There are many great things to do in Santa Barbara. The city offers a number of free activities for visitors of any age, such as beaches, parks and museums.
For those who love the outdoors, the many parks and beaches are certainly highlights of the area, such as the popular Santa Claus Beach or Alameda Park with its elaborate wooden playground.
1. Old Mission Santa Barbara
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The Old Mission Santa Barbara is located on thirteen acres that overlook the Pacific Ocean. The grounds of the mission consist of a stunning Mission church, the nine-room museum featuring a variety of historical artifacts and artwork, and the Historic Cemetery and Mausoleum. There are also several lush gardens, such as the La Huerta Historical Garden featuring ancient and authentic trees and plants from the Mission era. Visitors can explore the spectacular architecture of the facade of the church, as well as take in the colonial-era sculptures and art of the beautiful Mission church of the historic Santa Barbara site.
2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, Phone: 805-682-4713
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2. Santa Barbara Historical Museum
© Santa Barbara Historical Museum
The Santa Barbara Historical Museum celebrates the history of the Santa Barbara community, dating back to the Chumash up through modern day through compelling programs and vibrant exhibits, all conveniently situated in the historic heart of downtown Santa Barbara. The museum is open to visitors on Tuesdays from noon until 5:00pm and from Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00am until 5:00pm. It is closed on Mondays and major holidays. Visitors can learn about the area’s glamorous film era, pioneering aviators, and the legendary Fiesta festival, along with many events that occured before the twentieth century.
136 East De la Guerra, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, Phone: 805-966-1601
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3. The Santa Barbara Public Market
© The Santa Barbara Public Market
The Santa Barbara Public Market is an urban contemporary marketplace that offers regionally and locally sourced food, beer, and wine. Nestled within a thriving cultural and performing arts district in the downtown area of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Public Market is one of the leading dining destinations in the city for both visitors and locals, as well as a place for a diverse group of merchants.
38 West Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, Phone: 805-770-7702
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4. Santa Barbara Carriage and Western Arts Museum
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The Santa Barbara Carriage and Western Arts Museum, located near Santa Barbara’s waterfront, was established in 1972. The museum is open to visitors for self-guided tours of the various exhibits. Docent-led tours are offered on certain days. No reservations are required for the docent tours and visitors can enter through the museum’s front gate. There is no admission fee to visit the Santa Barbara Carriage and Western Arts Museum. Private tours can be arranged by reservation.
129 Castillo St, Santa Barbara, CA 93102, Phone: 805-962-2353, (website link)
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5. Free & Affordable Attractions in Santa Barbara: Old Spanish Days Fiesta
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The city of Santa Barbara is among the most historic and authentic destinations for tourists maintaining its Spanish roots from back to the Mission Days. These roots are showcases during the Old Spanish Days Fiesta, a festive celebration held every year during the summer season. The annual event draws in loyal and large crowds to the city each and every year to celebrate the traditions and heritage of Santa Barbara. The Old Spanish Days Fiesta is typically held the first few days of August and features a variety of fun and entertaining activities, such as parades, dancing, amazing food, and more.
129 Castillo St, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-962-8101
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6. Potbellied & Miniature Pig Rescue & Sanctuary
The Lil’ Orphan Hammies Potbellied & Miniature Pig Rescue & Sanctuary was founded in 1992 by Susan Parkinson as a rescue home for any unwanted Potbellied pigs. This sanctuary for pigs was created in response to the “pet pig craze” that started during the late 1980’s and resulted in a large number of abandoned pigs. Lil’ Orphan Hammies became a busy non-profit organization by 1994, taking care of up to 100 pigs at any given time. The sanctuary spans across five acres and features unique housing and well-fenced, spacious enclosures for pigs to nap under trees or in hay or play outdoors.
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7. Coronado Butterfly Preserve
The Coronado Butterfly Preserve is located near Santa Barbara in Goleta, California, about 2 hours from Los Angeles. The grounds are home to eucalyptus grover, a habitat of native coastal sage scrub, and many birds and other wildlife that live in the urban community gem. The preserve encompasses 9.3 acres and consists of meadows, woodlands, and the Devereux Creek, along with several trails and an outdoor classroom and gathering area. While there is no admission fee to visit the Coronado Butterfly Preserve, donations are appreciated to help keep the preserve open. It is open every day, year-round, from sunrise to sunset.
495 Coronado Dr, Goleta, CA 93117, Phone: 805-966-4520, (website link)
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8. Free & Affordable Attractions in Santa Barbara: Fernald Mansion
© Fernald Mansion
The Fernald Mansion is an excellent example of the architectural style of Victorian Queen Anne in Santa Barbara, California. The home is the former residence of Charles Fernald. Fernald was one of the most prominent figures of the city as an attorney, sheriff, and even mayor during the latter part of the nineteenth century. The mansion, along with a number of the original furnishings, was kept from being demolished and moved to the current site in 1959 by the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and is open today for public tours. The home of Charles Fernald was originally located at 422 Santa Barbara Street.
