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7 Things to Do on Your Santa Barbara Day Trip

7 Things to Do on Your Santa Barbara Day Trip

Enjoy a relaxing and fun day in the gorgeous Central Coast city of Santa Barbara. Team


5 min read

April 26, 2023

Disclaimer: is not receiving any type of compensation for reviewing any of the products or services mentioned in this article.

Agreed. A Santa Barbara day trip is not enough to explore this all-time favorite California beach town. A coastline blazed with palm trees, horizons dotted with sailboats, and a sunny community with smiling faces, are the few things that represent this coastal town.

But whether you're planning to stay overnight, take a detour on your Highway 1 road trip, or explore options for a getaway to the city, Santa Barbara has plenty to offer.  Although the nearshore destination is known for its fun in the sun, historic missions, and coastal hikes, Santa Barbara's places to visit are endless. So arrange that neat road trip and soak up the city's brilliance and happy vibes where adventures await.

Best Time to Visit Santa Barbara

With perennial perfect weather, Santa Barbara is always a good idea.  Although it depends on what activities you’re looking to do, there are plenty of ways to go about your time here. Stunning attractions, the modern downtown architecture, its massive entertainment culture, and of course, the majestic beaches stretching across the county make it a lively touristic hotspot.

Seasonally, the city is always an inviting setting to be in, so no matter when you choose to visit, the odds will be forever in your favor. Summer is a great time to check in if you want to steer clear of students, but joining in the midst of November will have just the same effect; Warm water dips and amazing weather. With ample things to do in this setting, all you have to remember is to kick off your day early as possible.

There's no shortage of fun things to do in Santa Barbara.


Free Things to Do in Santa Barbara

Despite being home to celebrities, and maintaining a developed city status, a large portion of Santa Barbara sightseeing can even be done for free.

1. Grab a To-Go Breakfast From Jeanine’s Bakery 

Kick off your day with a proper breakfast from places that serve you the freshest produce in the city. Jeanine’s Bakery has been serving the Santa Barbara community for over 30 years, and is otherwise known as “Comfort Clubhouse”. As you enter the restaurant and grab their menu, you might want to go to the Griddle Section and order a Banana Kahlua French toast to-go. As you devour this thick-cut Challah bread dipped in spiced eggs, and topped with powdered sugar, you will find yourself at the gates of heaven.

2. Stroll the Stearn’s Wharf

With the tantalizing smell of the heavenly breakfast from Jeanine’s Bakery, you won’t hold long. Head over to Stearn’s Wharf, a famous city attraction, and take that recommended Santa Barbara boardwalk as you enjoy the sweet bite. 

Built in 1872, this place is the most touristy thing you can do while here. Carrying long-time California history, this place was once famous for having the longest deep-water wharf in the stretch of San Pedro and San Francisco. Take in the unbeatable and calming coastal views, while the busy boardwalk pulls you into this lovely city’s personality.

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The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum contains plenty of history to explore.

3. Check Out The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Whether you’re a local, a visitor, or a student at UCSB, this is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara. Although technically, the entrance is not free of charge, the general admission fee is extremely small especially compared to the line of marvels at the museum. Enjoy the nautical films projected at the Munger theater upstairs, and discover 13,000 years of relics and history that tell stories of their own. 


After an exciting educational morning, take a short trip from the harbor to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. If you’re doing Santa Barabara in one day, this national landmark is located in downtown Santa Barbara and is a must-see. Murials and prestigious tilework are half of the splendors that this place harbors. Feast your eyes on Spanish-colonial architecture from 1929, and explore the Hispanic heritage of this spectacle. From the Jail Entrance to the Garden and Anacapa Arches, even a quick exterior, the self-guided tour can blow you away. If you get the chance to enter, we highly recommend checking out the ornate wrought-iron chandeliers, as well as climbing to the four-faced clock tower to catch the uncanny city views.

Downtown Santa Barbara is a thriving area with many unique shops.


Places to See in Santa Barbara

It’s only fair to be confused about what to see in Santa Barbara first, when you're limited to a short trip. However, short weekend trips have a way to let you decompress and quickly slip right into the pure touristic spirit.


While you’re in the heart of the city soaking up history, take a little break to grab lunch. The State Street is a striking hotspot that portrays the character of Santa Barbara. For lunch, State & Fig is a simple, rustic Californian diner, serving an all-American cuisine. From the incredible Fig Burger, to the Po’Boy and Cuban sandwiches, the dinner serves drool–worthy platters with house-cut Kennebec potato chips on the side. After savoring this delectable meal, walk it off to the La Arcada Plaza shopping center, and continue to your car for a little drive and respite. 


With the belly full and the mind empty, continue the afternoon driving to the prestigious Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. A ten-minute drive from the eatery, this Bontanic Garden is 78 acres of a grove of Redwood trees, desert and tea gardens, a Japanese teahouse and the list goes on. Breathtaking views of Santa Ynez mountains will make your head spin as you stroll down the 5.5 mile path of this elegant property.

Soak in some sun at the Arroyo Burro Beach County Park.



As the sun approaches the horizon, your Santa Barbara day trip edges near its end. But before saying goodbye, head to Cliff Drive for a tub of frozen yogurt at The Lovin’ Spoonful. Get your berry, cherry or the plane white yogurt and crown it with the craziest toppings available. Smarties, jelly beans, and sprinkles are one way to go about it. Grab creamy delight, and drive straight to the Arroyo Burro Beach County Park for a coastal sunset hike. As the sky’s palette slowly changes and the horizon swallows the sun, enjoy exploring this popular half-hour Santa Barbara beach hike. 

With a nice day in Santa Barbara under your belt, it's time to say goodbye to this seaside paradise. As you head back to the car, take a Santa Barbara scenic drive to enjoy the majestic views as you bid adieu to this unique town.

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