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How To Spend A Weekend In Santa Barbara – Be My Travel Muse


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Jennee Cravens



Welcome to Santa Barbara, the picturesque coastal town that offers the perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and relaxed charm. Located on the southern California coastline, Santa Barbara is known for its stunning beaches, Spanish Colonial architecture, and beautiful mountain views. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a wine lover, or a foodie, Santa Barbara has something for everyone.


With its mild climate and beautiful landscapes, Santa Barbara is an ideal destination for a weekend getaway. In this article, we will guide you through the best ways to spend a weekend in Santa Barbara, from exploring downtown and enjoying the beaches to discovering the wine country and indulging in its culinary delights.


Getting to Santa Barbara is easy, as it is conveniently located just 90 miles north of Los Angeles. You can choose to drive along the scenic Highway 1 or take a short flight to Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. Once you arrive, you will be greeted by the laid-back atmosphere and the welcoming spirit of the locals.


When it comes to accommodation, Santa Barbara offers a wide range of options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury beachfront resorts to cozy bed and breakfasts, there are plenty of choices to make your stay comfortable and memorable.


So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable weekend in Santa Barbara. Let’s explore the vibrant downtown, soak up the sun on the sandy beaches, taste the flavorful wines of the Santa Ynez Valley, and experience the lively nightlife. Santa Barbara awaits you with open arms!


Getting to Santa Barbara

Getting to Santa Barbara is a breeze, whether you’re traveling by car, plane, or train. Located on the southern California coastline, Santa Barbara is easily accessible from various major cities in the region.


If you prefer to drive, you can take the scenic route along Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. This coastal road offers breathtaking views of the ocean and winding cliffs as you make your way to Santa Barbara. From Los Angeles, it’s about a 2-hour drive, and from San Francisco, it’s approximately a 5-hour drive.


For those who prefer to fly, Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA) is served by several major airlines. It offers non-stop flights from cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle. From the airport, it’s just a short drive or taxi ride to downtown Santa Barbara.


If you’re looking for a more scenic and relaxed mode of transportation, you can hop on an Amtrak train and enjoy the coastal views along the way. The Pacific Surfliner route connects Santa Barbara to major cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego. The train station in Santa Barbara is conveniently located in downtown, making it easy to explore the city on foot or by bike.


Once you arrive in Santa Barbara, there are several options for getting around. The city has a well-developed public transportation system, including buses and shuttles that can take you to various attractions and neighborhoods. You can also rent a car if you prefer to have more flexibility and independence during your stay.


Another popular way to explore Santa Barbara is by bike. The city has a network of bike lanes and paths, making it easy and enjoyable to cycle around town. There are several bike rental shops where you can pick up a bicycle for a few hours or a full day.


Now that you know how to get to Santa Barbara, it’s time to start planning your trip. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing beach getaway or an adventurous outdoor experience, Santa Barbara is waiting to welcome you with its natural beauty and laid-back charm.


Where to Stay

When it comes to finding the perfect place to stay in Santa Barbara, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The city offers a range of accommodations to suit every budget and preference, from luxury beachfront resorts to cozy boutique hotels and charming bed and breakfasts.


If you’re looking for a luxurious and indulgent experience, consider staying at one of the upscale beachfront resorts in Santa Barbara. These resorts offer stunning ocean views, world-class amenities, and top-notch service. You can relax by the pool, pamper yourself at the spa, and dine at award-winning restaurants, all while enjoying the beauty of the California coast.


For a more intimate and charming stay, opt for one of the boutique hotels or bed and breakfasts in the downtown area. These accommodations often feature unique and stylish decor, personalized service, and a cozy atmosphere. You can immerse yourself in the local culture and enjoy the convenience of being close to shops, restaurants, and attractions.


If you’re traveling on a budget, Santa Barbara also has a range of affordable accommodations, including motels and budget-friendly hotels. While they may not offer the same level of luxury as the higher-end options, they provide a comfortable and convenient base for exploring the city without breaking the bank.


Another option for accommodation in Santa Barbara is vacation rentals. Renting a private home or apartment can be a great choice if you’re traveling with a group or looking for a more independent and home-like experience. There are plenty of vacation rental options available, ranging from cozy cottages to spacious beachfront houses.


No matter where you choose to stay in Santa Barbara, you can expect a warm welcome and attentive service. The city’s hospitality industry prides itself on providing excellent customer service and ensuring that guests have a memorable and enjoyable stay.


Now that you have an idea of the different types of accommodations available in Santa Barbara, it’s time to start planning your stay. Consider your budget, preferences, and location preferences to find the perfect place that will make your visit to Santa Barbara truly special.


