Santa Barbara Tourist Attractions
If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Santa Barbara is surf, sun, and sand, you're certainly not alone. While the beaches are definitely beautiful and a must-see for anyone visiting the area, the California coastal town also has unlimited outdoor recreation, an eclectic wine country, a vivid arts scene, and much more. The combination of big city entertainment with a laidback beach town vibe has made the area a top travel destination with families and people of all ages. With all of Santa Barbara's tourist attractions, you will be able to create just the vacation experience you desire. If you could use a little help planning your itinerary, check out our list below for some of the top attractions in Santa Barbara.
Anyone who appreciates a beautiful display of flora shouldn't miss the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and its impressive showcase of native California plants. As one of only 30 gardens accredited as a living museum by the American Alliance of Museums, you can expect much more than a typical botanical habitat. Visitors can take advantage of all the tours, art exhibits, educational activities, special programs, and live entertainment that the botanic garden offers. Easily one of the most unique unique attractions in Santa Barbara, this 78-acre botanical garden has tons of beautiful nature exhibits, more than five miles of trails, and over 1,000 species of plants. And if you're a real a plant enthusiast you can even take some classes!
Probably one of the most popular Santa Barbara tourist attractions, this awesome wildlife refuge has just about all a nature-lover could ask for. While known primarily for it's birds, these 42-acre preserves are also the perfect spot for picnicking, hiking, biking, and so much more!
Montecito, California is a quiet coastal town tucked away in Santa Barbara County. The town is both intimate and glamorous, which is why many celebrities flock to live here in luxury, away from the hordes of fans that might surround them in Los Angeles. This mix of Southern California relaxation with a dash of Hollywood glam is what makes Montecito such a great vacation destination, and nowhere else is that combination better exemplified than at beautiful Butterfly Beach, California.
Translated into English, Casa del Herrero means "House of the Blacksmith." Although the name would suggest a humble abode, Casa del Herrero near Santa Barbara is in fact a stunning, 11-acre estate. The house was designed by architect George Washington Smith and construction was completed in 1925. The structure is an archetypal example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the United States. As such, it was given the honor of becoming a National Historic Landmark in 2009.
Many of the best times in our lives have been the ones where we took unexpected detours and discovered something new, fascinating, and so wonderful, we end up excited about the journey, not just the destination. The Cold Spring Canyon Arch Bridge is not really a destination type of place; it's the detour you take on your journey to other places. But if you miss out on seeing this majestic Santa Barbara bridge, you will probably regret it! Designed to make the trip from Santa Ynez Valley to Santa Barbara quicker and easier, it's worth taking the time to drive down the old stagecoach trail and view it from below, and then you can drive over the bridge on the way back to your Paradise Retreats vacation rental!
Since 1990, they are supremely devoted to local, contemporary landscape artists of the Santa Barbara County area. The Easton Gallery celebrates artists that see the gorgeous scenery of the area each day and interpret it for themselves. Each artist puts their individual perspective into their paintings, making each exhibit a new delight.
Southern California is perhaps most known for its cultural influences from Spain and Latin America. However, tucked away in the town of Solvang is a testament to another rich cultural influence from an unexpected source: Denmark. The Elverhøj Museum of History and Art is a unique museum devoted to the contributions of Danish-Americans to the town of Solvang, and is one of the few museums outside of Denmark to celebrate Danish culture.
Another area of artsy fun is known as the Funk Zone. Santa Barbara's art community is a large one that continues to grow larger each year, and this 10-block area is home to a variety of shops, galleries, restaurants, and wineries for your viewing and tasting pleasures! You can explore this region a hundred different times and come up with something new every single visit—it's like magic! We at Paradise Retreats can often be found scrutinizing the shelves of our favorite gallery or enjoying a glass of wine with our meal at one of the many funky and delicious eateries that make their home in this region, and we recommend you try it too!
The California lifestyle involves spending a great deal of time outside. When you have weather as great as ours, how could you not want to be outside basking in it as much as possible? And with Gaviota State Park basically located right next door, it should be no big surprise that a great deal of our outdoor time is spent exploring, playing, and enjoying the beauty of this special place. Hiking, biking, surfing, fishing and scuba diving, Gaviota State Park is the place to visit when you just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of real life!
The Hans Christian Andersen Museum is a small Solvang museum space located above the local bookshop, The Book Loft. The Book Loft is an independent bookstore and has been a staple of Solvang since 1970, specializing in local authors and Danish works. Upstairs resides the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which is open daily from 10am to 5pm. The museum offers tours and mini lectures, as well as an annual Andersen celebration each year on April 2nd, in celebration of the author's birthday.
