 1st home in CA was in this Presidio. Great place to walk around, soak up culture and history and then eat across the street at a local Mexican restaurant.”

Santa Barbara Getaway Score:  9.5/10

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