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How To Spend The Best Weekend in Santa Barbara
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How To Spend The Best Weekend in Santa Barbara

Cheers to all the adventures you’re about to have on the best weekend getaway in Santa Barbara.

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6 min read

August 20, 2021

There are beautiful seaside escapes, and then there’s Santa Barbara, where the word “beautiful” just doesn’t do it justice. The breathtaking beaches and the majestic mountains feel as one, the golden sun shines even brighter, and the magical aura of the California Coast is accentuated by the warm energy of its eclectic communities. Romance or adventures, city skylines or verdant valleys—a weekend in Santa Barbara can be anything you like. 

Overwhelmed with the possibilities? Optimize your time with all the best things to do in Santa Barbara this weekend. We’ve covered all the things to see, eat, and try, as well as the best places to stay at and discover. Cheers to all the adventures you’re about to have on the best weekend getaway in Santa Barbara.

Exploring Santa Barbara doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag, especially when you can experience the wonders of the seaside haven wallet-free.

Day 1

Arriving

Your Santa Barbara weekend getaway starts the moment you arrive at the scenic Central Coast town. The enticing beaches, year-round sunshine, and expanse of red-tiled roofs greet you as you find yourself under the irresistible charm of the American Riviera.

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The first thing you want to do in Santa Barbara this weekend is sort out the accommodation. For a pampered seaside escape, you’ll love spending your nights at Rosewood Miramar Beach. The only five-star hotel on Southern California’s coast, this world-class resort offers a captivating atmosphere and top-notch amenities that’ll exceed your expectations. Another spectacular option is the Brisas Del Mar, Inn by the Beach. Offering a more intimate escape, this romantic Mediterranean-style villa is the more affordable option of the two, but it’s still an awesome place to stay, ranking high on all fronts.

If you’re more of a camping aficionado, you’ll also be able to find the accommodation of your dreams on a weekend in Santa Barbara. Just fifteen minutes north of Downtown Santa Barbara, El Capitan Canyon is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, offering an elevated coastal glamping experience like no other. Choose between tents, yurts, or cedar cabins, and enjoy having all of Santa Barbara’s best attractions within your reach as you unwind at El Capitan Canyon. A romantic getaway in Santa Barbara is totally possible without splurging on an expensive seaside resort. 

With so many opportunities to make your Santa Barbara weekend getaway an unforgettable trip, the postcards might have to wait.

Afternoon 

Once you’ve checked in and unpacked your luggage, get ready for the official commencement of your weekend in Santa Barbara with a hearty meal at the fan-favorite Santa Barbara Public Market. Sample a tempting selection of artisanal food and drinks from Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, American, and more cuisines—try not to slip into a self-inflicted food coma while you’re there.

With your hunger satiated and energy back up, it’s time to see what the rest of the downtown area is all about. The Red Tile Walking Tour consists of 17 stops and 22 structures, many of which have interesting historic backgrounds and cultural significance. Explore on foot and learn about museums, theaters, and hidden passageways, and take pictures to your heart’s content. By the end of this self-guided excursion, you’ll be a true Downtown Santa Barbara aficionado through and through, covering the area’s best landmarks and hidden gems.

Santa Barbara's Spanish heritage shines through the white-washed adobe buildings, red tile roofs, and hacienda-style design.

Evening

As the sun begins to set, make your way to Stearns Wharf for the best coastal sunset views in town. Built in 1872, this is California’s oldest operating wooden pier and a definite must-see on a weekend in Santa Barbara. Stroll along the pier and catch the last glimpses of the sun setting over the water’s edge. Later, spend the evening exploring everything the busy wharf has to offer. Pop into souvenir shops, dine at the restaurants, and consider touring the marine museum for an educational expedition. And to top it all off, make your way to the end of the pier, where you’ll see surfers catching waves, and if you’re lucky, dolphins frolicking in the waves.

Before heading back to your hotel or campsite, head to the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company at the very end of the wharf and enjoy the freshest seafood with ocean views. From finger foods to the creamiest seafood pasta ever, this casual eatery will have you understating its popularity with the first bite.

Cruise along Channel Drive, the dreamy bike path that leads you to Butterfly Beach; it’s the perfect place to breathe in the fresh ocean air.

Day 2

Morning 

It’s a new day on the American Riviera and that opens the possibility for a whole new set of exciting escapades. Start your day off early and catch the sun rising over Santa Barbara at the beautiful Butterfly Beach. The sands of this popular beach will likely be devoid of crowds during the early hours of the day, so you’ll get to enjoy its beauty all by yourself.

Not too late after sunrise, surfers and families will start coming to this beach for fun in the sun. Linger around for a while and bask in the sunshine before moving on to the next activity on your Santa Barbara weekend getaway itinerary. Rent a bike and get ready to tackle the popular Cabrillo Boulevard Bike Path. One of the coolest rides in SoCal, this quintessential American Riviera bike path extends from Leadbetter to Butterfly Beach. Since you’re already at Butterfly, pedal this trail in reverse. Along the way, you’ll have many cool stopping points to check out such as Chase Palm Park and East Beach.

With its grand double bell towers and lush gardens, Old Mission Santa Barbara is one of the city’s most picturesque landmarks.

Afternoon

After spending the morning splashing around at the beach and cycling under the sun, you’re bound to be hungry. So, next on the schedule is a delicious lunch at Barbareño. The rustic-chic restaurant draws inspiration from Santa Barbara’s Chumash Indian heritage and celebrates Central California today with its modern menu. Executive Chef Julian Martinez and Chef de Cuisine Preston Knox will seriously exceed your expectations at Barbareño—it’s a must-try in every sense.

For another cultural experience, head to Old Mission Santa Barbara after lunch. Known as the “Queen of Missions,” this historical landmark is arguably the most beautiful of all California missions, which is why you’ll see it on any getaway guide for a weekend in Santa Barbara. 

Later on, check out yet another one of the coolest architectural landmarks in town by heading over to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. The Spanish Colonial structure is a stunning local landmark with a red-tile roof and verdant gardens. If you have enough time, make sure to see the inside of the building as well for a peek into the history of the area. The Mural Room inside is a hidden gem filled with more than 4,000 square feet of artworks depicting Santa Barbara’s history—cool is an understatement. But if you’re in a time crunch, go straight to the top of the clock tower for panoramic views of the city and the nature beyond. 

P.S. if you’re traveling with your significant other, the clock tower is one of the most romantic places in town to pop the question, just so you know.

We'll never get over soaking up the miles of pristine beaches and the rolling hills of Santa Barbara in the majestic American Riviera.

Evening

Before you bid adieu to your awesome weekend in Santa Barbara, make one last stop at The Funk Zone. This former warehouse district is now a unique art, culture, and dining destination, as well as a magnet for tourists. 

Check out the colorful murals adorning the walkable 13-block area, take awesome photos for Instagram, visit the art galleries and museums you find interesting, and have one last delicious dinner before heading back to your hotel. You can easily lose track of time along the eclectic streets of the Funk Zone, so the more time you can allocate to exploring it, the better.

You won’t be ready to let go of this charming city by the end of the day. But don’t worry, many more possible weekends in Santa Barbara are on the horizon. 

Meanwhile, pick the most scenic route back home and feel like a tourist for a few more hours before slipping back into the routine of everyday life.

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