If you’re looking for a picturesque coastal city to visit for a relaxing and sun-filled weekend getaway, Santa Barbara absolutely needs to be on your radar. From the beautiful beaches to the stunning Spanish and Mediterranean-inspired architecture to the excellent hikes, it really does have it all. Plus, the area is home to some of the absolute best restaurants, bars, and wineries!
As a California native, Santa Barbara has been one of my favorite towns to explore since I was a kid, and I still never get tired of visiting the gorgeous city and beautiful natural surroundings.
There is so much to do in the area, but you can still fit in a ton if you just have a couple of days. If you want to plan the perfect weekend in Santa Barbara, this guide will go over everything you need to know for your visit!
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel and vacation rental links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would absolutely never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
How Much Time Do You Need in Santa Barbara?
A weekend is a good amount of time to spend in Santa Barbara, but you can easily fill your itinerary if you have more time!
With two days, you can spend one day checking out the sights in Downtown Santa Barbara, and the other exploring beyond downtown for some hiking and beach time. That’s what you’ll find in the itinerary below.
If you have more time, there are also some recommendations for additional things to do in the area towards the bottom of this guide.
If you only have one day in Santa Barbara, you can still see a lot of the area. Be sure to check out this guide on spending one day in Santa Barbara for a more condensed itinerary!
Where to Stay in Santa Barbara
There are quite a few hotels in Santa Barbara, so let’s narrow it down a bit. Here are my accommodation recommendations for downtown, The Funk Zone, and the greater Santa Barbara area.
Downtown Santa Barbara is a great place to stay, as you’re right by many of the best restaurants and bars in the area, and can still easily get to the beach.
Here are a few downtown options:
- Palihouse Santa Barbara: This upscale boutique hotel is a short walk from State Street, and has a pool, cocktail bar, and cafe on the property. There are rooms and suites available, many of which have a patio or garden.
- Hotel Santa Barbara: This upscale hotel offers the best of both worlds, as it’s located right between The Funk Zone and the center of Downtown Santa Barbara. Hotel Santa Barbara has both rooms and suites available.
Staying in The Funk Zone
The Funk Zone – Santa Barbara’s arts and culture district – is a super lively and fun area to stay in, and it’s also just a short walk from the beach. A few great hotels in the area to check out include the following:
- The Waterman: This stylish hotel is located right in The Funk Zone. The Waterman has a pool on the property, and there are rooms with either queen or king beds available to book.
- Hotel Californian: The beautiful Hotel Californian is right on the border of The Funk Zone, and is only a block away from the beach. The hotel offers both rooms and suites, many of which have ocean views. There is also a rooftop pool, spa, cafe, and restaurant on the property.
There are quite a few hotels outside of the downtown area. These are particularly great for those who’d like to be away from the busier spots in Santa Barbara.
Here are a few options to check out:
- Montecito Inn: This elegant Spanish-style hotel is located in Montecito, a town that’s just about a 10-minute drive down the coast from Santa Barbara. There’s a pool, spa, and two restaurants on-site, and there are both rooms and suites available to book. It’s also less than half a mile away from the beach.
- Agave Inn: The Agave Inn is the perfect choice for anyone looking for a more budget-friendly option. The trendy, southwestern-style hotel is located on State Street, and is less than a 10-minute drive from the middle of the downtown area. There are rooms available, as well as suites with kitchenettes.
How to Spend a Weekend in Santa Barbara
Let’s dive into how you can spend 2 days in Santa Barbara! You’ll start with dinner and drinks on arrival night, and then will spend your first full day checking out the must-see sights in this area.
On day 2 of your Santa Barbara weekend trip, you’ll have a more active day, exploring the greater Santa Barbara area with some hiking and time at the beach!
Friday Night: Grab Dinner and Drinks Along State Street
On your arrival night, head into Downtown Santa Barbara to enjoy dinner and drinks along State Street. This picturesque palm-tree lined street is home to some of the city’s best restaurants and bars.
There are quite a few spots to grab dinner in the area (and you’ll also find even more recommendations later in this guide), but here are a few that I particularly recommend:
- Bouchon: If you’re in the mood for something a bit fancier, head over to Bouchon. This restaurant offers a variety of seasonal dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, with a slant towards seafood. This is also an especially ideal option for wine aficionados, as they have a great wine list!
