Santa Barbara – California

“In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans.”
– Kahlil Gibran

Santa Barbara beach, California
Santa Barbara Beach, California

Known as the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara is located on California’s Central Coast. Its nestled between the Santa Ynez mountains and the Pacific Ocean, approximately 100 miles north of Los Angeles. Santa Barbara is one of California’s most popular resort destinations. Time to get away from it all? Think palm trees, sunny skies, beautiful sandy beaches, mountain views and miles of oceanfront walking and biking paths. Wish we were there now!

Fun Santa Barbara Attractions

This stretch of incredible coastline is famous for its spectacular beaches, historic waterfront, arts and culture, old missions and distinctive architecture. It’s also home to world-class restaurants, trendy shopping and scenic wine country. Santa Barbara County is home to more than 275 wineries and its bustling wine scene was famously portrayed in the Oscar-winning movie “Sideways” in 2004. Popular Santa Barbara and area attractions include:

  • Santa Barbara Zoo
    Located just minutes from the waterfront, Santa Barbara Zoo is considered one of America’s best small zoos. We had fun feeding the giraffes during our last visit there.
  • Lotusland
    For a truly magical experience, be sure to visit Lotusland, located near Montecito. Its exotic 37-acre botanical gardens are considered one of the ten best in the world.
  • Mission Santa Barbara
    The Old Mission Santa Barbara was founded in 1786 by the Spanish Franciscans. The church is famous for its art and architecture. Public and Private Docent-Guided Tours are available, as well as Self-Guided Tours so you can visit at your own pace. 
  • Outdoor Recreational Activities & Sports
    Beach Volleyball, Biking, Boating, Diving, Fishing, Golf, Hang-gliding, Hiking, Kayaking, Kiteboarding, Parasailing, Rock-climbing, Surfing, Tennis, and Whale-watching
  • State Street Promenade
    Santa Barbara’s downtown pedestrian mall spans multiple city blocks. The bustling area is filled with popular restaurants and bars. It’s a fun place to meet friends, hang out and people-watch.
  • Santa Ynez Valley
    Santa Ynez Valley is a popular wine region in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Wine Country. It’s located approximately 35 miles from the beaches of Santa Barbara, 125 miles up the coast from Los Angeles and 300 miles south of San Francisco. The scenic valley is home to world-class wineries and tasting rooms, the quaint Danish village of Solvang, the historic town of Los Olivos, the Santa Ynez “Chumash” Reservation and the luxurious Chumash Casino Resort & Spa.
  • Los Olvios
    Visit charming wine-tasting rooms, shops and restaurants in the historic town of Los Olivos, located about six miles north of Solvang. This is a good place to visit if you have a limited amount of time for wine-tasting. It’s only a few blocks long and features a condensed area of tasting rooms.
  • Solvang
    Solvang is a must-see destination when visiting Santa Barbara. The quaint Danish village has become a hot destination for wine lovers ever since several scenes from the  hit movie “Sideways” were filmed there. There’s a lot to see here in addition to the wine-tasting rooms, so be sure to allow plenty of time to visit the shops, restaurants, bakeries and museums.

Santa Barbara Shows, Festivals & Celebrations

A variety of fun festivals and celebrations take place in Santa Barbara every year. Here are a few of the city’s most popular events:

  • Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show 
    The Arts & Crafts Show takes place every Sunday year-round (and on Saturdays of major holiday weekends) along the beautiful beachfront of downtown Santa Barbara. Over 250 local resident artists display an eclectic selection of jewelry, paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography and unique gift items.
  • Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Festival & Parade
    Summer Solstice Festival & Parade features colorful floats, costumed dancers, live entertainment, arts & crafts, festival food, beer and wine garden, and fun children’s activities. The Parade draws over 100,000 people from around the world.
  • 4th of July Independence Day Celebration
    Santa Barbara’s annual Independence Day Celebration includes a fun 4th of July Parade, arts & crafts, live entertainment and a dazzling fireworks display.
  • Santa Barbara French Festival
    This fun festival is held during Bastille Day Weekend in Santa Barbara’s Oak Park. It’s the largest French celebration in the western U.S., drawing over 20,000 people every year.
  • Santa Barbara Beer Festival
    This gigantic beer festival takes place every October at Eilings Park. The festival features over 40 craft breweries, ciders and wineries.