Day 1: Exploring Downtown Santa Barbara

Your first day in Santa Barbara should be dedicated to exploring the vibrant downtown area. Known for its Spanish Colonial architecture, charming shops, and delicious eateries, downtown Santa Barbara offers a mix of cultural attractions and laid-back vibes.


Start your day with a visit to State Street, the main thoroughfare of downtown Santa Barbara. Take a leisurely stroll along the street, admiring the historical buildings and browsing through the unique boutiques and galleries. State Street is also home to many restaurants and cafes, so you can grab a delicious breakfast and fuel up for the day ahead.


As you continue walking down State Street, you’ll come across the beautiful Santa Barbara County Courthouse. This architectural gem features stunning Spanish-Moorish design and offers breathtaking views from its clock tower. Take a guided tour of the courthouse or simply explore the grounds and gardens at your own pace.


Next, make your way to the historic Stearns Wharf, located at the end of State Street. This iconic landmark is California’s oldest working wharf and offers panoramic views of the coastline. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the wooden planks, visit the shops and restaurants, and listen to the sounds of the crashing waves.


Immerse yourself in Santa Barbara’s rich history by visiting the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. Located on De la Guerra Plaza, this museum showcases the history and culture of the region through a collection of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits. Learn about the city’s early settlers and gain insights into the development of Santa Barbara over the years.


Take a break from exploring and recharge with a delicious lunch at one of the many eateries in downtown Santa Barbara. From gourmet sandwiches to fresh seafood to international cuisine, there is something to satisfy every palate. Don’t forget to try some local specialties, such as Santa Barbara-style tacos or a refreshing acai bowl.


In the afternoon, indulge in some shopping therapy along State Street and the nearby Paseo Nuevo shopping center. Browse through the trendy boutiques, designer shops, and local stores offering unique crafts and artwork. You’ll find everything from fashion and home decor to artisanal products and local souvenirs.


No visit to downtown Santa Barbara would be complete without exploring the Funk Zone. Located near the waterfront, this eclectic neighborhood is known for its art galleries, wine tasting rooms, and hip eateries. Spend some time exploring the galleries and sipping on local wines as you soak up the vibrant and creative atmosphere.


As the day comes to a close, treat yourself to a memorable dining experience at one of the downtown restaurants. From farm-to-table cuisine to international flavors, Santa Barbara’s dining scene offers something to please every palate. After dinner, you can enjoy a leisurely walk along the waterfront and take in the beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean.


With its charming streets, historical landmarks, and vibrant atmosphere, downtown Santa Barbara is the perfect place to start your weekend getaway. Immerse yourself in the city’s culture, indulge in delicious food, and soak up the unique ambiance of this coastal gem.


Day 2: Discovering the Stunning Beaches

On your second day in Santa Barbara, it’s time to soak up the sun and explore the stunning beaches that the city is famous for. With its pristine coastline and breathtaking views, Santa Barbara offers a variety of beaches to suit every preference.


Start your day by heading to East Beach, a popular spot for swimming, picnicking, and beach volleyball. With its wide sandy shores and beautiful palm trees, this beach provides the perfect backdrop for relaxation and fun in the sun. You can rent bikes, rollerblades, or a paddleboard from one of the rental shops nearby and enjoy some outdoor activities.


For a more secluded and serene beach experience, make your way to Butterfly Beach in Montecito. This picturesque beach is known for its stunning views, peaceful atmosphere, and occasional dolphin sightings. Take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline, enjoy a beach picnic, or simply bask in the beauty of the surroundings.


If you’re a nature lover and want to explore some unique coastal landscapes, visit Arroyo Burro Beach Park, also known as Hendry’s Beach. This beach offers more than just sunbathing and swimming; it also has hiking trails that lead to scenic viewpoints and a dog-friendly area where you can enjoy some quality time with your furry friend.


No visit to Santa Barbara’s beaches is complete without a stop at Leadbetter Beach. This local favorite is a hub for water sports enthusiasts and offers excellent conditions for surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can rent equipment and take a lesson from one of the local surf schools.


As the afternoon approaches, head to Shoreline Park to catch stunning panoramic views of the coastline. This expansive park features grassy areas, walking paths, and picnic spots overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You can relax on the grassy knolls, fly a kite, or simply enjoy the fresh ocean breeze.


After a day of beach hopping and enjoying the coastal beauty, make your way to Stearns Wharf once again to catch a breathtaking sunset. As the sun dips below the horizon, the sky lights up with vibrant colors, creating a truly memorable experience. You can end the day by indulging in a delicious seafood dinner at one of the restaurants on the wharf.


