Santa Barbara Visitor Guide 2024: Everything you need to know

Published by: BouncePosted Updated
sailboats in a harbor

For people around the world, California — especially the Pacific Coast — represents a kind of American ideal. Made famous through thousands of Hollywood productions, it's no wonder California receives millions of visitors every year. But away from the vast cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, there are dozens of smaller towns that are worth exploring to enjoy California's incredible scenery and fascinating culture.

Santa Barbara is most definitely one of those places. This small city of around 100,000 people is a resort town that's geared toward tourism. With some of the best weather anywhere in the United States and a location on the glittering ocean, Santa Barbara is known as a great place to swim, surf, and enjoy the California coast. Further inland, you'll find a wealth of stunning state parks and even a national forest. So whatever you look for in a vacation, chances are good you'll find it here.

A weekend in Santa Barbara

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beach and surf

A weekend in Santa Barbara is enough to get a sense of what the town has to offer. Thanks to the reliably excellent weather, you should be able to enjoy outdoor activities no matter when you visit. Drop off your heavy bags at a Santa Barbara suitcase storage and enjoy California for yourself.

  • Santa Barbara was started as a mission, and you can still see traces of this history in the heart of the city. The old mission dates back to the eighteenth century and feels like a trip back in time. The on-site museum will explain more about the history of this fascinating building.
  • Check out Stearns Wharf to soak up the atmosphere of the town. You can buy fresh seafood right off the fishing boats or enjoy wine tasting and shopping along the pier. The wharf is one of Santa Barbara's top places to visit from out of town, so it may be a good idea to arrive early.
  • Head to the beach at Arroyo Burro Beach County Park. Just outside the center of town, this protected area offers a glimpse of the more natural side of California. Take a stroll along the beach under impressive sandstone cliffs or dip a toe in the water to cool off on a summer's day.

Santa Barbara lockers

Santa Barbara has a lot to offer, whether you're looking for a vacation in nature, lazy days at the beach, or enjoying wine and art in the city's many galleries and restaurants. You'll enjoy your trip far more if you don't carry more than you need to. Drop off extra bags at a Santa Barbara luggage storage service so you can see more of the city without being weighed down.

Off the beaten path in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is the kind of town that attracts artists and eccentrics. So it’s no wonder that away from the more popular attractions in the city, you’ll find some unique places to visit. Drop off your bags at a Santa Barbara suitcase storage and leave the crowds behind as you dive deeper into the attractions of the town.

  • Founded by opera singer Ganna Walska, Lotusland is a stunning botanic garden well worth visiting. You'll find a cactus garden, exotic plants, and a butterfly garden, all of which can be visited on a guided tour. Reservations are required, which means that the tours are never crowded, and you'll learn more about the history of this unique garden created by one woman's love of plants.
  • Visit Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park for a glimpse into a vanished past. This small cave outside Santa Barbara is famous for its cave paintings made by the Chumash people. While it's not certain how old the paintings are, it's believed they date back to the 1600s at least.
  • Take a completely unnecessary boat ride on Lil' Toot. Anyone can easily walk from Stearns Wharf to Santa Barbara Harbor, but why walk when you can take a boat? This bright yellow smiling boat blows bubbles from its smokestack and is always a hit with kids.

What to do alone in Santa Barbara

roadster on street lined with palm trees

Santa Barbara is unabashedly a tourist town. As such, it's a great place to visit by yourself. The city is safe and the locals are used to welcoming visitors from all over the world. Whether you're visiting on business or for solo vacation, you won't lack things to keep you busy here.

  • Explore Santa Barbara Museum of Art. While this small town can't compete with the cultural highlights of a big city, this popular art museum is a great place to get some culture on your trip. Focusing on Impressionism and local California artists, the museum is a great place to spend a few hours getting in touch with the cultural life of this charming town.
  • Santa Barbara Natural History Museum is a winner with kids and adults alike. Take a wander through the exhibits and appreciate the wonders of the natural world in this compact but interesting institution. Large bags aren't allowed, so drop off any unneeded luggage at a luggage storage locker in Santa Barbara before you visit.
  • Santa Barbara is located close to some of California's famed wine country. Set out on a wine tour to visit some of the area's most notable vineyards. You‘ll have plenty of opportunities to sample their product and learn more about California's world-famous wine industry. It's also a great way to meet other travelers and hang out together in a relaxed environment.