- The Blue Owl: For something a little more low-key, check out The Blue Owl. This Asian fusion restaurant has a menu that’s just as eclectic as the interior decor. You’ll find fried rice, sandwiches, burgers, salads, and plenty of vegan-friendly dishes.
- The Daisy: This bright and airy restaurant sources its produce from the Santa Barbara farmers market, and its meat from local ranches. The menu features dishes like a house-smoked brisket banh mi, a beef & lamb meatball, and smoked ribs. There are also vegan options available.
Once you’re done with dinner, stay in the area for some drinks! No matter what you’re in the mood for, there are options along State Street for everyone. Here are some places to check out:
- The Good Lion: This warm and inviting cocktail bar has a rotating drink menu that features herbs, spices, fruits, and produce sourced from the central coast. You’ll also find a few California craft beers and wines on the menu.
- Barbieri & Kempe Wine: If you’re looking to kick off your Santa barbara weekend getaway with some wine, head over to the tasting room for local winery Barbieri & Kempe. Choose to do a tasting, or just enjoy a glass or two.
- Night Lizard Brewing Company: Beer fans can end the evening at Night Lizard Brewing Company, which produces beers using fresh local ingredients. The laid-back brewery offers a wide range of beers, as well as kombucha.
Saturday: Explore the Downtown Area
On your first full day in Santa Barbara, you’ll explore the must-see sights in and around Downtown Santa Barbara, and eat some great food along the way!
In the morning, you’ll stop by the Santa Barbara courthouse and the Santa Barbara mission. Later in the day, you’ll walk the wharf before exploring The Funk Zone.
For this day’s activities, you can explore mostly by foot if you’re up for a good amount of walking. However, I’d still recommend traveling by car to get to and from the Old Mission, which is about a mile and a half away from the center of Downtown Santa Barbara.
You won’t have a chance for a more leisurely breakfast tomorrow, so take the opportunity during your first full day to dine at one of the best breakfast restaurants in Santa Barbara! Here are a few great places to check out all around town:
- Jeannine’s at the Shore: Enjoy some classic breakfast options (think benedicts, French toast, omelets, and more) at this breakfast spot, which is located right across the street from the beach. While I particularly recommend the beachside location at 1 State Street, you can also find locations in Goleta, Montecito, and further inland on State Street. One of these may be more convenient, depending on where you’re staying.
- Dawn Patrol: This casual breakfast and lunch restaurant is located a little further inland, near The Funk Zone. Here, you can build your own hash, or order items like pancakes (including a gluten free option), benedicts, huevos rancheros, and more.
- Scarlett Begonia: Even further inland in the heart of downtown you’ll find Scarlett Begonia, which is conveniently located just a couple blocks away from the next stop in the itinerary. The weekend brunch menu features lemon ricotta pancakes, shrimp and grits, a biscuit sampler, and more.
Explore the Santa Barbara County Courthouse
After breakfast, you’re going to make your way to the heart of Downtown Santa Barbara (if you aren’t already there) to check out the historic Santa Barbara County Courthouse. This photo-worthy Spanish-Colonial style courthouse was built in 1929, and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2005.
The courthouse typically has free docent-led tours of the interior, but they have been temporarily paused. You can check the official courthouse website for the most current information on the status of tours.
It’s also worth noting that the interior is currently closed to the public. However, even if the interior is still closed during your visit, there is plenty to see.
Using this interactive map, you can do a self-guided tour of the property. Be sure to stop by the Anacapa and Garden Arches, as well as the jail entrance and the gardens. If you are able to get inside when you visit, you won’t want to miss a climb up the Clock Tower, where you can get panoramic views of the area.
Visit Old Mission Santa Barbara
Next, it’s time to head over to another National Historical Landmark: Old Mission Santa Barbara.
This mission was founded in 1786, and was the 10th of the 21 missions that Spain built across California in order to expand its control and convert indigenous people to Catholicism. It’s the only mission that is still operated under the guidance of Franciscan Friars, and services are still held on-site.
The 15-acre property features a museum, gardens, a mausoleum, a cemetery, and of course, the mission church.
You have two options for exploring the mission. If you’d like a more in-depth look, you can purchase a $15 ticket to do a self-guided tour of the whole property.