414 W Montecito St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, Phone: 805-966-1601
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9. Alameda Park
Alameda Park is one of Santa Barbara’s oldest parks. A two-block city park, Alameda includes drop-in and reservable picnic areas, a bandstand, restrooms, rare unique trees, and the Kid’s World, which is a playground spanning eight thousand square feet that features two party sites that can be reserved, slides, swings, and a castle. Kid’s World is one of the city’s most popular and largest playgrounds. The various sections of the Kid’s World playground are designed for kids ages two to twelve. Alameda Park is the site of many celebrations in the city, such as the Summer Solstice event.
1400 Santa Barbara St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, Phone: 805-564-5418
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10. Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park
The Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park is home to a small cave with walls carved out of towering sandstone boulders and featuring some of the best examples of remaining rock art created by the Chumash Native Americans. After parking, visitors can take a look at the historical sign and begin climbing around a dozen stairs up to the small cave. This cave is gated shut in order to protect the cave and the art inside. Two holes are present in the barrier, one for adults and one for kids, to give guests a good opportunity to view the cave or take photographs.
CA-154, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, Phone: 805-733-3713
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11. Free & Affordable Attractions in Santa Barbara: Stearns Wharf
Visitors can enjoy the sounds and sights of the sea at the Stearns Wharf, which is one of the most iconic landmarks in Santa Barbara. Situated at the end of the city’s State Street, the wharf is named after builder John Stearns and is the oldest working wharf in the state of California. It is also a good place to take in amazing views of the blue Pacific Ocean, enjoy salty breezes, and soak up the sunlight. Stearns Wharf is also the home of the city’s famous boardwalk with unique shops, handmade ice cream, and boat rides among many other attractions.
219 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-698-5600
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12. Sunday Arts & Crafts Show
The Sunday Arts and Crafts Show of Santa Barbara is one of the city’s pieces of living history and highlights the creative talents of many of the area’s local artisans. The arts and crafts show takes over Cabrillo Boulevard from Calle Cesar Chavez to Stearns Wharf. Every Sunday throughout the year, as well as on Saturdays during major holiday weekends, around two hundred artists of Santa Barbara County showcase their original work in a setting that encourages people to talk with the many artists and maybe see them actually creating artwork.
Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-897-2519
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13. El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park
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El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park is surrounded by the bustling city of Santa Barbara and is where the last remaining of the military outposts constructed by the Spanish along the Alta California coast. Tow of the original presidio buildings have been restored, while other buildings have instead been reconstructed. Established on April 21 of 1782, the Santa Barbara Presidio was one of four presidios built by the Spanish, with the other three in Monterey, San Francisco, and San Diego. El Cuartel is the oldest building in Santa Barbara and California’s second oldest building.
123 E Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, Phone: 805-965-0093 , (website link)
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14. Andree Clark Bird Refuge
The Andree Clark Bird Refuge is an open space park encompassing forty-two acres, including a lake spanning across twenty-nine acres that is actually an artificially modified estuary to support the brackish wetlands. There are three island found throughout the lake. The Andree Clark Bird Refuge offers several relaxing outdoor recreational activities, such as biking, hiking, and bird watching. Visitors should keep in mind that fishing, boating, and feeding the wildlife are prohibited. Guests can take in views from scenic highways and see terrestrial and aquatic habitats. There is a bike path that travels around the lake as well.
1400 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, Phone: 805-564-5418
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15. Shoreline Park
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Shoreline Park is a 14.6-acre popular park along the coastal bluff in Santa Barbara, just west from the Leadbetter Beach. Amenities in the park include a group area for picnics, two restrooms, a playground, stairs to the beach access, park benches, sidewalks, and barbecue grills and individual picnic tables. Visitors can also enjoy sweeping views from the park of the coastline, the Santa Ynez Mountains, and the surrounding City of Santa Barbara. Visitors can also possibly have a chance to see whales from the Shoreline Park. Children love the playground and it’s a good spot for family picnics.
Shoreline Dr & Santa Rosa Place, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
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16. The Santa Barbara Public Library
© The Santa Barbara Public Library
The Santa Barbara Public Library is part of the City of Santa Barbara’s public library system and one of the easily free things to do in Santa Barbara, California. In addition to books and other activities at the library, visitors may also have the opportunity to explore art exhibits at the Central Library of Santa Barbara.
40 E Anapamu St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, Phone: 805-962-7653
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17. American Riviera Franceschi Park
© American Riviera Franceschi Park
The American Riviera Franceschi Park is the former estate of Francesco Franceschi, a famed botanist, and offers panoramic views of Santa Barbara and its great setting. In addition to being a green space for visitors and locals to relax, Franceschi Park is also a peaceful resource for horticulture in the community where Dr. Franceschi’s pioneering work is continued and honored. The American Riviera Franceschi Park promotes horticultural education, encourages passive recreation, and celebrates the aesthetics of the landscape of the Mediterranean climate. Franceschi imported more than nine hundred plant species to the climate of Santa Barbara from 1894 to 1913.