Santa Barbara’s stunning beaches offer the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure. Whether you prefer lounging on the sand, exploring hidden coves, or engaging in water sports, you’re sure to find a beach that suits your taste. So grab your beach essentials, lather on some sunscreen, and get ready for a day of beach bliss in Santa Barbara.


Day 3: Exploring the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country

On your third day in Santa Barbara, it’s time to indulge in a wine-filled adventure in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley wine country. Just a short drive from downtown Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Valley boasts picturesque vineyards, rolling hills, and charming wineries that are sure to captivate wine enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.


Start your day by driving to the quaint town of Los Olivos, known for its charming streets lined with boutique wineries and tasting rooms. Spend the morning exploring the different tasting rooms and sampling a variety of locally produced wines. From crisp Chardonnays to bold Cabernet Sauvignons, the Santa Ynez Valley offers a wide range of varietals to suit every palate.


After enjoying a wine tasting or two, take a break and savor a delicious lunch at one of the charming cafes or wine country restaurants in Los Olivos. Many establishments offer farm-to-table cuisine, perfectly paired with local wines, providing a true taste of the region.


In the afternoon, continue your wine journey by exploring the nearby towns of Solvang and Buellton. Solvang, known for its Danish-style architecture, offers a unique cultural experience, with its windmills, charming shops, and Danish bakeries. Visit the tasting rooms in Solvang and sample some of the region’s finest wines while immersing yourself in the town’s old-world European charm.


Make sure to visit the iconic Mosby Winery & Vineyard, known for its Italian varietals and unique winemaking techniques. Take a tour of the winery and gain insights into the wine production process, from vine to bottle. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor their renowned Sangiovese or their distinct grappa.


End your wine country exploration in Buellton, home to the famous Hitching Post II restaurant and winery. This establishment gained worldwide fame as the setting for the movie “Sideways.” Enjoy a wine tasting and indulge in a delicious meal inspired by the film, featuring local ingredients and perfectly paired wines.


As the day draws to a close, take a scenic drive through the Santa Ynez Valley, enjoying the idyllic landscapes and vineyards. The golden hues of the setting sun casting shadows on the rolling hills create a truly magical ambiance.


Remember to drink responsibly and designate a driver or consider booking a wine tour so that you can fully enjoy the wine tasting experience without worrying about transportation.


The Santa Ynez Valley wine country is a hidden gem that offers a delightful blend of exquisite wines, stunning vistas, and small-town charm. Take advantage of your third day in Santa Barbara to explore this enchanting region and create lasting memories amidst the vineyards and wineries.


Where to Eat

When it comes to dining in Santa Barbara, you’ll be pleased to find a vibrant food scene that caters to a range of culinary preferences. From fresh seafood to farm-to-table cuisine to international flavors, Santa Barbara offers a variety of dining options to satisfy every palate.


If you’re a seafood lover, make sure to indulge in the fresh catch of the day at one of the seafood restaurants along the waterfront. From succulent lobster to grilled fish tacos, you’ll find a wide array of delicious seafood dishes to choose from. The harbor area is particularly known for its seafood establishments, many of which offer waterfront views to enhance the dining experience.


For those who prefer farm-to-table cuisine and locally sourced ingredients, Santa Barbara has a range of restaurants that prioritize sustainability and quality. Enjoy dishes made with seasonal produce and artisanal ingredients, showcasing the region’s bountiful agricultural offerings. Many restaurants in Santa Barbara even have their own gardens and work directly with local farmers to ensure the freshest ingredients.


If you’re in the mood for international flavors, Santa Barbara won’t disappoint. The city has an eclectic food scene that spans from Italian pasta joints to Mexican taquerias to Asian fusion restaurants. Explore the side streets and neighborhoods to discover hidden gems that serve a variety of global cuisines. Whether you’re craving sushi, pizza, or spicy curry, you’ll find a restaurant that satisfies your taste buds.


No visit to Santa Barbara is complete without trying some of the local specialties. From Santa Maria-style barbecue, featuring grilled tri-tip and pinquito beans, to delicious California-Mexican fusion dishes like Santa Barbara-style tacos, the region’s culinary heritage is worth exploring. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of local wine or craft beer for a truly authentic Santa Barbara dining experience.


If you’re looking for a more casual dining experience, Santa Barbara has a range of options, including food trucks, casual cafes, and delis. Grab a delicious sandwich or salad to-go and enjoy a picnic at one of the local parks or beaches. Santa Barbara’s outdoor dining areas and picnic spots provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxed and enjoyable meal.