The best souvenirs in Santa Barbara

Saltwater taffy is a popular souvenir of the California coast, and you'll find a huge selection at Mother Stearns Candy Company on Stearns Wharf. Or for something more adult, a bottle of local California wine can make for a great souvenir of a Santa Barbara trip. However, if you're after something more unique, head down to the waterfront on Sunday and visit Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show. A painting by a local artist will make a unique souvenir of the city and is something you'll treasure forever. 

7 Best Ways to Experience Santa Barbara in 2024

The natural scenery and incredible coastline of Santa Barbara make it hard to imagine ever getting bored in this Californian town. But as alluring as the beach is, not to mention the quirky charm of the town itself, there’s a lot to discover here under the surface. A local guide is the best way to learn more about what the city has to offer, and Bounce can provide luggage storage in Santa Barbara to make your trip much easier. There’s really no excuse not to dive deeper into what Santa Barbara has to offer.

Best tour by water — Paddle Sports Center

The Californian coastline is what put Santa Barbara on the map. And when you’ve had enough of lounging on the beach, you may find yourself wanting to explore the water. That’s where the Paddle Sports Center comes in. This company offers kayaking tours that will help you explore this beautiful coastline and see a whole other dimension to the city. Don’t worry if you’ve never kayaked before; knowledgeable guides will help you get comfortable, and the tours are open to all ages, making this a great family activity. Contact them at or 8056173425.

Best tour for foodies — Santa Barbara Tasting Tours

With its proximity to some of California’s most productive agricultural land, not to mention all the bounty of the sea, Santa Barbara is blessed with incredible local produce, and this is reflected in the town’s food scene. If you want to learn more about the culinary treasures the town has to offer, take a walking tour with up to six tastings with Santa Barbara Tasting Tours. The guides know all the best places to eat and the stories behind local dishes. They also offer wine tours if you want to explore that side of the local agriculture. You can book a tour online or reach out to them at or 805-295-8687.

Best bike tour — Cal Coast Adventures

Relaxing on vacation is all very well, but sometimes, we all feel the need to be a little more active. This company offers a variety of bike tours using electrically powered ebikes or mountain bikes, so you can choose how much you want to challenge yourself. Tours range from half an hour to four hours, so you can go for a quick ride or really immerse yourself in what they have to offer. This locally owned business can show you all the most scenic and interesting spots in the city and help you explore on two wheels. Book a tour by contacting them at or 805-628-2444.

Best walking tour — Totally Cali Tours

Thanks to great Californian weather, Santa Barbara is an excellent city to explore on foot. If you want to learn a little more about the place, this is the company to call. They offer a variety of walking tours that cover varied subjects such as history, winemaking, and local breweries. In fact, they offer 14 different tours, so there’s bound to be one that appeals to you. Contact them at or 8054036500.

Best private wine tour — Wine Canyon Tours

With so many local vineyards in the area, Santa Barbara is a dream destination for wine lovers. If you want a really luxury experience, it’s hard to beat a private tour from Wine Canyon. You can book a tour for up to eight people, though if your party is larger, you can make arrangements in advance. You’ll have a knowledgeable guide to yourself as you travel to some of the region’s top wineries and enjoy what they have to offer. If your budget allows, there’s no more civilized way to get to grips with Santa Barbara’s wine industry. Contact them at or (805)453-7047.

Best food and wine tour — Santa Barbara Wine Tours

Santa Barbara is known for having both great food and excellent wine, so why not combine the two? This family-owned business combines food and wine tours into one unforgettable gastronomic experience. As well as helping with wine pairings, they even offer unusual tours such as the Cupcake and Wine Tour, which features wine-infused cupcakes for the perfect mixture of food and drink. Contact them at or (805) 965-1414.

Best vineyard tour — Grapevine Wine Tours

With so many wine tours in the area, Santa Barbara tour operators need to set themselves apart. This tour does so by offering a different experience to the regular winetasting. Although you will get to visit multiple vineyards and sample the wines they produce, you’ll also be treated to a picnic in the rolling hills of Santa Barbara’s wine country. They offer tours every day and can also accommodate private tours. All in all, it’s a great spin on the traditional wine tour. Reach out to them at or 19516935755.

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