Keep in mind that the mission is sometimes closed (or partially closed) for weddings and other events, so the full space may not be available to tour during those times. The website is kept up-to-date with closure information.
Alternatively, you could skip the tour and just enjoy the beautiful exterior of the mission for free.
Get Lunch in Town
After visiting the Old Mission, it’s time to make your way back into town for lunch. Here are a few great spots that are within walking distance of the next location on the itinerary:
Lilly’s Taqueria: Santa Barbara has some excellent Mexican restaurants, and this laid-back taqueria is one of the best. The simple menu offers both meat and veggie taco options. For the best experience, order a few different varieties!
The Cruisery: This State Street brewpub has a wide range of great lunch dishes, including burgers, sandwiches (the Nashville hot chicken sandwich is a must if you can handle spice!), flatbreads, tacos, and more. They also have craft cocktails, as well as beers on tap.
Kanaloa Seafood: This fish market and restaurant is a great place to enjoy some seafood. Menu options include crispy fish tacos, poke bowls, a salmon burger, and a tuna melt, as well as other non-seafood dishes.
If you have a post-lunch sweet tooth, I highly recommend heading over to Chocolate Maya, which is near these restaurants (it’s in the same shopping center as Lilly’s). This shop was founded by a woman who trained under a chocolatier in Switzerland, and offers bonbons, drinking chocolate, chocolate bars, and more.
Stroll Down Stearns Wharf and Hang Out at the Beach
A Santa Barbara getaway isn’t complete without a visit to the wharf. Stearns Wharf dates back to 1872, and at that time, it was the longest deep-water wharf on the central coast. Walk all the way to the end for lovely views of the coast and water.
After walking down the wharf, head to West Beach (which is right by the wharf) for a short walk along the water. Make your way towards the docks, and then turn around to head to the next stop on the itinerary. You won’t have a ton of time to spend here, but don’t worry – you’ll be able to visit another beach tomorrow!
Explore The Funk Zone and Go Wine Tasting
Now it’s time to walk over to The Funk Zone, which is the center of Santa Barbara’s arts and culture scene. As you walk around this industrial area, you’ll find local galleries, independent shops, wine tasting rooms, bars, and restaurants.
When visiting The Funk Zone, you absolutely have to stop by at least one wine tasting room. Some of these businesses solely offer wine from the greater Santa Barbara County region, while others also have options from vineyards around the world.
The Urban Wine Trail is a great resource for locating wineries and tasting rooms in The Funk Zone and all around Santa Barbara (check out this directory to look at options specifically in The Funk Zone). Here are some of the spots I’d recommend checking out while you’re in the area:
- Pali Wine Co.: Pali Wine is an environmentally-friendly winery based in Lompoc (which is located in Santa Barbara County). The winery – which has three distinct brands under its umbrella – has its own vineyards in Santa Rita Hills and Sonoma, and also purchases grapes from smaller family-owned vineyards across the state.
- Santa Barbara Wine Collective: If you want to try wines from a variety of top-tier wineries across the county, you’ll want to head to this tasting room. At Santa Barbara Wine Collective, you can build your own flight, choose from their curated flights, or just order a glass or bottle.
- The Valley Project: This is another excellent local winery with a tasting room in The Funk Zone. The Valley Project makes wines using grapes from the five distinct viticulture areas of the county, so it’s a great place to get a real taste for Santa Barbara wine.
Get Dinner in The Funk Zone
After wine tasting, you’ll stay in the area to have dinner in (or near) The Funk Zone. Consider checking out one of these restaurants:
- Loquita: If you’re in the mood for authentic Spanish food, Loquita (which is right on the edge of The Funk Zone) is the place to be. The menu has a great selection of cold and hot tapas, as well as different seasonal paellas.
- The Lark: Another Funk Zone staple is The Lark, which is located inside a former fish market. At The Lark, you can enjoy both seafood and meat dishes, as well as a variety of appetizers (be sure to get the crispy brussels sprouts to share!).
- Shalhoob’s Funk Zone Patio: If you want to keep things a bit more casual, enjoy dinner on the outdoor patio at Shalhoob’s. Here, you can order tacos, burgers, sandwiches, salads, nachos, street corn, and more.
