Life’s too short to let vacations put you to sleep. Each day, the sun rises for a reason. Be front and center when it does.
Think you can make the most of your vacation to Santa Barbara? From outdoor adventure to wellness, arts and culture to food and libations, we invite you to revive and miss nothing with 72 hours of adventure and one of a kind experiences.
Let’s get started.
As the morning sun is cresting over the Pacific, views are clear and the air is crisp. Avid cyclists take advantage of day break, working their way to the top of Gibraltar, one of the most iconic ascents in Southern California. Winding nine miles up with over 3,000 feet of climbing, locals refer to this as the Alpe d’ Huez of Santa Barbara – for good reason. Gibraltar is a feather in the helmet of any experienced cyclist. (Fact: Because of its beauty and level of difficulty, Gibraltar was the host location for the Stage 3 Finish of the Amgen Tour of California in 2016.)
And since it’s not easy, soothe tired muscles with a well-earned dip afterwards in the cool Pacific ocean. Once you’ve made your descent back into town, dive in at East Beach, along Cabrillo Boulevard, for a refreshing conclusion to your morning.
Once you’re ready to refuel, head to the Presidio Neighborhood for a morning coffee and hearty breakfast. After parking your bike, relish in your morning achievements with a cup of coffee, fittingly named the “Gibraltar” at Handlebar Coffee. Once you’ve savored every last sip, take a few short steps around to C’est Cheese, the perfect mix of casual ambiance and gourmet flavors. This bakery, café, cheese, and wine shop is one you won’t want to miss.
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Since a quick dip in the calm waters of the Pacific is hardly enough, consider spending your Santa Barbara afternoon exploring via sailboat. Better yet, a sunset cruise is an excellent way to experience Santa Barbara’s coastline, and can easily be paired with wine tasting or beer tasting. Watch for whales and dolphins as both frequent the Santa Barbara Channel.
For dinner, escape to Montecito for a visit to one of the most renowned hotels in the country. San Ysidro Ranch offers two dining options: the Stonehouse and the more casual Plow & Angel. Both are sure to impress (and allow you to refuel) on every level.
Start the day with a little soul revival in the form of an early morning yoga practice. Santa Barbara has a variety of studios from which you can choose, or roll up your mat and head to the beach for a few fresh air sun salutations.
The exploration continues with a visit to one of Santa Barbara’s most intriguing sites—Lotusland. Even Martha Stewart agrees, there is no other garden experience quite like this one. Lotusland sits on 37-acres in the quiet heart of Montecito where the eccentric Madame Ganna Walska spent 43 years creating and cultivating multiple gardens. Today, you can wander through 20 different flora wonders on a two-hour guided tour.
For lunch, head to what many (including Julia Child back in the day) consider Santa Barbara’s most notable local taco shop, La Super-Rica Taqueria. A bright blue exterior gives way to some of the most sought after tacos along the Santa Barbara South Coast. (If you’re taco-obsessed like us, explore the city one delicious taco at a time along the Santa Barbara Taco Trail.)
Next up, you’ll want to be sure to carve out time for Santa Barbara’s extraordinary arts and entertainment scene. Depending on the time of year, you’ll have a variety of unforgettable options. The Santa Barbara Bowl is a hillside outdoor amphitheater overlooking downtown, and features a variety of A-list acts during its season (April – October). Other options include the New Noise Music Festival in late October, which showcases up-and-coming talent and community, or a visit to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, held in late January – early February.
Round out the day with a visit to Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. in the Funk Zone. This award-winning hot spot features a variety of award-winning craft beers, and is always bustling with fun, young energy.
The beauty of Santa Barbara is that its beauty can’t be contained. It’s everywhere you look, and everywhere you go, including the Channel Islands National Park. This extraordinary archipelago sits just off of Santa Barbara’s shores, across the channel, is an excellent place to go sea kayaking through caves, snorkeling in crystal clear water, or hiking among wildlife you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The ferry ride alone is often full of dolphin and sea lion sightings. Make sure you add this to your must-do list.
