Things to Do This Summer In Santa Barbara

Summer days in the Santa Barbara South Coast are nothing short of unforgettable. Bike by the beach, sail along the coast, sip local wine—the possibilities are limitless when you’re on Santa Barbara time. When planning your next trip, be sure to cite this list as your ultimate guide to the area’s best events and activities. As we welcome warmer weather, kick off your summer vacation in the beachside bliss of The American Riviera®.

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Festivals in Santa Barbara

Summer Solstice Parade and Festival

The Summer Solstice Parade and Festival is one of the largest art events in Santa Barbara County and attracts visitors from all around the world. Spectators can expect to see vibrant displays of artwork, costumes, performances and more. The festival will be held on June 23-24 with a parade (June 24), special concert event, delicious food and local merchants at Alameda Park.
Cost: Admission is free

Photo by: @ingridbostromphotography via Instagram

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Santa Barbara Fourth of July Celebration

Every year, the Santa Barbara Waterfront hosts a slate of festive, fun and family-friendly Fourth of July activities, which includes live music, dance performances and local food vendors. The festivities will be capped off with a bang during a 20-minute fireworks display, launched from West Beach at 9 p.m., courtesy of Garden State Fireworks and sponsored by the Santa Barbara Waterfront Department.
Cost: Admission is free

Photo by: Fritz Olenberger

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Old Spanish Days Fiesta

Experience one of Santa Barbara’s most coveted annual events, Old Spanish Days Fiesta, where Native American, Mexican and Spanish culture and history is revered with parades, art, authentic music, dance and more. Begin the five-day celebration with La Fiesta Pequeña (the little festival) and finish with a leisurely stroll through the festival’s Sunday arts and crafts show. The popular El Desfile Histórico (historical parade) will take place on Aug. 4 at noon, starting at the west end of Cabrillo Boulevard.
Cost: Free to attend

Photo by: Fritz Olenberger

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Food & Drink Events

Sipping on the Sea

Set sail with the fresh ocean breeze and a chilled glass of local libations at Sipping on the Sea. Every third Thursday from May through October, Double Dolphin features a local winery or brewery representative to pour tastings and educate on their selection of local sips. Bask in the golden glow of a famed Santa Barbara sunset near the end of your two-hour excursion. The summer lineup features Third Window Brewing (June 15), Samsara Wine Co. (July 20), Topa Topa Brewing (Aug. 17) and more.
Cost: $85/person (21+ only)

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Arts & Culture Events

Santa Barbara Bowl Summer 2023 Lineup

A quintessential summer getaway to Santa Barbara always includes listening to live music and entertainers under the stars at the intimate Santa Barbara Bowl. With 4,500 seats, each view provides an ocean view set in the foothills of Santa Barbara’s Riviera neighborhood. While concerts and comedy shows are still being announced, the current lineup includes big names such as Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias (July 8), Little Big Town (July 15), Rebelution (Aug. 6 and 7), Father John Misty + The Head and the Heart (Aug. 13) and more.

Photo By: @killdevilfalls via Instagram

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Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show

The artists of Santa Barbara gather together each Sunday to line Cabrillo Boulevard from Stearns Wharf to Calle Cesar Chavez at 10 a.m. until dusk. Featuring all original artwork by local artists, this show is the only continuous, non-juried arts festival of original drawings, paintings, graphics, sculpture, crafts and photography in the world. You’re going to want extra space in your suitcase to bring one-of-a-kind treasures and souvenirs for loved ones back home.
Cost: Admission is free

Photo by: Jay Sinclair

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Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club

Plan a visit to the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club for a Sunday Polo match, where ladies don their finest hats and gentlemen dress to the nines to watch the thrilling equine sport. Revel in the speed and agility of both the jockeys and horses, and graze on a tasty charcuterie platter under shaded awnings—and maybe even catch a glimpse of Prince Harry on the field. The pristine grass and stunning mountain views make an unforgettable backdrop to gaze at while sipping champagne and cheering on the players.
Cost: Tickets start at $30/person

Photo by: @michellelaurenphotography via Instagram

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Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition

With special skill and expertise, the ceiling paintings from the Sistine Chapel have been replicated using state-of-the-art technology at the historic Old Mission Santa Barbara. For the observer to fully engage and comprehend the artwork, the paintings have been reproduced as close as possible to their original sizes. As a result, visitors can explore the artwork up close at a distance impossible to achieve in the real Sistine Chapel.
Cost: $25/adult, $18/child, children under 5 are free

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Butterflies Alive!