Santa Barbara Wine Country

While not as touristy yet as Napa Valley and Sonoma, Santa Barbara Wine Country is one of California’s premier wine destinations, especially since the release of the highly-acclaimed 2004 indie hit movie “Sideways.” It was filmed on location in Santa Ynez Valley, a popular wine region in the heart of Santa Barbara Wine Country. The picturesque wine country is a great place to visit. Enjoy tasting acclaimed wines at over 250 world-class wineries and tasting rooms.

Santa Barbara Wineries

For “Sideways” movie fans, see below a few of the Santa Inez Valley wineries that Miles (Paul Giamati) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) visited during their Santa Barbara Wine Country road trip. Firestone Vineyard, the largest winery in the region, is extremely picturesque and well worth a visit. We also like Fess Parker Winery. It featured the spit-bucket scene in Sideways. Trivia buffs will remember Fess Parker (a former TV and movie celebrity) as portraying Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. We recommend you pick up a Sideways Map. It’s really helpful in navigating your way around the wineries and restaurants that were featured in the film. Maps are available at the Visitors Center in Santa Barbara (on State Street), downtown Solvang (on Copenhagen Street) or check with your Hotel Concierge.

Wineries visited on Santa Barbara Wine Country Road Trip (for “Sideways” movie fans)
  • Andrew Murray Vineyards
  • Fess Parker Winery
  • Firestone Vineyard
  • Foxen Winery
  • Kalyra Winery
  • Sanford Winery & Vineyards

Other popular Santa Barbara wineries include:

  • Alma Rosa Winery
  • Ampelo Vineyard and Cellars
  • Arthur Earl
  • Au Bon Climat Winery
  • Babcock Winery & Vineyards
  • Baehner Fournier Vineyards
  • Beckmen Vineyards
  • Bedford Winery
  • Blackjack Vineyards & Winery
  • Blair Fox Cellars
  • Brander Vineyard & Winery
  • Bridlewood Estate Winery
  • Cambria Estate Winery
  • Carhartt Vineyard
  • Carr Vineyards & Winery
  • Casa Cassara Winery & Vineyard
  • Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard
  • Demetria Estate
  • Dominion Tantara
  • Epiphany Cellars
  • Fiddlehead Cellars
  • Flying Goat Cellars
  • Foley Estates
  • Gainey Vineyard
  • Jaffur Wine Cellars
  • Ken Brown
  • Kenneth Volk Vineyards
  • Lafond Winery and Vineyards
  • Longoria

  • Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards
  • Lyons Peak Vineyards
  • Mosby Winery & Vineyard
  • Santa Barbara Winery
  • Shoestring Vineyards & Winery
  • Silver Wines
  • Stolpman Vineyards
  • Summerland Winery
  • Sunstone Vineyards & Winery
  • Thorne Rio Vista Vineyard
  • Tres Hermanas Vineyard & Winery
  • Verdad Wines
  • Wandering Dog Wine Bar
  • Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards

Book Santa Barbara Sightseeing Tours, Day Trips and Fun Things To Do

Book a Santa Barbara Vineyard to Table Taste Tour by Bike. Cycle through towns and vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley wine region. Enjoy two wine-tastings, an olive-oil tasting, and a picnic lunch at a winery. Take a Private Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara and spend time on the water. Choose from three different kayak rides with vistas of Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Book a Santa Barbara Electric Bike Tour. This small-group tour is limited to five people. Explore State Street and the historic Santa Barbara Mission. Hop aboard a Santa Barbara Trolley Tour and see the “American Riviera.” This fun 90-minute narrated tour takes you to the Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara Courthouse, Museum of Natural History, the Santa Barbara Mission and more. This family-friendly tour is a great way to see all of Santa Barbara’s famous hotspots.

Santa Barbara Tours 

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The Best Time To Visit Santa Barbara

Almost anytime is a good time to visit Santa Barbara. Its Mediterranean-like mild climate and plenty of California sunshine (it boasts 300 days of sunshine per year) makes it an ideal destination. Summer is peak season so expect the beaches to be crowded.