Upon your return, when you land in the Santa Barbara Harbor, head down to Stearns Wharf. A stroll out to the end of this working pier is well worth it, and on your way back, keep an eye out for a set of stairs that takes you up to the Deep Sea Tasting Room. This small enclave pours some impressive wines, and offers ocean views to match.
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At this point, you have a choice. Wine lovers can continue the unique tasting experience along the Urban Wine Trail. This series of 25+tasting rooms brings the incredible wines of Santa Barbara’s nearby wine country to you. Explore on foot as you wander from one to the next, getting a taste for why Santa Barbara wines are so well-loved.
Or, if you’re craving a final dose of invigoration before you leave, join in on a pick-up game of volleyball at East Beach, just a short walk from Stearns Wharf.
Tonight, plan on dinner at Toma Restaurant & Bar (reservations recommended). The fun menu features true coastal California variety, offering pastas, fresh fish, flat breads, and gluten-free options. But you’re not done yet. Santa Barbara’s incredible local flavors include beer, wine, food, and cocktails. Let a local mixologist pour you a perfect end to 72 hours in Santa Barbara.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for all that one can experience in Santa Barbara. We all know that one trip is never enough and it will leave you craving for more. Just ask yourself:
Did you unwind in the Salt caves?
Did you eat fresh Sea Urchin on the docks of the Santa Barbara Harbor?
Did you have a picnic on the lawn of Old Mission Santa Barbara?
Did you climb to the top of the Courthouse Clock Tower for 360-degree views of the city?
Did you surround yourself with butterflies at the Ellwood Beach Butterfly Preserve?
Did you play bocce ball at Pure Order Brewing Company?
Did you go SUP’ing along the coastline at Butterfly Beach?
Did you wave “hi” to Lucky the Penguin at the Santa Barbara Zoo?
Did you browse the beachside Sunday Arts & Craft Show?
Did you hit the surf breaks of Santa Barbara?
Did you dance in front of a live band at SoHO?
Did you learn about Santa Barbara wine country at The Valley Project?
Did you go to brunch at one of these locations?
Did you ride a horse along the coastline with Santa Barbara Beach Horseback Riding?
Did you participate in the Old Spanish Days Fiesta festivities, like cracking a confetti-filled egg on someone’s head?
Did you go on a helicopter tour with Nanco?
Did you squeeze in a round of golf?
Did you down a stiff drink at Joe’s Café?
Did you try the Brussel sprouts at The Lark?
Did you stroll through the historic courtyard and window shop the boutiques of El Paseo?
Did you follow your nose to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden?
Did you see any whales with Condor Express?
Did you get your feet sandy at Haskell’s Beach?
Did you get a pedicure at Bacara Resort & Spa?
Did you realize the meaning of life at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara?
Did you get your shopping on at Paseo Nuevo Shops & Restaurants?
Did you pamper yourself at Float Luxury Spa?
Did you enjoy a poolside beer at The Goodland?
Did you barbecue Santa Barbara-style at Barbareño?
Did you relive any Sideways moments?
Did you go paragliding?
Did you hike Hot Springs Trail to see the most beautiful views in Santa Barbara?
Did you yell “All Aboard!” at the Goleta Depot Railroad Museum at the Stow House?
Did you pick out fresh produce at the Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market?
Did you have a lemon-blueberry martini from opal restaurant & bar?
Did you visit historic Casa De La Guerra?
Did you take a trolley tour of the city?
Did you take a drive to Santa Ynez Valley and taste the mouth-watering pasta at S.Y. Kitchen?
Did you listen to live music at Cold Spring Tavern and enjoy a tri-tip sandwich?
Did you take your dog to play at Arroyo Burro Beach?
Did you stroll the beautiful grounds of the Douglas Family Preserve?
Did you enjoy a sunset at Lizard’s Mouth?