Beaches, mountains, vineyards, and culture, Santa Barbara has it all in a beautiful setting. With so much to do here, the only problem will be deciding what to do first. Here are a few of our favorite things to do in this great city.
Butterfly Beach is an idyllic place to sunbathe with a good book. If you’re a little more adventurous, grab a surfboard or a kayak to ride the waves. Take a short break from the beach and take a five-minute walk to Coast Village Road for restaurants and shops. The beach faces west making it a perfect spot to watch the sunset or you can pop across the street to grab a cocktail at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.
The Santa Barbara Scenic Drive is 25 miles of photo opportunities and fun stops. Park at Shoreline Park for views of the iconic coastline. If you visit from December to April you may see gray whales breaching as they migrate. Explore the grounds, church, and museum at Old Mission Santa Barbara. Across the street is the A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Garden with more than 1500 plants. As you drive through Montecito keep your eye out for celebrities that call the upscale residential area home. The loop drive starts and ends at the original Santa Barbara Visitor Center.
The Santa Barbara Channel is nutrient-rich making it ideal for migrating whales and creating year-round whale watching opportunities. From late November through April gray whales migrate south and then make the return trip north with newborn calves. Humpback and blue whales are frequently seen from late spring until early fall. Whales can be seen from the shore as you hike along the bluffs but boat tours give you the chance to see them up close. Sunset Kidd takes only 15 passengers at a time for a more serene experience. The 50-foot catamaran Double Dolphin is so silent that it glides alongside these majestic animals without disturbing them.
The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum was founded by the people who know the history best: fishermen, divers, and sailors. The museum boasts 8,000 square feet of exhibit space celebrating the Santa Barbara Channel, the people who live and play in those waters, and the animals that live there. New exhibits include 53 paintings chronicling the accomplishments of the US Navy, an interactive exhibit encouraging visitors to reflect via love letters to the sea, and an opportunity to learn about the Santa Cruz Acoustic Range Facility (SCARF).
Venture into the mountains to dine at a former stagecoach stop. Cold Spring Tavern is filled with history. The tavern acquired electricity in 1954 but gas lanterns are still used because of their warm glow. The bar in the front room was originally crafted for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. The brass rail in front of the bar was part the Santa Barbara trolley track. Today, the tavern serves traditional American fare that is always accompanied by their famous homemade molasses bread.