Vegetarian and vegan options are also plentiful in Santa Barbara, with many restaurants offering plant-based menus or accommodating dietary restrictions. From vegetarian-friendly cafes to vegan pizza joints, you can indulge in delicious and healthy dishes that cater to your dietary preferences.


With its diverse culinary offerings and commitment to quality and sustainability, Santa Barbara is a food lover’s paradise. From casual bites to fine dining experiences, you’ll have no shortage of options to tantalize your taste buds during your visit to this coastal gem.


Shopping in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a shopper’s paradise, offering a mix of unique boutiques, high-end fashion stores, artisanal markets, and local shops selling one-of-a-kind treasures. Whether you’re looking for designer clothing, handcrafted jewelry, or locally made souvenirs, Santa Barbara has something for every shopper.


State Street, the main thoroughfare of downtown Santa Barbara, is a shopper’s haven lined with a variety of stores and boutiques. Here, you’ll find both well-known national brands and local shops, offering a diverse range of clothing, accessories, and home decor. Take your time to explore the different stores and discover hidden gems as you stroll along the lively shopping district.


If you’re a fashion enthusiast, the Paseo Nuevo shopping center is a must-visit destination. Located in downtown Santa Barbara, this open-air shopping center features a mix of high-end fashion brands, specialty stores, and popular retailers. From luxury clothing to designer accessories, you’ll find a wide range of options to suit your style and preferences.


If you’re interested in supporting local artisans and finding unique handmade items, head to the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show. Held every Sunday along Cabrillo Boulevard, this outdoor market showcases the work of local artists and craftsmen. Here, you’ll find an array of jewelry, ceramics, paintings, and other artistic creations that reflect the creativity and talent of the Santa Barbara community.


For a taste of Santa Barbara’s agricultural heritage, don’t miss the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market. With several locations throughout the city, these farmers markets offer a wide selection of locally grown produce, flowers, and artisanal food products. This is the perfect place to stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients to enjoy during your stay or to take home as a delicious souvenir.


If you’re looking for a unique shopping experience, visit the Funk Zone, a vibrant neighborhood just blocks away from the beach. This artsy district is home to art galleries, boutique wineries, local shops, and trendy stores. Browse through the gallery spaces, sample local wines, and shop for handmade crafts and artwork created by local artists.


For those in search of antiques and vintage finds, visit the Antique Center Mall on State Street. This multi-dealer antique mall offers a wide selection of collectibles, furniture, and vintage items. Spend some time exploring the aisles and hunting for hidden treasures that tell stories of the past.


From shopping centers to artisan markets, Santa Barbara offers plenty of opportunities to find unique items and enjoy a memorable shopping experience. Whether you’re looking for fashion, art, or local products, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye and captures the essence of Santa Barbara’s vibrant and creative spirit.


Outdoor Activities and Recreation

With its picturesque coastline, stunning mountains, and mild climate, Santa Barbara is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. From water sports to hiking trails to scenic bike rides, there are plenty of outdoor activities and recreational opportunities to keep you entertained during your visit.


Santa Barbara’s beaches are perfect for soaking up the sun and enjoying various water activities. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, you can catch some waves at popular surf spots such as Rincon Point and Campus Point. Stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and sailing are also popular water sports in the area. You can rent equipment from local shops and explore the beautiful coastline at your own pace.


If you prefer to stay on land, Santa Barbara offers a plethora of hiking trails with breathtaking views. The Douglas Family Preserve, known locally as the “Wilcox Property,” offers scenic coastal trails, perfect for a leisurely walk or a trail run. For a more challenging hike, head to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden or the nearby trails in the Los Padres National Forest, such as the Seven Falls Trail or the Inspiration Point Trail.


Cycling enthusiasts will appreciate the scenic bike paths and routes that Santa Barbara has to offer. The Cabrillo Bike Path, stretching along the waterfront, provides a picturesque ride with views of the ocean and public gardens. For a longer ride, consider cycling the Santa Ynez Bike Trail, which winds through picturesque vineyards, small towns, and rolling hills.


For nature lovers, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is a must-visit destination. This beautiful garden features over 1,000 species of native plants, winding trails, and peaceful picnic areas. Explore the various gardens, learn about the local flora and fauna, and take in the serenity of the natural surroundings.


Golf enthusiasts will be pleased to know that Santa Barbara offers several world-class golf courses. From the championship-level Sandpiper Golf Club, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean, to the scenic Glen Annie Golf Club nestled in the foothills, golfers of all skill levels can enjoy a round of golf against the backdrop of beautiful landscapes.


