October in Santa Barbara doesn’t fall short when it comes to iconic festivals and events. Get your avocado, wine and seafood fill this month at the California Avocado Festival, Santa Barbara Vintners Festival and Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival—three things that encompass the essence of the Santa Barbara South Coast.
More reasons to vacation to The American Riviera®: There are fewer crowds, the weather is divine, wine harvest season is in full swing and there is still so much outdoor fun to be had. Read on for some of the best ways to welcome autumn in our slice of coastal paradise.
EVENTS AND FESTIVALS
October is one of the best times to visit Santa Barbara, most notably for the perfect mid-70s temperatures and sorbet sunsets. All the more reason to attend one of these signature festivals!
Break a sweat during your vacation at Hotel Californian’s Pilates Brunch Club on Oct. 1. Here, you’ll enjoy a breathtaking (literally) pilates session, beats from DJ Darla Bea, bottomless mimosas, brunch, mini massages, shopping and more.
From Oct. 3-22, you don’t want to miss Pianos on State. Held annually in October, Santa Barbara’s famed downtown corridor is graced with vibrantly designed pianos, decorated by local artists, encouraging locals and visitors to step up to the keys and play a spontaneous tune.
Discover the magic of the outdoors at the NatureTrack Film Festival, celebrating its fifth anniversary in Goleta from Oct. 6-8, a haven for nature aficionados and film buffs alike. Since its inception in 2018, the festival has dazzled thousands with cinematic masterpieces from around the world. This year, be inspired by the theme “Igniting passion for nature through film.” Kick off the celebration on Oct. 6 with the festival’s opening night party at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, featuring a cocktail reception prior to the screening of “Wild Waters,” a documentary film about French kayaker Nouria Newman, revered as the best kayaker in today’s world.
Perhaps one of the most iconic California festivals to take place is the 37th Annual California Avocado Festival, held on Oct. 6-8, which features the endless ways to eat an avocado. Attendees can also enjoy local vendors and plenty of live entertainment in the heart of the neighboring town of Carpinteria. Make it a day trip and hop aboard the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, which picks up in both Goleta and Santa Barbara, and makes a stop in Carpinteria. You won’t have to worry about parking or designating a sober driver, and soaking in the coastal views from the railroad car is an added plus to an already quintessential South Coast weekend.
Be sure to add the coveted 39th Annual Santa Barbara Vintners Festival to your itinerary this October and venture out to the acclaimed Santa Barbara wine country for a day. On Oct. 14, the festival invites attendees to taste over 50 of the area’s best wine and food purveyors at Vega Vineyard and Farm, about 33 miles north of Santa Barbara. Want to discover more ways to fill your glass? Check out these unique ways to wine in the Santa Barbara South Coast. Because there is limited parking at the venue, the festival is partnering with Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort to offer free off-site parking and transportation to the event.
If wine tasting isn’t calling your name, Goleta Valley Historical Society’s Santa Barbara Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention & Festival will also be held on Oct. 7 for its 51st run at Rancho La Patera & Stow House. After listening to some old-timey music, pay a visit to the festival’s “Instrument Petting Zoo,” where you’re able to take banjos and fiddles for a spin or take part in a free banjo or yodeling workshop.
One of Santa Barbara’s most beloved seaside events, the Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival, returns for another year of fresh catches and live entertainment on Oct. 21. With local fare being served up—dockside!—all day long, satisfy that seafood craving with dishes like mussel and shrimp paella, fish tacos, freshly cracked uni (sea urchin) and more. Take home your choice of freshly caught fish and a fisherman can filet them for you on site—a truly “sea-to-table” experience.
During this popular seafood celebration, get the full waterfront experience and set sail on a free boat ride aboard 50-foot catamaran Double Dolphin (Santa Barbara Sailing Center) or 35-foot Kelpie (SunSwept Sailing), receive discounted entry to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum or keep the ocean-faring festivities afloat all weekend long with this seafood lover’s guide to Santa Barbara.
Experienced cyclists are invited to participate in the Ride Santa Barbara 100 on Oct. 21, which offers an entire day of cycling events, such as the 100-mile course and 100-kilometer Coastal Route, that challenges riders to put their pedal to the metal as they take in breathtaking views of the city.
WAYS TO WINE
While wine tasting is a year-round activity in the Santa Barbara South Coast, there’s something special about sipping newly released varietals in the fall in one of the most coveted wine destinations in the country.
Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail takes wine enthusiasts through the streets of Santa Barbara—starting in the Funk Zone and ending in the bustling Presidio neighborhood. In addition to sightseeing your way through urban Santa Barbara, check out these unique ways to wine taste here in The American Riviera®.
Tour multiple vineyards throughout Santa Barbara wine country during harvest season and learn about the wine-making process with outfitters like Rooted Vine Tours or Totally Cali Tours of Santa Barbara. No need to worry about a designated driver—the wine tour companies will do all the driving for you.
If you want more of a multifaceted wine tasting experience during your stay, this guide to the ultimate Santa Barbara wine getaway will be your new go-to resource.
MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT
Hit the historic Lobero Theatre for a variety of live performances and shows this October with artist Valerie June (Oct. 6), comedian Matt Mathews (Oct. 13), virtuoso musicians Avi Avital and Hanzhi Wang (Oct. 16), The Wallflowers (Oct. 17) and Patty Griffin and Todd Snider (Oct. 20).
At Granada Theatre, a stunning landmark in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara (that also doubles as the city’s tallest building), see live performances like Carmen (Oct. 1), Martha Graham Dance Company (Oct. 4), Nickel Creek (Oct. 8) and Giselle (Oct. 21 and 22).
The Arlington Theatre is not shy of a robust roster in October, featuring groups like Intocable (Oct. 1), Rumours of Fleetwood Mac (Oct. 4), Charley Crockett (Oct. 6), Wilco (Oct. 13), ZZ Top (Oct. 20) and more.
For more inspiration on ways to enjoy fall in Santa Barbara, click here.