Santa Barbara's Inspiration Point is the goal to be attained at the end of a beautiful hike on a busy trail. The view from the top of the small peak you climb is awe-inspiring and worth the effort!
This is historic theater has been making and breaking musicians since the 1920's and it's not planning on closing it's doors any time soon. In fact, it's never been closed at all. Even through renovations! If you're looking for some quality performances, you can't do much better.
This gigantic botanical garden is home to over 3,000 plants, indigenous and foreign alike. From the fern gardens, to the aloe gardens, there are certainly a lot of plants to see here!
Founded in 1804, it was the last mission founded in Southern California, and continues to be an active Catholic church. Whether your visit to Santa Ines is a religious or a historical one, be sure to make this mission in Solvang a must visit during your trip!
The Mission San Buenaventura is welcoming to visitors 7 days a week. In addition to the church and the beautiful gardens on site, there is also a museum and gift shop. The museum display artifacts from the Mission's history and tells the story of its founding. The gift shop offers a variety of Christian and Catholic devotional items, gifts, seasonal items, and collectibles. Their most popular items, however, relate to the Mission's founding and missionary history. Although you are more than welcome to wander the grounds of the San Buenaventura Mission on your own, they also offer daily guided tours for guests.
One of the more unique attractions in the Santa Barbara area is both tragic and fascinating: Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. This 13,000-square-foot home resides on almost 3,000 acres of land, and for a time was home to the man who never had the chance to be a child—the king of pop, Michael Jackson. In its heyday, the ranch was a zoo (and amusement park) that held a wide variety of animals, both wild and domesticated, including the infamous chimp, Bubbles. Today, the home is empty, the owner has long since passed, and the animals have new homes where they are taken care of and loved in much the same manner they had been at Neverland.
As weird as this sounds, one of the best ways to learn the history of any town you may be visiting is to spend some time in jail! Of course, we aren't trying to get you in trouble when we say this; we just mean a tour of the town's first jail is fun, informative, and potentially creepy—many old jails are haunted by the ghosts of former tenants! Ojai Jail, which is currently located in the Cold Spring Canyon Tavern near Santa Barbara, CA was once an impenetrable fortress in the town of Ojai. Today, when you visit the tavern, you have an opportunity to experience what life in the "big house" used to be like!
Any art lover, whether casual or devoted, will enjoy an afternoon walking through the current exhibition or attending a lecture. This museum is a great example of some of the best art that Montecito has to offer and is certainly a must-visit!
A trip to a local souvenir shop is a staple of any successful vacation. Who wouldn't want a little reminder of their getaway to take home with them? However, an unexpected gem is tucked away in Summerland, California that truly takes the gift shop to the next level. The Sacred Space is more than just a place to pick up a trinket from your trip to the California coast, it is a spiritual experience.
The natural beauty of the landscape of Santa Barbara lends itself to being a magnet for people with an artistic bent, and the people of Santa Barbara are some of the most creative around! Never is that more obvious than in the exhibits available on the monthly Santa Barbara Art Walk, held the first Thursday of each month. If you have the flexibility to schedule your vacation for that time, we strongly recommend that you do it—and that you pack lightly with a large suitcase. We think you will find plenty of wares to bring back home with you just from this event alone!
We are awfully proud of our local artists and try to allow them the opportunity to show their wares as often as possible. You can visit the many shops and galleries located in our downtown area, participate in the Santa Barbara Art Walk the first Thursday of every month, or stroll the aisles of the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show held every Sunday throughout the year, and the occasional Saturday as well (Holiday weekends, we extend the show to Saturdays and Sundays!). Opening at 10 and ending at dusk, this show has been in existence since 1965. Created by artists and sponsored by the City Parks & Recreation Department, lazy Sunday afternoons spent here are amongst some of our favorite memories!
We aren't talking about an oversized soup bowl, nor are we talking about a college football event, we're talking about the single-handled best place to see concerts in Santa Barbara! The Santa Barbara Bowl is one of our older amphitheaters, first built in 1936. With renovations from 2000 to 2014, this musical venue has the best of both worlds: A combination history and state of the art electronics that guarantee the music performed here will be of the highest sound quality!