If you’re interested in wildlife encounters, a visit to the Santa Barbara Zoo is a must. This intimate zoo houses a variety of animals from around the world and offers educational programs for visitors of all ages. Explore the exhibits, attend animal feedings and talks, and even participate in behind-the-scenes experiences to learn more about the zoo’s conservation efforts.


With its abundance of outdoor activities and recreational opportunities, Santa Barbara invites you to connect with nature, embrace adventure, and make unforgettable memories in the great outdoors. Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping thrills or peaceful moments in nature, Santa Barbara has something for everyone to enjoy.


Nightlife in Santa Barbara

When the sun sets, Santa Barbara comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene that offers a variety of entertainment options. From lively bars and nightclubs to live music venues and cozy wine bars, there is something for everyone to enjoy after dark in Santa Barbara.


If you’re looking for a lively and energetic atmosphere, head to the Funk Zone, a neighborhood known for its trendy bars and art galleries. Here, you’ll find a range of hip establishments offering craft cocktails, local beers, and live music. Enjoy the vibrant ambiance as you mingle with locals and visitors alike, embracing the creative and laid-back spirit of the city.


Downtown Santa Barbara is another hotspot for nightlife, with its array of bars, clubs, and lounges. From sleek and modern venues to intimate wine bars, you’ll find plenty of options to socialize while sipping on handcrafted cocktails or enjoying a glass of local wine. Many establishments feature live music or DJs, creating a lively and energetic atmosphere that lasts well into the night.


If you’re a fan of live music, Santa Barbara offers a variety of venues that showcase talented local musicians and touring acts. The famous Santa Barbara Bowl, an outdoor amphitheater nestled in the hills, hosts concerts under the stars throughout the year. The historic Lobero Theatre and SOhO Restaurant & Music Club are also popular spots to catch live performances ranging from jazz and blues to rock and folk.


For a more relaxed and laid-back evening, enjoy the cozy ambiance of one of Santa Barbara’s wine bars. From small boutique tasting rooms in the Funk Zone to upscale wine bars downtown, you can indulge in a selection of locally produced wines and learn about the region’s winemaking heritage. Savor the flavors of Santa Barbara wines while engaging in conversation and embracing the sophisticated side of the city’s nightlife.


If you’re feeling lucky, try your hand at Chumash Casino Resort, located in nearby Santa Ynez. This resort offers a range of gaming options, including slot machines, table games, and poker tournaments. You can also enjoy live entertainment, dining experiences, and a relaxing spa to complete your evening.


Throughout the year, Santa Barbara hosts various cultural events and festivals that offer unique nighttime experiences. From art walks to food and wine festivals, you can immerse yourself in the local culture while enjoying live entertainment, local cuisine, and vibrant atmospheres.


As you venture out into Santa Barbara’s nightlife scene, remember to drink responsibly and plan for a safe way to return to your accommodation. Whether you’re seeking a lively party atmosphere, live music, or a more intimate setting, Santa Barbara’s nightlife has something to suit your preferences, ensuring that your evenings are as memorable as your days spent exploring this beautiful coastal city.



Santa Barbara is a destination that captivates visitors with its stunning beaches, picturesque landscapes, and vibrant culture. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, immersive cultural experiences, or simply a relaxing weekend getaway, Santa Barbara offers an array of activities and attractions to cater to every traveler’s interests and preferences.


From exploring the charming streets of downtown Santa Barbara to discovering the world-class wine country of the Santa Ynez Valley, each day in Santa Barbara offers a new and exciting experience. The city’s rich history, Spanish Colonial architecture, and diverse culinary scene add depth and flavor to your visit, while the abundance of outdoor activities and scenic beauty ensure that you can connect with nature and rejuvenate your soul.


Whether you spend your days lounging on the sandy beaches, exploring the art galleries in the Funk Zone, or hiking the breathtaking trails in the mountains, Santa Barbara provides a setting of natural beauty and cultural charm that will leave a lasting impression.


As you embark on your journey to Santa Barbara, savor the flavors of the local cuisine, indulge in wine tastings, and immerse yourself in the vibrant nightlife that the city has to offer. Take time to connect with the friendly locals, who exude the warmth and welcoming nature that Santa Barbara is known for.


Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or an extended stay, Santa Barbara will undoubtedly leave you with memories of stunning sunsets, delicious meals, and a sense of relaxation and rejuvenation. So, pack your bags and get ready to create unforgettable experiences in this coastal gem that truly embodies the essence of California’s laid-back yet sophisticated lifestyle.