Sunday: Explore Beyond Downtown Santa Barbara
For day two of your Santa Barbara itinerary, you’ll explore beyond the downtown area, starting your day with a beautiful hike up in the mountains. Afterwards, you’ll spend some time at a botanic garden before relaxing at the beach. Unlike yesterday, you’ll definitely need a car to get from activity to activity, but you won’t spend too much time on the road.
You’ll want to grab coffee and a quick breakfast near where you’re staying before heading out for the day. Towards the end of this guide, you’ll find a couple coffee shop recommendations – check to see what’s available near where you’re staying.
I also highly recommend packing some snacks to refuel after your hike! You won’t immediately go to lunch afterwards, so it’s a good idea to have something on hand for a mid-morning snack.
Hike the Inspiration Point Trail
Start day two of your weekend in Santa Barbara by hiking this 3.4-mile out-and-back trail. Inspiration Point Trail is one of the best hikes for views of the ocean, the town, and the beautiful surrounding mountains.
This moderately-rated trail (which has a 935-foot elevation gain) starts on a paved road, which eventually turns into a dirt path that leads you towards the viewpoint.
Keep in mind that there isn’t a parking lot at the trailhead, and finding parking can get a bit tricky. As you drive up Tunnel Road, you’ll see some street parking on the right side of the road – you’ll want to snag one of these spots and walk your way up to the trailhead. The earlier you get out, the easier it will be to find parking!
If you’d like to make it a longer hike, you can also connect to the Seven Falls Trail, which shares the same path as Inspiration Point for the first portion of the hike. This trail leads to a series of waterfalls, but keep in mind that they may be dry depending on the season. Check the recent comments on AllTrails to see their current status.
If you want to do the Seven Falls hike, on your way back from Inspiration Point, you’ll want to veer left where these two trails connect to make your way to the falls. This will add 1.2 miles to your hike.
Heads up: If you choose to add on this extra hike, you may need to head to lunch immediately after the hike and then go to the botanic garden. You can also just skip the garden altogether, but I recommend trying to fit it in!
Visit the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
After your hike, make the 5-minute drive down to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. This 78-acre garden has over 5.5 miles of walking paths, and offers amazing views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the ocean. Even if you don’t consider yourself a botanic garden person, I highly recommend stopping by this one.
The property is huge and incredibly diverse, and it’s easy to get away from the crowds and find some peace and quiet. It’s one of the best I’ve been to!
The spacious property features a redwood tree grove, a desert garden, a Japanese tea house, and much more. You can even check out the historic Mission dam and aqueduct, which was built back in the early 1800s to direct water to the Old Mission.
During the spring, you might also spot some California poppies in bloom at the meadow section near the entrance. Note that the garden does require reservations to be made in advance online. Adult tickets currently cost $16.
After visiting the garden, it’s time for a much-deserved lunch! You have a few options here. One option is to head back into town to stop by one of the restaurants from yesterday’s itinerary that you may have missed. The Blue Owl, Lilly’s Taqueria, Kanaloa Seafood, and The Cruisery are all excellent choices.
Alternatively, you can drive a bit further towards Douglas Family Preserve and Arroyo Burro Beach (the next stops on the itinerary) and stop for lunch over there. It’s a largely residential area, so there aren’t a ton of restaurants, but there are a few great options. I’d recommend stopping at one of these spots for lunch, which are just about a 15-minute drive from the botanic garden:
- Mesa Verde Restaurant: This 100% vegan restaurant offers food inspired from cuisines in the Middle East, Sicily, Spain, North Africa, and beyond. Some standouts on the menu include the polenta fries, the picadillo empanadas, and the fried mushroom sandwich.
- Sam’s To Go: If you want to pick up lunch to take to the beach, this no-frills local sandwich shop is the place to go. The shop offers a range of hot and cold sandwiches, including some vegetarian options.
- Corner Tap Room: Another great choice (especially if you want a post-hike beer with lunch!) is this local taproom. The menu largely consists of a variety of different flatbreads, but you’ll also find salads and shareable appetizers, including jalapeno poppers and a Bavarian pretzel.
Need a caffeine boost? I’d also recommend stopping by Lighthouse Coffee, which is just across the street from these three restaurants. This coffee shop serves classic, high-quality coffee and tea drinks, including matcha, cold brew, macchiato, lattes, and more.
Do an Easy Hike at Douglas Family Preserve
Before heading down to the beach, you’ll do a super easy but incredibly scenic ocean bluff hike at Douglas Family Preserve, which is right above Arroyo Burro Beach.
