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What to Do on a Day Trip to Santa Maria Valley
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What to Do on a Day Trip to Santa Maria Valley

Your adventures in Santa Maria Valley start now. Explore the different attractions and fun things to do in the valley.

Roubina Al Abashian

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5 min read

January 29, 2022

Welcome to Santa Maria Valley, the Barbecue Capital of California, where feasts take a whole new meaning. The gorgeous Central Coast spot is surrounded by lush rolling hills covered in vineyards and strawberry fields. We guarantee that once you try the iconic Santa Maria-style barbecue, you’ll never want to do anything else. However, this valley in California unpacks a lot more adventures than just food—there are plenty of other fun things to do in Santa Maria in between meals. Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know and every experience to have.

The agricultural areas of Santa Maria are some of the most productive, with primary crops including strawberries, celery, lettuce, peas, and more.

Everything You Need To Know About Santa Maria Valley

Before gaining traction for its barbecues, Santa Maria, CA was famous for having rich soil, which attracted farmers and settlers across the state. Settlers Rudolph Cook, John Thornburg, Isaac Fesler, and Isaac Miller built their homes at the corners of Broadway and Main Street, establishing a small city they called home. Soon enough, the area was known as the town of Grangerville. The name was then changed to Central City, and finally, to Santa Maria in 1885.

Wondering where Santa Maria, California is? This underrated place is actually the largest city in Santa Barbara County by population. Santa Maria’s population has been growing rapidly in the past few years. Once a booming agricultural site, the city is now a major tourist attraction on California’s Central Coast. Day trips from Santa Barbara to Santa Maria are pretty popular here—this is what you should do the next time you’re in the area.  

Fun Things To Do In Santa Maria

The Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum first opened its doors in 1996 in a small strip mall. Photo courtesy of Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum.

1. Pay a Visit to the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum

If you’re in Santa Maria with the kids, make sure to check out the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum. This favorite family-friendly attraction in California is all about satisfying your children’s curiosities. The kids get to explore the world around them through hands-on activities, programs, and exhibits. 

2. Attend a Play at the Pacific Conservatory Theatre

The Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA) is where art comes to life. From Broadway musicals to Shakespeare and comedy, you get to see all sorts of performances here. And if you’re an aspiring actor, join one of PCPA’s acting camps—after all, Hollywood’s not too far away.

3. Stroll along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail

One of the best ways to discover California’s Santa Maria Valley is by hiking the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. Starting at Los Olivos and ending in Santa Maria, the trail exposes you to the best vineyards and farms in the area—it’s not really a hike; we prefer calling it a lovely stroll.  

4. Go on a Tour of the Santa Maria Museum of Flight

Who doesn’t love visiting a good space museum in California? All your questions about aviation are answered at the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, where visitors learn about the industry’s history. The museum inspires future aviators in the region through events, exhibits, and programs, so don’t forget to bring the kids along. 

Los Flores Ranch Park is a 1778-acre open-space area in Santa Maria Valley that offers an array of outdoor activities to all visitors.

5. Bask in the glory of nature At Los Flores Ranch Park

Whether you want to spend time with your family, friends, partner, or even alone, you’ll find peace and quiet at Los Flores Ranch Park. Providing a refuge for wildlife, the park features several hiking trails, where you’ll encounter goats, donkeys, and more animals. And if you’d like to learn about land preservation and conservation, the park hosts educational programs for visitors. 

6. Visit the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum

It doesn’t matter if you’re a history buff or not, you’ll love checking out the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum. Here, you'll learn how the area rose to prominence. The artifacts, memorabilia, and photographs are displayed in chronological order—starting with the Chumash Indians—to make it easier to understand the history of Santa Maria Valley. There’s even a corner called “Four Men” dedicated to the founders of the city. 

Santa Maria Fairpark’s rich history began when the first Santa Maria Valley Fair was held in 1891. Photo courtesy of Santa Maria Fairpark.

7. Join The Tourists At Santa Maria Fairpark

Santa Maria Fairpark is where all the fun is. This is where the community gathers to enjoy everything from agriculture and commerce to tourism and aerospace-related fairs and events. While the majority of fairs take place during summer, you’ll find something fun going on any time of the year. 

8. Catch a Performance At the Santa Maria Civic Theatre

The Santa Maria Civic Theatre was the first in the area to offer ongoing live theater performances. Founded in 1959, the theater has produced more than 200 plays and performances since. With first-rate performances for locals and visitors, you’ll love doing this fun thing in Santa Maria.

9. Skate Away at Central Coast Sports Arena

Skating at Central Coast Sports Arena is never boring. Enjoy a night out with your friends showing off your skills to fun music. Or better yet, snap a few photos of your pals trying to stay on both feet. If you’re in town for a longer stay, the arena offers Hockey 101 classes for newbies—you never know, you just might have a hidden talent. 

Why would we want a burger if we can have steak instead? Life is too short to not have sizzlin' steak.

10. Dine At Shaw’s Steakhouse and Tavern

What’s a visit to Santa Maria if you’re not going to enjoy the local cuisine! Reserve a table at the local favorite Shaw’s Steakhouse and Tavern to indulge in deliciousness. You’ll have the best Santa Maria-style barbecues here—their tri-tips and beef ribs are heavenly, so make sure they’re the first things you order. 

11. Bring Your Inner Child Out at Boomers Santa Maria

There’s one more thing to do in Santa Maria before your day trip is over—scream at the top of your lungs at Boomers Santa Maria, one of the best amusement parks in California. Old-school arcade games, miniature golf courses, rock climbing walls, bumper boats, and so much more await you at this uber-cool spot. Race your friends on go-karts, show off your skills in the batting cage, and take a swing playing mini-golf; you’ll have the time of your life at this top attraction in California. 

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