California Central Coast Travel Guide: Santa Barbara Points of Interest
What to do in Santa Barbara, California
by Joseph A. Sprince - Photography by Gerald B. Allen
The urbane and beautiful city of Santa Barbara is a highlight of the California Coast and is one of California's favorite vacation cities. The beautiful beaches and mild year-round weather make it ideal for outdoor recreation. Yet there is much more. Outstanding cultural and historic attractions, an excellent wine country, shopping, restaurants, and accommodations make Santa Barbara an excellent vacation destination.
[Photo, right: Stearns Wharf Creative Commons ShareAlike 1.0]
This section features points of interest for Santa Barbara County, including historic State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, popular Stearns Wharf, area parks and beaches, Santa Barbara Wine Country, a wide selection of attractions, and a list of popular accommodations.
State Street - Downtown Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara's downtown State Street
features boutique shops, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, art galleries, upscale shopping areas, and historic sites. The
Downtown Santa Barbara area is also a historic district featuring art galleries, cultural venues, museums, and more.
State Street offers about seven miles of fine dining and shopping. Just east of Carrillo Street are El Paseo, the city's first shopping center dating from the 1920s, on the north side of State Street and
Paseo Nuevo on the south side of the street. Juse West of Carrillo are Victoria and
La Arcada, a unique architectural gem with a very cool street-level courtyard and featuring many of the city's top restaurants and art galleries. Uptown where State Street runs back into US-101 are
La Cumbre and Five Points. A few miles east, the town of Montecito features Coast Village and Montecito Village. See below for restaurant suggestions.
A shuttle bus takes visitors between downtown and historic Stearns Wharf, the most visited attraction in Santa Barbara. The wharf which dates from 1872 offers harbor cruises, restaurants, and unusual specialty stores above the water, even wine tasting. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has its Ty Warner Sea Center on the wharf. Open daily, it features hands-on exhibits and a 39-foot life-sized model of a Gray whale.
Santa Barbara Beaches
The Santa Barbara area offers numerous beautiful beaches. Largely south-facing, the beaches are sheltered from the prevailing west winds and offer exceptionally comfortable recreation. East Beach (the main center of activity) and West Beach are on either side of Stearns Wharf. Leadbetter Beach and Park is to the west of Santa Barbara Harbor. Arroyo Burro Beach is several miles west of the harbor and more secluded. All have numerous activities, amenities, and events.
Chase Palm Park, behind East Beach, features various events, and Sunday arts and crafts shows.
There are excellent paths for walking and biking especially in the central area around Stearns Wharf, East Beach, and West Beach. There are miles of well-marked off road bicycle paths throughout the area, as well as several places where bicycles may be rented. Read Bike Along the Santa Barbara Waterfront(Printable PDF file).
West of Santa Barbara and Goleta, the main route, US-101 hugs a very beautiful and undeveloped section of coast for about thirty miles. The coast features three outstanding state park units, El Capitan State Beach, Refugio State, and Gaviota State Park. All offer outstanding beach recreation and camping. Gaviota (whose entrance is a few miles north of the coast) also offers hiking and recration in the foothills behind the beach.
Wine in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara Wine Country offers some of California's finest wines with nearly 100 wineries and shops where you can taste, enjoy, and purchase a wide variety of wines. The heart of wine country is around the towns of Buellton and Solvang in northern Santa Barbara County. This area is reached in under an hour via the scenic coastal route, US-101 north. A slightly longer route via highway CA-154 through the mountains via scenic Lake Cachuma offers a very nice alternative. Wine country offers an excellent selection of inns and restaurants.
For those wishing to stay around Santa Barbara, the Urban Wine Trail offers about a dozen shops featuring local wines. Six shops are clustered within a few blocks walk of Stearns Wharf just north of Cabrillo Boulevard. One is on State Street and five are on Anacapa Street a couple blocks away. This is an excellent opportunity to sample wines without driving your car.