The Arroyo Burro Beach Loop is a 1.3-mile hike that offers stunning views of the coast. You’ll also walk through beautiful shaded areas. The trailhead is located on Medcliff Road, right where it turns into Selrose Lane. You can park in this neighborhood, but be sure to be mindful of street signs in the area.
Enjoy the Afternoon at Arroyo Burro Beach
Once you’re done with your hike, you can finish off your weekend trip to Santa Barbara with some time at the beach!
Head back to your car and drive just 5 minutes up the coast to the Arroyo Burro Beach Parking Lot, and walk down to Arroyo Burro Beach (also known as Hendry’s Beach). Here, you’ll have amazing views of gorgeous coastal bluffs.
It’s an excellent place to walk, soak up the sun, jump in the water, or just enjoy the scenery! If you have the time, I’d also suggest staying at the beach to watch the sunset.
If you’ll be sticking around for dinner, you can check out any of the restaurants from night 1 or night 2, or any of the recommendations you’ll find towards the end of this guide. Here are two more spots to consider – one more low-key, and one more upscale:
- La Super-Rica Taqueria: If you’re looking for something a little more casual, check out this taqueria (which happened to be one of Julia Child’s favorites!). The menu features everything you’d want from a great taqueria: tacos, tamales, quesadillas, and more.
- Oliver’s: For something a bit more upscale, head down to Montecito (just about a 10-minute drive from Downtown Santa Barbara) to dine at Oliver’s, a fully plant-based restaurant. They have great cocktails, and the kung pao cauliflower and artichoke “crab cakes” are must-haves!
What to Do with More Time in Santa Barbara
There are a ton of fun things to do in and around Santa Barbara, so you can easily fill up your days if you’re planning on spending more than a weekend in the area. Here are some of the activities I’d recommend considering if you have more time in Santa Barbara.
Get in More Hiking
There are a ton of trails in Santa Barbara, and hiking is a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Here are a few additional hikes to consider:
- Carpinteria Bluffs Loop (2.7 miles, 104-foot elevation gain): If you’re looking for an easy oceanside hike, this trail in Carpinteria (which is a 10-minute drive from Downtown Santa Barbara) is a great choice. It’s located on top of the coastal bluffs, and takes you past the Carpinteria Seal Sanctuary. Note: there is a $10 parking fee.
- San Marcos Foothills West Mesa Loop (1.7 miles, 291-foot elevation gain): Another easy hike that’s more inland is this loop in the San Marcos Foothills Preserve. You’ll get gorgeous, sweeping views of the area. Keep in mind that there’s very little shade, so be sure to bring ample sun protection!
- Romero Canyon Trail (6 miles, 1,499-feet elevation gain): This mountain trail is located just past Montecito, in Los Padres National Forest. The oak tree-lined trail leads you through the canyon, and offers beautiful views of the ocean as you ascend the mountain.
- Red Rocks to Gibraltar Dam Trail (6.5 miles, 830-feet elevation gain): This is another great option located further inland in Los Padres National Forest, about an hour drive from Downtown Santa Barbara. The loop leads you through the mountains, and passes by several natural pools. Note: there is a $10 day use fee.
Go Wine Tasting in Santa Ynez Valley
Santa Barbara County is known for having an excellent wine scene, and there are approximately 120 wineries located in the Santa Ynez Valley – so there’s no shortage of spots to explore!
This region includes the towns of Solvang, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez, and is about a 45-minute drive from Downtown Santa Barbara.
Some of the wineries that I’ve been to in the area and recommend (for both the scenery and the wine!) include Koehler Winery (Los Olivos), Rusack Vineyards (Solvang), Sunstone Winery (Santa Ynez), and Andrew Murray Vineyards (Los Olivos). Many wineries in the region do require advanced reservations, so be sure to check their websites for the most up-to-date visiting info.
If you have a full day, I’d recommend spending the morning in Solvang (more on that below), and then visiting a few wineries in the afternoon.
Solvang is a small town in the Santa Ynez Valley that has been dubbed the Danish capital of the US. Stroll through town and admire the architecture (be sure to stop by the iconic Solvang Windmill!), and enjoy some excellent food and drinks along the way.
