Planning a vacation can be difficult, especially if it is a family vacation and everyone wants to do something different. The trick is to find a place to visit that has something for everyone. Where is that place? You will find fun things for the whole family to see and do in Santa Barbara, California. From the first day of your vacation to the last, every day will be jam-packed with fun and adventure in sunny California.
Begin with a delicious breakfast at one of many excellent restaurants along the beach, or enjoy the ocean view while enjoying bacon and eggs (or any other meal you like) at Stearns Wharf. That is just the beginning of your awesome family vacation. Here are some of the best things to do in Santa Barbara California.
Table of Contents
Year-Round Vacation Fun
One of the great things about Santa Barbara is that there are loads of fun things to see and do, no matter what time of the year you are traveling. Throughout the year, you and your family can enjoy such activities as horseback riding, hiking, whale watching, kayaking, windsurfing, boating, jet skiing, sport fishing, and a whole lot more.
If you plan on traveling during the summer, it is the best time of the year for water sports, such as swimming. In the fall, you can enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in California, and the temperatures are a bit cooler, so it is more comfortable. It is a bit colder to visit during the winter or spring, but prices for accommodations and many attractions are much lower because it isn’t the peak travel season, although technically, in Santa Barbara there is no “off” travel season.
Best things to do in Santa Barbara
With so many things to do in Santa Barbara, you will have a tough time deciding which things to see and do first. Some of the most popular attractions in the area include:
- Old Mission
- El Presidio State Historic Park
- Butterfly Beach
- State Street
- Wine tasting tours
- Zoological Gardens
Fun for the Kids
One of the toughest things about a family vacation is keeping the kids entertained. This won’t be a problem when you are vacationing in Santa Barbara. You will find loads of things that the kids will love, including:
Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens – Known as one of the most beautiful zoo’s in the world and where 500 different species can be seen in this magnificent park of 30 acres lush botanical gardens. Check out elephants, giraffes, sea lions, and a whole lot more. This is fun and educational all at the same time.
Kid’s World – This is an awesome playground that is community-designed and built. It’s located at Alameda Park and is one of the largest and most popular parks. There are also several conveniences like nearby restrooms and drop-in picnic tables etc. The biggest problem will be getting your kids to leave.
Sea Center – Located on Stearns Wharf, another attraction that is both fun and educational. Kids can crawl through a 1500 gallon tide pool tank and see marine life from various points of view. Besides that, kids can check out live displays, and even touch some sea creatures in the touch tanks.
Wine Tours for Grown-Ups
If you have a chance to get away for a little while without the kids, you may be interested in taking one of many wine tours in the area. Wine country is less than an hour away, and you can enjoy wine tasting at its finest. A couple of trips to check out are the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail and Wine Tours. You can learn more about the various tours by looking over the Santa Barbara Winery Guide.
The whole family will love playing on the beaches in and around Santa Barbara. Because of the lovely warm weather, you can enjoy the beaches nearly year-round, even while your friends back home are freezing in the snow during the middle of the winter. East Beach, located just east of Stearns Wharf, is a popular area, where you can enjoy picnics, beach volleyball, and of course, swimming. There is a beachside grill, a playground for the kids, and showers. Other beaches you will want to check out are:
West Beach – This is west of Stearns Wharf, and next to the Harbor. Although it’s an industrial beach and swimming is prohibited, you can rent kayaks and enjoy your paddling tours along the coast. There are some excellent restaurants across the street.
Leadbetter Beach – Just west of the Harbor is this family beach that has facilities for picnics, complete with barbecues. At the center of the beach is the Shoreline Beach Café, so you never have to leave the beach just because you are hungry.
Butterfly Beach – This is an ideal location for sunbathing, swimming and the chance to spot celebrities. There are no picnic or other facilities here, so you have to bring your lunch and water with you. If you arrive at low tide, you can enjoy a beach hike all the way to East Beach. Another thing you certainly must do is watching the beautiful sunset, as this beach faces to the West.
Free things to do in Santa Barbara
It is always nice to be able to travel on a budget, and your travel plans should include as many free activities as possible. You will find loads of things to see and do in Santa Barbara that won’t cost a single penny, such as:
Farmers Markets – There is no charge to visit the farmer’s markets in the area, and there are eight weekly markets for you to see. While getting in is free, you may find it hard to resist spending some money on hand-crafted items and tasty food treats.
Walking/Biking Tours – Enjoy a three-mile path on Cabrillo Boulevard that goes from the Andree Clark Bird Refuge (close to Montecito) to Leadbetter Beach. This path is made for biking and walking, so you will be able to really enjoy the scenery. Or, go on the self-guided, 12-mile Red Tile Walking Tour, where you have a downloadable podcast with host John O’Hurley.
Festivals – There are always festivals going on in the area, and many offer free admission. Visit the Santa Barbara city website to learn more about festivals going on when you are going to be in the area.
Old Mission – Visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara Rose Gardens and enjoy a peaceful and beautiful walk, where you will have a fantastic view of the region, or simply relax and have a family picnic near the rose gardens.
This is just a small sample of the many awesome things to see and do when you are vacationing in Santa Barbara, California. This will get you off to a good start in planning your vacation, and make sure that no one is bored during the trip, not even the kids.