Cultural and Historic Venues
Santa Barbara Restaurants
Below are a few restaurant and bakery recommendations:
- Jeannine's Bakery, 15 East Figueroa St, Santa Barbara
- Anna's Bakery, 7018 Market Place Dr, Goleta
- Madam Lu, 3524 State St, Santa Barbara
- China Pavilion, 1202 Chapala St, Santa Barbara
- Lazy Acres Market and Deli, 302 Meigs Rd, Santa Barbara
- South Coast Deli, 1436 Chapala St, and at 10 E Carrillo St, Santa Barbara; 185 S. Patterson Ave, Goleta
- Fish Markets
- Santa Barbara Fishmarket, 117 Harbor Way # A, Santa Barbara
- Kanaloa Seafoods, 618 East Gutierrez St, Santa Barbara
- Indian Cuisine
- Flavor of India, 3026 State St, Santa Barbara
- Spice Avenue, 1027 State St, Santa Barbara
- Ca' Dario, 37 East Victoria St, Santa Barbara
- Pascucci, 729 State St, Santa Barbara
- Arigato Sushi Bar, 1225 State St, Santa Barbara
- Sushi Teri, 1013 Bath St, Santa Barbara
- Los Arroyos, 14 & 16 West Figueroa St, Santa Barbara
- Los Agaves, 600 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara
- Rusty's Pizza, 3731 State St/232 W. Carrillo St/414 N. Milpas St, Santa Barbara
- Giovanni's Pizza, 3020 State St and 1905 Cliff Drive, Santa Barbara; 6583 Pardall Rd, Goleta
- Holdren's Steaks & Seafood, 512 State St, Santa Barbara
- Chuck's of Hawaii, 3888 State St, Santa Barbara
- Thai Cuisine
- Your Place Restaurant, 22 N. Milpas St, Santa Barbara
- Your Choice Thai Restaurant, 3404 State St, Santa Barbara
- Vietnamese Cuisine
- Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant, 1230 A State St, Santa Barbara
- Noodle City, 5869 Hollister Ave, Goleta
From the The Downtown Organization of Santa Barbara:
Popular Santa Barbara Hotels
915 Garden Street, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101
Hotel Rating: AAA-4 Diamonds
Inn of the Spanish Garden is a luxury boutique hotel located in downtown Santa Barbara, California, just three blocks from State Street shopping and dining.
23 guest rooms/suites on 2 floors. Smoke free premises.
Outdoor Pool, fitness center, Complimentary breakfast, Complimentary newspaper, Free wireless internet.
1260 Channel Dr, Santa Barbara, CA, 93108
Hotel Rating: AAA-5 Diamonds
This Spanish Colonial-style luxury resort is located in Montecito, CA, directly on Butterfly Beach. The Santa Barbara Zoo is 1.5 miles from the Four Seasons Santa Barbara. Mission Santa Barbara is about 4 miles away.
207 units. 185 standard one-bedroom units, 22 one-bedroom suites on 2 floors. Smoke free premises.
2 Outdoor Heated Pools, 3 Hot Tubs, tennis courts, croquet lawn, putting green, full service spa, Wireless internet (fee), Parking (fee).
5490 Hollister Ave, Santa Barbara, CA, 93111
Hotel Rating: AAA-3 Diamonds
Situated in Santa Barbara, Pacifica Suites is close to Goleta Beach and University of California-Santa Barbara.
87 one-bedroom suites on 2 stories, Designated smoking area.
Heated Outdoor Pool and hot tub, use of nearby fitness center (discount), Complimentary breakfast, Free wireless internet.
Popular Santa Barbara Bed & Breakfast
1720 Bath Street, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101
Hotel Rating: AAA-3 Diamonds
Conveniently near the airport in Santa Barbara, Bath Street Inn is close to Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, Mission Santa Barbara, and Presidio Santa Barbara.
12 standard one-bedroom units on 3 stories (no elevator), some with kitchens and/or whirlpools. Smoke free premises.
Library, Video library, Complimentary breakfast, Free wireless internet.
36 W Valerio St, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101
Hotel Rating: AAA-3 Diamonds
Situated in Santa Barbara, Cheshire Cat Inn is in the historical district and close to Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, Mission Santa Barbara, and Presidio Santa Barbara.
17 units. 13 standard one-bedroom units, some with kitchens and/or whirlpools, 4 one-bedroom suites, with whirlpools on 2 stories (no elevator). Smoke free premises.
Spa tub, Video library, Complimentary breakfast, Free wireless internet.
121 East Arrellaga Street, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101
Hotel Rating: AAA-5 Diamonds
Situated in the heart of Santa Barbara, Simpson House Inn is close to Alice Keck Memorial Garden, Presidio Santa Barbara, and Mission Santa Barbara.
15 standard one-bedroom units on 2 stories (no elevator), Designated smoking area.
Use of nearby fitness center (discount), Video library, Complimentary breakfast, Complimentary newspaper, Free wireless internet.
Visit recommendations: You can spend a day or a week in the area. I especially like Stearns Wharf, the Ty Warner Sea Center, the beach areas around the wharf, window shopping and walking on downtown State Street, and Mission Santa Barbara. Plan to arrive early on weekends or in the summer as parking
can be difficult.
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