Exploring Santa Barbara as a Wedding Guest

When your friends and relatives choose Santa Barbara as their wedding destination, an extra “thank you” is in order. That’s because Santa Barbara is a world-renowned vacation destination and an all-around spectacular place to spend a few days—or a week. Of course, you’ll have wedding festivities to attend to, which will no doubt be in stunning locations and give you a taste of what the community offers. But you certainly won’t regret tagging on a few extra days pre- or post-celebration to further soak up the atmosphere, explore, wine and dine, and keep the good times flowing. Following are five of the top reasons visitors fall head over heels for Santa Barbara, and why you’ll want to extend your stay to explore more after the happy couple says “I do.”

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Old Mission Santa Barbara
Old Mission Santa Barbara. Photo Credit: Instagram Fan @kokoslifestyle

Santa Barbara has been considered “The American Riviera®” dating back to the 1800s, when travelers first begun to flock to our restorative sunny shores. With a coastal setting and joie de vivre reminiscent of the European Riviera, Santa Barbara’s timeless Mediterranean essence is enhanced by the city’s signature red-tile roofs, whitewashed buildings, lush gardens, and pedestrian-friendly, palm-lined boulevards. Put simply, Santa Barbara is a beautiful place to be. 

Step back in time to learn about the region’s history at the Old Mission Santa Barbara and El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. Wander through downtown’s adobes and tiled courtyards draped in bright fuchsia bougainvillea as you browse locally-owned boutiques and tasting rooms. Take in the 360-degree city-to-sea view from the top of the iconic Santa Barbara County Courthouse clocktower. Visit preserved estates and fantastical gardens like Lotusland and Casa del Herrero to gain an understanding of why the rich and famous (Harry and Megan and Oprah, to name drop a few) have long chosen to make their homes and plant roots in dreamy Montecito.

Art lovers will find inspiration at the impressive Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Our landmark theaters host a steady stream of performing artists, from popular music and comedy at the Santa Barbara Bowl and jazz and dance at the Lobero Theatre, to classical music and drama at The Granada. Check out our calendar of events to see what’s on when you’re visiting.


Kayaking in the Santa Barbara Harbor.
Kayaking in the Santa Barbara Harbor. Photo Credit: Instagram Fan @sa.d.e

Spending time outdoors is part of the Santa Barbara lifestyle. Thanks to the moderate climate and diverse landscape, fresh air, adventure, and epic views await at every turn. Start your day with a sunrise hike along one of the many front country trails. Bike around town and along the coastal scenic pathway from the Harbor to Butterfly Beach. Spend a day at one of our many beaches, or get out on the water for kayaking, surfing, and sailing. You can go horseback riding, paragliding, and even hot air ballooning. The sky’s the limit when it comes to seeking tranquility and thrills in our great outdoors.


Tacos from Taqueria Santa Barbara.
Tacos from Taqueria Santa Barbara. Photo Credit: Instagram Fan @jenndonut

Here in Santa Barbara, you’ll find a thriving wine country world-renowned for its pinot noir—thanks in part to an Oscar-winning film named Sideways. Our delicious regional vintages are complemented by a hyper-local culinary scene fueled by local fisheries, farms, ranches, and artisan purveyors. The collaborative, close-knit community of chefs, growers, winemakers, brewers, distillers, craftspeople, and hospitality professionals bring an inclusive, upbeat energy to the wining and dining experience here on The American Riviera®. The dining landscape covers the spectrum from hole-in-the-wall taquerias and gourmet food halls to Michelin-approved eateries. You can get a taste of the culinary culture while enjoying memorable meals at our must-try restaurants, charting your own taco trail (between craft beer tastings!), and taking one of the many specialized guided food and wine tours. Farmers’ markets, urban wineries, and artisan coffee and tea shops round out the flavorful offerings.


An aerial view of the Santa Barbara Harbor.
An aerial view of the Santa Barbara coastline. Photo Credit: Blake Bronstad

The best way to get to know the nuances of our distinctive region and discover all the “nooks and crannies” off the well-beaten path is to explore the diverse neighborhoods and surrounding communities. Our “Like a Local” guides offer insights into eight key neighborhoods, from Goleta in the north to Summerland in the south. Find out where to shop and eat and what to do in very walkable neighborhoods like the Funk Zone, Presidio District, and Waterfront. And hear what the locals who live and work in these neighborhoods treasure most about their respective stomping grounds. If you want to go a bit further afield, hop in a car to explore the charming small towns and agricultural lands of wine country in the Santa Ynez, Lompoc, and Santa Maria valleys.


A suite at El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel.
A suite at El Encanto, a Belmond Hotel. Photo Credit: Instagram Fan @auspicious_april

Santa Barbara’s inviting resorts and hotels are a big part of the area’s appeal. And when you stay longer, you can really take advantage of your hotel’s amenities and location. Our lodging properties range from luxurious oceanfront resorts, romantic hillside hideaways, and buzzy boutique hotels to charming Victorian B&Bs, rustic chic guest ranches, and even a few “glamping” hot spots. Our luxury portfolio includes properties managed by Ritz-Carlton, Belmond, Rosewood, and Kimpton. The Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Ramada, and Best Western brands are also well represented, in addition to several independent, family-run hotels and historic inns. So, you can cash in those points and earn rewards while living your best life as a wedding guest. And why not use this opportunity to treat yourself to a vacation to remember?!