The Santa Barbara Harbor is a great place to catch a stunning view, savor a delicious meal, and spend the day participating in different activities that include kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, exploring the Maritime Museum, and whale watching. The harbor provides a myriad of things to do, ensuring that everyone you're with has a good time.
For more information on Santa Barbara's tourist attractions, the staff at Paradise Retreats is pleased to lend their knowledge of the local area.
People from all over the country have heard about the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and its unique exhibits and presentations of art from a variety of time periods and cultures. You are sure to be awed by the 27,000 works of art included in the museum's permanent collection, as well as the numerous activities and world-renowned exhibits that are constantly being brought in. Much of the focus is on European painting and sculpture, American, Asian and Classical art, and 20th century art and photography.
It's no secret here in the Paradise Retreats home office that we love Christmas. You won't find us complaining about Christmas music playing before Halloween or decorations put up before Thanksgiving; we could live Christmas 24/7/365.
As a matter of fact, the only other thing we love as much as Christmas is the beach! And wouldn't it be wonderful if somehow, we could combine our two loves and celebrate Christmas year-round at the beach? Well, it's not as farfetched as it sounds, believe it or not. Santa Claus Beach exists in Santa Barbara! And while it's not really a beach that celebrates Christmas, it is still a fabulous place to hang out—no matter what time of year it is!
The history of Serra Cross Park is closely tied with the founding of the Mission San Buenaventura. On Easter Sunday in 1782, a Spanish missionary named Father Junipero Serra founded the mission. Mission San Buenaventura was the 9th mission that he founded, and it was to be his last. After the founding of the mission, Father Serra walked to the beach south of the church, blessed the land, and erected a large wooden cross on the site. The cross helped mark the church and lead followers to the site. Although the original cross—and several crosses since then—have been destroyed by age and elements, a replacement is always made. Today, a gorgeous park surrounds the area and is a delight to both visitors and locals alike.
This shore-side park is great for families and dog-lovers alike. Here you'll find a ton of wonderful outdoor activities from dolphin watching to tidal pool spelunking. If you plan on bringing your furry little friend along, there's an awesome "no-leash" area that's sure to have them wagging their tails!
If you have a passion of motorcycles and find yourself in Solvang, California, then there is no better place to spend the afternoon than in the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum! Although official museum hours state that they are open on the weekends from 11am to 5pm, this Solvang motorcycle museum is also available to tour during the week by appointment. Admission is just $10 for adults and is free for children under 10 years old. The whole family will enjoy exploring the collection at the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum!
Every town has that one downtown street with all the best restaurants, shops, and things to do. Centrally located, it is usually the hub of everything wonderful in your town, and Santa Barbara is no exception; but of course, like everything else, we do it better! Santa Barbara's State Street is home to the historic and the beautiful, the delicious and divine, and is just one more in a long list of fun and exciting places to visit in our very special hometown!
Located on Santa Barbara's waterfront at the end of State Street, Stearns Wharf is a favored spot for both locals and tourists. There are numerous restaurant and shopping options to browse through, as well as the chance to hop on a yacht cruise or take a water taxi to the Sea Center for a look at some of the ocean's magnificent creatures. Strolling along the old wooden pier is free, and there is paid parking or street parking in close proximity.
For over 25 years, the Summerland Antique Collective has added to this rich reputation of California shopping by offering a high quality and wide variety of antique goods in the beautiful beachside town of Summerland. If you're looking for antiques near Santa Barbara, you simply have to stop in!
Summerland Winery produces wines from a variety of vineyards along the California coast, however they specialize in grapes grown in Santa Barbara County. They make a diverse range of wines, but they focus on small lot production, which allows them to keep quality high and makes their wines more exclusive than national brands. Many of their wines are award winning, and they are particularly known for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The Ventura Botanical Gardens began as a passion project of a group of local Ventura residents. Their vision of bringing to Ventura a world-class botanical garden first came to life in 2005. The Gardens are truly about preserving and showcasing local flora and fauna, educating the public, and creating a cultural centerpiece for the city. In October 2012, their vision finally came to life when the first trail of the Ventura Botanical Gardens, the Demonstration Trail, opened to the public.
When you visit the Promenade Park in Ventura, there is no shortage of fun things to do! Walk down the pier and enjoy cool ocean breezes. As you reach the end of the pier, you will be rewarded with a stunning view overlooking Pierpont Bay. On a clear day, the view stretches all the way out to the Channel Islands. As you head back towards the Ventura Promenade, stop and relax on one of the inviting benches, and strike up a conversation with one of the many fishermen that gather here.