Weekend getaways always seem to fly by faster than we would like them to, so we’ve created a jam-packed itinerary for Labor Day weekend that showcases many of the best things to do while on vacation in The American Riviera®. This itinerary encompasses everything from museums to walking tours and adventures at sea to plenty of spectacular restaurants, so read on for a complete four-day, three-night weekend in one of California’s most enchanting coastal cities.
Your Labor Day Weekend in Santa Barbara
It’s finally Friday, and your vacation in the Santa Barbara South Coast has officially begun! Whether you’ve just stepped off the terminal at the Santa Barbara Airport, arrived by Santa Barbara Airbus, road tripped by car or taken the scenic route via Amtrak Pacific Surfliner—you’ve just made your way to paradise for an unforgettable holiday weekend in The American Riviera®.
First, check into your hotel before it’s time to head out for a stroll along Santa Barbara’s main thoroughfare, State St. After a morning of travel, these downtown Santa Barbara restaurants make for a perfect welcome into the city and somewhere you can toast to the many adventures ahead.
Spend the afternoon brushing up on area history with a tour of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History—whose popular Butterflies Alive! exhibit will be on display through Labor Day weekend—El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, Old Mission Santa Barbara or hit the streets of Santa Barbara with the famed Red Tile Walking Tour. Then, enjoy sips along the Urban Wine Trail with visits to Santa Barbara Winery, Grassini Family Vineyards, Jamie Slone Wines and many more amazing tasting rooms.
For dinner, we recommend Convivo Restaurant and Bar for house-made pastas, creative flatbreads and elaborate entrées.
Helena Avenue Bakery is an excellent stop for a warm cup of joe and breakfast to start off the morning, as are these other coffee shops in the Santa Barbara South Coast. Take your coffee to-go (or grab a second cup for the road) and travel to Montecito for a stroll through Lotusland or pay a visit to the iconic Santa Barbara Zoo. Dine at Bettina for lunch, where you can find gourmet Neapolitan-style pizza, followed by wine tasting at Folded Hills’ Montecito Tasting Room.
Bike down Cabrillo Blvd. with Wheel Fun Rentals and soak in the sun at East Beach before heading over to the Santa Barbara Waterfront for a sample of the bounty the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel have to offer. Uni (sea urchin), a Santa Barbara delicacy, can be found at Santa Barbara Fish Market. Fresh uni can also be purchased at the weekly Fisherman’s Market that occurs every Saturday morning in the Santa Barbara Harbor. Take a tour of the harbor aboard Lil’ Toot Water Taxi, which takes guests to and from Stearns Wharf every 30 minutes.
Continue the afternoon’s seafaring theme with dinner at Bluewater Grill. Order from the shellfish portion of the menu for starters (oysters on the half shell, anybody?) and then treat yourself to the Bluewater Surf and Turf. There are non-seafood options offered, as well, such as the Angus Cheeseburger or the Chicken Under a Brick entrées.
There are still plenty of ways to experience Santa Barbara after the sun goes down, especially on a Saturday night. Finish the day with a nightcap at The Good Lion or Pearl Social, see The Goo Goo Dolls live at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Tab Benoit at Lobero Theatre or catch a live show at any of these venues.
Indulge in an early morning seaside breakfast at Boathouse. The House-Cured Salmon Benedict is as savory as it is colorful (i.e. perfectly Instagrammable), and the popular Huevos Hope Ranch—Boathouse’s spin on huevos rancheros—paired with the Signature Bloody Mary, adorned with bacon, a prawn and pickled vegetables, is sure to fuel you up for the day ahead. After breakfast, take a walk down the dog-friendly Arroyo Burro Beach just beyond the steps of the restaurant.
Next, turn to the foodie experts of Santa Barbara, like Eat This, Shoot That!, a food and drink tour company that takes guests on a culinary journey throughout the city in search of the best bites and libations. Choose the Funk Zone tour for three hours of tastings in the most eclectic neighborhood in Santa Barbara. Though this tour features adult beverages (beer, wine and spirits), guests under 21 years old are welcome to tag along at a reduced rate.
Channel your inner creative while browsing and buying local works of art along Cabrillo Blvd. at the Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show. This year-round event occurs every Sunday from 10 a.m. to dusk, where over 200 booths from Stearns Wharf to Calle Cesar Chavez showcase handcrafted wares from local artisans. Returning for its 21st year, the Santa Barbara Studio Artists’ 2022 Open Studios Tour is happening all weekend long. Plan to stop by the largest event of its kind along the Central Coast and take advantage of this unique opportunity to have enthralling conversations with the artists about their work.
Bask in the city views from the top floor of the clock tower at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse before walking over to the Santa Barbara Public Market, a collection of casual eateries to satisfy any palate in your group. Choose from tacos at Corazon Cocina, sushi at Wabi Sabi, Thai- and Taiwanese-inspired noodle bowls at Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar, pizza at Ca’Dario Pizzeria Veloce, tri-tip sandwiches at Shalhoob’s at the Market and vegan options at Fala Bar. Sip on beer and wine inside the spacious market setting or take in the evening breeze on the outdoor patio for the perfect way to close out a relaxing Sunday in Santa Barbara.
The Monday blues cease to exist during a holiday weekend, so why not make the most of it? Start the day off early with a breakfast burrito or sandwich from On The Alley in Camino Real Marketplace, enjoyed from the soft sand of Goleta Beach Park, before embarking on a kayak tour with Santa Barbara Adventure Company.
Before you depart, get your hands on some souvenirs and Santa Barbara memorabilia from Santa Barbara Company to commemorate an unforgettable Labor Day weekend in The American Riviera®.
A First Timer's Guide to Santa Barabara
Located on a pristine stretch of California’s central coastline, Santa Barbara brings together the Golden State’s Spanish influence, laid-back vibe, and upscale sensibility in a way few places can. Here are some ideas to help you make the most of your visit to The American Riviera®. Learn More
72 Hours in Santa Barbara
What will you discover in the Santa Barbara South Coast with an extra day? Whether you are a foodie at heart, art lover, or adrenaline junkie in search of your next adventure, read on to experience the brilliance of The American Riviera® within 72 hours. Learn More