1510 Franceschi Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, Phone: 805-564-5418
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18. Self Guided Red Tile Walking Tour
The Self-Guided Red Tile Walking Tour is a pleasant stroll through downtown Santa Barbara that introduces visitors to some of the most interesting historic landmarks in the city through around twelve blocks, starting with the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Many shops and restaurants are located along the walk. Sites visitors can see on the Self-Guided Red Tile Walking Tour include Santa Barbara County Courthouse, Public Library, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Hill-Carrillo Adobe, Casa De la Guerra, Presidio Avenue, and the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. This walking tour was developed originally by the Chamber of Commerce of the City of Santa Barbara.
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19. Reagan Ranch Center
You will find the Reagan Ranch Center located in the heart of Santa Barbara on State Street, just 2 blocks from the beach. Originally the home of President Reagan and widely referred to as the Western White House, the ranch was acquired and renovated by the Young America’s Foundation. It reopened in 2006 and provides classrooms, lecture areas, exhibition space and a movie theatre, all of which are dedicated to educating the public about conservatism. This is where America’s top conservative leaders come to address the public on Reagan history, conservative principals and topics of public policy. The galleries are open from 11am to 4pm on Thursdays and Fridays.
217 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, 805 957 1980, (website link)
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20. Santa Claus Beach
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Santa Claus Beach is a popular beach among locals and one of the best kept secrets of the city of Santa Barbara. The sandy treasure is a somewhat uncrowded stretch of wide beach with soft white sand. Santa Claus Beach offers mild, great waves for plenty of fun in the ocean, such as boogie boarding, paddle boarding, swimming, and just general beach frolicking. The shore of the beach provides a gradual, shallow entry to the ocean, making Santa Claus Beach an ideal beach for children as well. Visitors may want to bring an umbrella with them as there is limited shade.
Santa Claus Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, Phone: 805-275-1851
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21. Santa Barbara County Courthouse
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Visitors to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse have the chance to explore one of the most beautiful public buildings in America. The courthouse was designed using the Spanish-Colonial architectural style, constructed back in 1929. It is still a functioning courthouse and an iconic landmark of Santa Barbara due to its distinctive red tile roof, four-faced clock tower, verdant grounds and sunken gardens, and elegant arches. Guests can learn more about the Santa Barbara County Courthouse through one of the free drop-in tours offered at certain times.
1100 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-568-3070
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22. Cabrillo Ballpark
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Located right next to the beach, the 5 acre Cabrillo Ballpark has been providing a venue for recreational sport activities since the late 1920’s. Today Santa Barbara locals visit the park to play softball and other ball games on various multi-use grass turf areas. There is a paved walking path along the perimeter of the park where fitness enthusiasts can make use of 13 fitness stations. The path is a popular area for walkers and joggers and leashed dogs are allowed. One of the highlights of the park is a rainbow-colored art sculpture installation by Herbert Bayer, called the Chromatic Gate.
800 E. Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, 805 564 5422
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23. The Funk Zone
© The Funk Zone
Located near the waterfront and Lower State Street, the Funk Zone is evolving into one of the city’s most vibrant and eclectic arty neighborhoods. The area was formerly and manufacturing area but a gradual change came about when diverse new enterprises started moving into the neighborhood. Today the Funk Zone encompasses around 13 blocks, which are great to explore on foot. Here you will find some of Santa’s Barbara’s most cutting-edge restaurants, breweries, boutique stores, galleries and no fewer than 20 wine tasting rooms (grab a copy of the Urban Wine Trail). There is also some great street art to admire and arty coffee shops when you need a break.
137 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, 805 880 3383
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24. Skater's Point
Located on the beach, just east of Stearn’s Wharf, Skater’s Point is a popular recreation area for all types of skating. The park overlooks the ocean and is a brilliant facility where skaters of all ages can practice their hobby without worrying about traffic and pedestrians. Skater’s Point is mostly used by skateboarding enthusiasts but you will sometimes see a few in-line skaters honing their skills. The 14,000 sqft concrete park is free to use and features rails, ledges, quarter-pipes, pyramid and a v-bowl. You will need to bring along your helmet and pads as no-one is allowed to skate without these protective aids.
C877+83, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, 805 564 5418
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25. Gaviota State Park, Goleta
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The Gaviota State Park is located around 20 minutes from Lompoc, where it offers 2 great hiking trails, wonderful ocean vistas and the chance to have a dip in the natural hot springs pools. You will find the main trailhead just off Highway 101, inside the State Park. You can decide whether you prefer the wide fire road of the main trail or the single track of the more challenging, but more scenic, Trespass Trail. Both trails will take you on a loop to the summit of the mountain and back. The milky-blue natural Gaviota Hot Springs are located a little way off the Main Trail, about half a mile from the trailhead.
1595 US-101, Goleta, CA 93117
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