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13 Cool Things To Do In Santa Barbara

13 Cool Things To Do In Santa Barbara

With hipster neighborhoods like the Funk Zone, plenty of new cool things to do in Santa Barbara have surfaced; so what are you waiting for?


5 min read

August 21, 2021

When it comes to an escape to the American Riviera, the real question remains “How soon can you get here?” The sunny parks, red-tile roofs, farm-to-fork eateries, and dreamy beachside resorts—they’re all calling your name. And with up-and-coming hipster neighborhoods like the Funk Zone, plenty of new cool things to do in Santa Barbara have surfaced; so what are you waiting for?

Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara With The Family 

Uniquely nestled in nature, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is located along Mission Creek in the Mission Canyon area.

1. Pay A visit to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Begin your American Riviera getaway by taking your kids to one of the coolest spots in Santa Barbara. The oak-studded Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is the only place where you can gaze up at a 72-foot blue whale skeleton, marvel at a grizzly bear, and educate yourself on the Chumash Indians at the same time. If you're visiting during the summer, you can see the popular Butterflies Alive! exhibit, where clouds of these winged creatures flutter freely above your head—talk about a photo op.

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2. Climb a Magic Castle at Kid's World in Alameda Park

Kid's World in Alameda Park is perfect for the young and the young at heart. There's a magic castle waiting for your children to clamber through filled with all sorts of bridges, tunnels, and towers. And as for you, the 8,000 square feet of outdoor space is tailor-fit for meandering, unwinding by the tranquil goldfish ponds, and getting lost in the sensory gardens. As far as cool things to do in Santa Barbara go, this one’s a total hit.

Helena Avenue Bakery offers organic breads, handmade seasonal pastries made from scratch, and a wide variety of gourmet breakfast and lunch items.

3. Try Pastries at Helena Avenue Bakery

Sweet tooths, rejoice! There's a gem in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone for you to check out. Helena Avenue Bakery boasts artisan delights and pastries that really capture what the bounty of the Central Coast tastes like. They're handmade too, so you know you're getting that extra-delicious flavor.

4. Take a Kayak Tour in the Channel Islands 

Renowned as 'the Galapagos Islands of North America', the Channel Islands are too good to be missed. The amount of plants and animals inhabiting this wonderland is astounding, with a few actually being unique to the landscape. And what better way to explore the area than by kayaking in its inviting waters. Santa Barbara Adventure Company is a popular option but tours sell out fast, so hurry up and reserve your spots while you still can.

5. Find the Moreton Bay Fig Tree

Consider yourself an amateur tree-surgeon? Well, head on down to Santa Barbara's Amtrak station to find the Moreton Bay Fig Tree—the largest Ficus macrophylla in the whole United States. There's a plaque at the base that tells the origin story of this magnificent giant. And if you’re worried about the directions from the Amtrak station, don’t be; the tree’s so huge it’s literally going to be the first thing you notice.

6. Walk on the Wild Side at the Santa Barbara Zoo

Perched on a beautiful hilltop overlooking the sea, the Santa Barbara Zoo is hands-down one of the best places to take your kids. For such a quaint town, the zoo's collection of critters is incredible—around 146 species, elaborate exhibits, and a handful of train tours. Hand-feed giraffes, meet face-to-face with western lowland gorillas, and marvel at the playful otters; this is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara.

7. Take a Santa Barbara Trolley Tour

When visiting Santa Barbara, why waste time with parking hassles? Hop on a narrated trolley tour instead. Jump on and off throughout the day and cover your bases with a visit to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, Santa Barbara Zoo, Museum of Natural History, Stearns Wharf, and more. This is basically the most efficient way to tick as many items off your itinerary as possible—and who knows, you might even come across lesser-known gems on your way.

Fun Things To Do in Santa Barbara With Friends

8. Unleash Your Inner Creative at MOXI

Housed in a pristine Spanish-style building, MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation invites curious minds to their new favorite destination. Learn all about 3D in the innovation lab, launch an air rocket at Fantastic Forces, conduct a test flight in the Wind Tunnel Workshop, or step inside a giant guitar and jam to your heart's desire.

The best views are seen from two wheels. Rain or shine, it’s riding time. What are you waiting for?

9. Bike Along the Coastline

A bike ride along the sparkling coastline with palm trees as your guide? Sign us up. Wheel Fun Rentals is usually who you turn to for—they have the largest selection of bikes in California. Find them a block from the beach in the Funk Zone, hop on a bike, and relish in the hues rolling in from the majestic Santa Ynez Mountains.

10. Have Lunch at Brophy Bros

When hunger strikes, retreat to the Brophy Bros, an iconic eatery and a staple among Santa Barbara must-visits. This seaside restaurant on the harbor currently offers patio dining and a delicious takeout menu, in case you want to grab something and walk around. And pro tip—their seafood is absolutely to-die-for.

11. Explore Kelp Forests 

If you and your friends are self-proclaimed thrill-seekers, then hit up Santa Barbara Adventure Company for an experience to remember. Paddle through the north coast of Santa Cruz Island on the Prisoners Harbor Tour—see if you can spot harbor seals, whales, Garibaldi, giant kelp, and other marine creatures floating about.

There's no place like the drive-in theater. Watching movie stars under the stars is always a hit.

12. Watch a Movie at the West Wind Drive-In

Do you remember the last time you and your friends went to a drive-in movie? Remedy the nostalgia you're probably feeling right now by paying a visit to the West Wind Drive-in—a movie theater playing all the classic movies you love so much. Cozy up in front of the big screen, munch on snacks, and enjoy a bit of wholesome entertainment with your friends.

13. Relax with a Rooftop Terrace Massage 

In need of a little rest and recuperation? Escape to the Ritz-Carlton Bacara for a much-needed break. Their open-air rooftop massages are like a godsend—you'll get a full-body, deep-tissue rubdown while overlooking the pool and enjoying the cool, salty sea breeze.

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