Santa Barbara
Best Things to Do

Top Attractions & Activities in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is quintessential California; an almost impossibly perfect combination of beaches, Spanish architecture with red-tiled roofs, ideal climate and a thriving wine industry. The city of Santa Barbara is defined by its natural borders: the Los Padres Mountains form one boundary and the Pacific Ocean, the other. What is left is a reasonably small shelf of land kissed by the sun and blessed by its location.

The sleepy town of Goleta is located up the coast from Santa Barbara proper, and Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria are a short drive down Highway 1. Its northern neighbor is wine country: Solvang, Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, Buellton, Los Olivos and Lompoc. The heart of Santa Barbara is State Street, a bustling main drag that runs through downtown before ending at Stearns Wharf. It dissects a 12-square block of historic sites, restaurants, bars and art galleries all wrapped up in a pretty Spanish package.

Founded by the Spanish in 1786 as a mission site and fort, the city was rebuilt and reimagined in 1925 following an earthquake. Home to a major university, high-tech businesses and the cultural offerings of a major metropolis, Santa Barbara, with only 95,000 inhabitants, is the rare place that actually deserves its moniker: "The American Riviera."

Everywhere you look, Santa Barbara delights the senses and surprises the eye. The area is among those rare places where the elements of nature and culture come together — and the result is paradise.

If you need help finding the best accommodations in Santa Barbara, take a look at our hotel reviews.