Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara on a Rainy Day

Rain in the forecast? That’s no problem in Santa Barbara, where you’ll find a wealth of ways to have a great time indoors—from sampling local flavors at winery tasting rooms and cozying up at matinee-movie showings to playing with cats and treating yourself to a massage or a warm cappuccino.

Don’t let wet weather dampen your vacation. This list of things to do in Santa Barbara is just the silver lining you’ve been looking for. 

Book Your Stay

Arts & Culture

Performing Arts

Find a robust matinee schedule courtesy of Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) at The New Vic. Santa Barbara’s only professional theater company, ETC wows with performances of Broadway plays and Tony Award-winning shows. 

Uncover an array of performing arts at Granada Theatre, whose schedule embraces artforms like opera, Broadway shows, dance and kid-friendly performances. At Lobero Theatre, expect live comedy and different takes on classic works, as well as the sounds of the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony. Both Granada and Lobero offer matinees on select days. Learn more about performing arts at Santa Barbara theaters.

Movie Theaters

With comedy shows, ballet, concerts and new releases, The Arlington Theatre bridges the gap between performance and film. The venue’s single screen is nestled in what appears to be a Spanish village, complete with a night-sky ceiling dusted with twinkling stars. 

As the official theater of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), the Riviera Theatre presents an eclectic collection of movies curated by SBIFF throughout the year. For a full lineup of new-release matinees—in theater settings ranging from old school to modern stadium style—head to Hitchcock Cinema & Public House, Paseo Nuevo Cinemas and Fiesta 5 Theatres in Santa Barbara. Find more about the magic of movies in Santa Barbara.


Escape the rain by immersing yourself in a world of beauty and culture at Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Permanent collections span stunning Himalayan bronzeworks, American and European paintings constructed by webs of delicate brushstrokes and more. 

Great for children of all ages, MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation is bursting at the seams with cool interactive exhibits. Kids can build and test their own race cars, create kaleidoscopes and help solve rotating challenges in the Innovation Workshop. 

At the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, marvel at geodes and meteorites, admire the innovations of the Chumash people and learn about area birds and mammals. The museum is also known for its planetarium shows—book in advance because these sell out. 

The guest exhibits of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum tell the area’s story via the likes of 19th-century fashions, exploration of architecture, artworks and artifacts. A permanent installation moves visitors along the city’s timeline, starting with the Chumash people who first lived here and diving into Spanish settlement, the early 20th-century film industry and beyond. Explore more museums in Santa Barbara.


There’s nothing quite as cozy as curling up with a good book while raindrops patter on the windows. Known for their robust collections, independent booksellers Chaucer’s Books and The Book Den can help make rainy-day dreams a reality: Warm up with the adventures of fictional protagonists and ancient Greek heroes—or with the spice between the covers of a celebrity memoir. 

Wining & Dining

Santa Barbara Restaurants

With menus highlighting delights such as authentic tacos, Thai-Vietnamese fusion, deep-dish pizza and locally sourced California-style cuisine, Santa Barbara restaurants have something for every craving. 

Located in the Santa Barbara Public Market, the bright tang of a Three Monkeys bánh mì sandwich—packed with fresh cilantro, cucumber and pickled daikon radish and carrots—are perfect pick-me-ups on cloudy days. Other options in the market include upscale pizza at Ca’Dario Pizzeria Veloce, tacos at Corazón Cocina, Thai noodle soups at Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar and more. Find more new restaurants in Santa Barbara.

Gala Restaurant marries farm-to-table with Spanish flair in its seasonal menus. Past dishes featured branzino over polenta and earthy oyster mushroom risotto, while the raved-about cheesecake and cocktails are menu staples.

Bakeries & Coffee Shops

There’s nothing quite like fresh-baked pastries and bread to take the chill off a damp day. Add a piping-hot latte or espresso to the mix, and you’ve got the makings of some hygge-infused good times.

Pair lemon bars or avocado toast on seven-grain bread with hot teas and fancy coffees at Lilac Pâtisserie (known for being totally gluten free). Helena Avenue Bakery has a reputation for a stunner of a cinnamon roll and its brioche breakfast sandwich, while Bree-Osh Artisan Bakery has a ham-and-cheese croissant worth writing home about. And that’s just scraping the floury surface of the area’s baked-goods scene! Discover other bakeries in Santa Barbara.

When it comes to coffee shops, Santa Barbara’s cup runneth over with options, each with its own vibe and specialty drinks. Owned by former professional cyclists, Handlebar Coffee Roasters is a—surprise!—bike-themed cafe that roasts its own beans and serves a mean cortado at two locations. 

Dawn Cafe is a surf-inspired hang with a reputation for its matcha and orange-cardamom lattes. At Lokum, savor boldly bittersweet Turkish coffee or pomegranate tea with a piece of perfectly crumbly baklava. Learn more about Santa Barbara coffee shops.

Santa Barbara Wineries

You don’t need an excuse to spend an afternoon enjoying the varied notes of Santa Barbara wines … but if you did, chasing away rainy-day blues is a good one. 

Unwind in the homey atmosphere of Grassini Family Vineyards Tasting Room, where it’s hard to say what will warm you up first: the Bordeaux varietals or the renowned hospitality. 

Nestled just blocks from the beach in the picturesque seaside town of Summerland, Summerland Winery savor fine wine in its charming, dog-friendly boutique tasting room. It’s an idyllic spot to experience the best of Californian viticulture, paired with the warm, inviting atmosphere of a coastal getaway.

La Lieff Wines in the Funk Zone welcomes you from the minute you walk in, with a rich green velvet leather couch and plenty of bar seating. The women-owned winery is known for producing Rhone varietals: granache, syrah and sauvignon blac. Find more Santa Barbara wineries and tasting rooms. 

The Salt Cave & Spa Days

Pamper yourself with salt massages, facials and soothing sound baths at Salt Cave in Santa Barbara. The main attraction, of course, is the cave itself. Step into a Himalayan salt chamber and rejuvenate your mind with a meditation session set to the sounds of peaceful music.

The area is also home to numerous spas, whose decadent menus range from massages enhanced by fragrant botanicals (think sandalwood, cedar and sweet orange) to peppermint foot treatments to CBD body wraps. Book a treatment to let your worries melt away. Explore all the ways to spoil yourself at spas in Santa Barbara.

Unique Memory-Making Experiences

Book an appointment at Cat Therapy, a café, rescue and adoption center, where you can have all the fun of playing and cuddling adorable floofs … without being woken up for 3 a.m. feedings. Buy your cats back home toys and catnip souvenirs to help support the rescue’s mission.

Put your heads together to best one of four escape rooms at The House of Clues—a cursed castle, a haunted attic, an art museum and Alcatraz. As the clock ticks down and the anticipation builds, you’ll be so busy solving puzzles and laughing that you’ll forget about the weather.

Work off that cooped-up energy hurling axes and tactical shovels at targets at State Street Axe Club. Experienced instructors will help you perfect your form. Once you’ve got the hang of things, they’ll let you loose! Note: Kids have to be at least 10 years old to get in on the axe-tion. 

Rock-climbing gyms make it easy to have outdoorsy fun indoors. Santa Barbara Rock Gym offers climbs and bouldering problems for kids and adults. You can even book an instructor in advance to help you learn the ropes. 

Express yourself on the canvas—with the help of some liquid creativity—at The Painted Cabernet, a unique Santa Barbara sip-and-paint experience. Everything you need to create a masterpiece is provided, including step-by-step instructions. Booking seats in advance is highly recommended.

Find more things to do in Santa Barbara.