The butterflies have returned to Sprague Butterfly Pavilion! Take a peaceful stroll through the lush enclosed garden and learn about local and exotic varieties of butterflies this summer. This is the perfect summer activity for all ages and is a beautiful extension to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, teeming with rich knowledge of the area. 
Cost: Included in museum admission ($14-$19 per person, free for children under two years old)

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Music on the Water

Waves of music! Join Santa Barbara Sailing Center for a unique experience aboard the Double Dolphin. This 50-foot cruising catamaran sets sail every Friday evening between Memorial Day and October for a “Music on the Water” Sunset Cruise. See some of Santa Barbara’s local musicians perform while enjoying the sunset and soaking up the majestic views of the Santa Barbara coastline. Some of this year’s local lineup includes Justin Claveria (June 23), Ross Harper (July 7) and John Lyle (Aug. 11). 
Cost: $85/person

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Santa Barbara Surf Film Festival

The 3rd Annual Santa Barbara Surf Film Festival, held over two days at Lobero Theatre, celebrates this rich surf history and the diverse storytelling styles of filmmakers, artists, board shapers and surfers who spearheaded it all. A highlight to look forward to is the outdoor Surf Film Festival Block Party, where you’ll find a variety of surf exhibitors, local artisans, live music, delicious food and craft drinks.
Cost: $14-$106/person

Photo Credit: Santa Barbara Surf Film Festival

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Juneteenth Block Party

Juneteenth Santa Barbara is a local celebration of the national recognition of Black Independence Day. It is a collaborative effort to showcase Black culture, talent and joy in Santa Barbara County. This event, now in its sixth year, centers around a free community block party that will be held in historically Black Santa Barbara, now known as the Funk Zone.
Cost: Admission is free

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Summer Courthouse Film Series

Take advantage of a beloved local tradition: The free outdoor cinema series presented seasonally by UCSB’s Arts & Lectures on Friday evenings. The Summer Courthouse Film Series features films from across the decades—with this year’s film theme being “Out of this World”—and is set in the courthouse’s sunken gardens, with the architectural landmark building adding drama to the picturesque backdrop. As early as noon on film days, attendees can save a spot with a picnic blanket or low-back chairs on the Santa Barbara Courthouse lawn. Guests are also encouraged to bring food and beverages to enjoy with the film and a cozy layer is recommended to stay warm after the sun goes down.
Cost: Admission is free

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Santa Barbara Indie Film Festival

Come celebrate the art of cinema at the historic Alhecama Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara, where you’ll enjoy two days of films produced by an impressive selection of independent and youth filmmakers.  With its diverse selection of films and networking opportunities, the Santa Barbara Indie Film Fest is an event that gathers film creatives proud to celebrate the art of filmmaking.
Cost: $10-$40

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Santa Barbara Studio Artists’ Open Studios Tour 

Experience the works of 28 local artists during the 21st Annual Santa Barbara Studio Artists’ Open Studios Tour on Labor Day weekend. More than your average art festival, this cultural event gives patrons the exclusive opportunity to access artists as they work in their studios. The tour,  the largest and most prestigious event of its kind on the Central California Coast, will raise money for the Santa Barbara Food Bank.
Cost: TBA

Photo by: Open Studios Tour

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Outdoor Summer Activities

From Mountainside to Beachside
Make summer in Santa Barbara as relaxing or adventurous as you want it to be. From mountains to beaches, Santa Barbara has all the outdoor offerings a nature-lover could ask for. Use this downtime to clear your head with a scenic hike. Complete with photo ops along the way, picturesque views are motivation enough to hit the trails. 

Santa Barbara knows how to show off some serious beach vibes, too. Think swaying palm trees, unforgettable sunsets, sandy and sparkling waters. At one of the area’s seven can’t-miss beaches, get your feet wet with a range of activities, experiences and excursions beyond building sandcastles. Re-energize with a sunrise salutation or leisurely walk on the beach. The panoramic ocean and mountain views can be downright cathartic. 

Get on the Water
An “Endless Summer” spirit and catching waves have been a favorite pastime among locals long before it was a world-recognized sport. Offering something for every ability level, you’ll be able to find the perfect set at one of these top Santa Barbara surf breaks. For a more laid-back experience, head to Santa Barbara Harbor for additional ways to get out and on the water. Glide your way across the Pacific and into serene ocean surroundings with a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. For those with an adventurous spirit, go high above the seas with Santa Barbara Parasail or explore underwater riches with Channel Island Expeditions

Find a Perfect Path
Santa Barbara prides itself in being ultra bike-friendly. Gear up for a leisurely palm tree-lined ride along the Waterfront on the Cabrillo Bike Path from Leadbetter Beach to Butterfly Beach. Make a pitstop on historic Stearns Wharf to look for sea lions then continue riding past the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. For an action-packed ride, mountain bikers love the challenge of Santa Barbara’s front and backcountry trails. No matter what path you take, enjoy the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair. 

On the Green
Gear up with your trusted clubs and tees and get ready for a round of golf on the sublime greens in Santa Barbara and Goleta. Revel in wide-open, fresh-air courses that come complete with ocean and mountain views. To get started here are three golf courses that offer lush fairways and smooth, fast greens all within a short drive of one another.  

Put it in Park
Flora and fauna have a long and fragrant history in Santa Barbara. Scattered throughout the destination, you can find pockets of paradise to spend the afternoon, take a stroll, have a picnic or simply encounter breathtaking city views. While some parks and gardens are more well-known than others, we’ve compiled a list of the ten not-so-secret parks and gardens of Santa Barbara.