You also can’t visit Solvang without grabbing some Danish pastries from one of the five bakeries in town (Birkholm’s Bakery is my favorite – get the cherry boat!) and aebleskivers from Solvang Restaurant (they have a to-go window in front).
Head to Ojai
Ojai is a small, incredibly picturesque town that’s about a 45-minute drive from Santa Barbara. There are gorgeous hikes and nature walks in the area that can’t be missed.
You can also head into the downtown area to admire the Spanish architecture, browse through local boutiques and antique shops, and dine on some amazing food.
If you’re thinking of visiting, be sure to check out this Ojai day trip guide to get the full scoop on things to do in the area!
Do a Day Trip to Channel Islands
If you’re looking for a fun outdoor adventure, consider heading out to Channel Islands National Park.
You’ll take a boat out of Ventura (approximately a 40-minute drive down the coast) to your island of choice (Santa Cruz Island is the most popular of the five) via Island Packers Cruises.
Once on the island, there are plenty of hiking trails, and you can also consider doing a guided kayaking and/or snorkeling tour with Santa Barbara Adventure Company.
Keep in mind that you’ll need a full day to visit, since a one-way boat ride to Santa Cruz Island takes an hour, and you’ll want to give yourself ample time to explore.
What to Do with Less Time in Santa Barbara
If you aren’t able to spend a full weekend in the area, you can still cover a lot of ground in and around Downtown Santa Barbara with just a day. Check out this one day in Santa Barbara guide for ideas on how to make the most of your short visit.
You’ll still be able to pack in the courthouse, the mission, Stearns Wharf, a visit to some local restaurants, and wine tasting in The Funk Zone!
Eating and Drinking in Santa Barbara
We’ve gone over quite a few places to eat and drink in the itinerary, but the recommendations don’t stop there! In addition to the spots mentioned above, here are a few more ideas on where to eat and drink in Santa Barbara.
Where to Eat in Santa Barbara
Cold Spring Tavern: Cold Spring Tavern is a former stagecoach stop that has been operating since 1865. Stop for lunch or dinner inside the historic tavern and enjoy the charming Old West ambiance. They also have outdoor BBQ on the weekend. This unique spot is a bit out of the way, but it’s a great stop for when you’re going to or from Santa Ynez Valley.
Yoichi’s: Head to Yoichi’s to enjoy a delicious and traditional Japanese meal. The multi-course dining experience is definitely pricier, but excellent for anyone looking for a once-in-a-lifetime meal in Santa Barbara.
State & Fig: Another excellent brunch and lunch spot is State & Fig, a rustic California-style restaurant in the heart of downtown. On the menu, you’ll find benedicts, burgers, sandwiches (including a variety of fried chicken options), salads, and more.
Freebirds: If you find yourself in Isla Vista, be sure to stop by Freebirds. This casual build-your-own-meal spot has burritos, bowls, tacos, and nachos. Extra hungry? Indulge in a monster burrito.
Where to Drink in Santa Barbara
Dune Coffee: There are four Dune Coffee locations: two up in Goleta, and two in the Downtown Santa Barbara area. At Dune, you can order anything from matchas to lattes to macchiatos and everything in between. They also have baked goods and smaller bites to eat.
Dart Coffee Co.: This Funk Zone coffee shop has a really nice garden space right across the street, so it’s a great spot to stop by if you want to soak up the sun while enjoying your drink of choice. On the menu, you’ll find your traditional coffee and tea drinks, as well as specialty options (like a lavender latte and a churro cortado).
Wine & Beer
Brass Bear Brewing and Bistro: This brewery in The Funk Zone was launched by a husband and wife team in 2016. They have a small but varied selection of Brass Bear beers on tap, as well as a rotating selection of guest beers. You can also order wine, kombucha, and cocktails, as well as food.
Third Window Brewing: Third Window is located a bit on the outskirts of Downtown SB, but is still walkable from State Street. They have a wide selection of beers on tap, and they also serve food.
Grassini Family Vineyards: If you’re looking for a wine tasting room outside of The Funk Zone, head downtown to Grassini Family Vineyards. This winery’s vineyard is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, and you can enjoy their wines inside or on the beautiful outdoor patio.
Frequency Wine: Just around the corner is the tasting room of family-owned Frequency Wine, which sources grapes from Santa Barbara County vineyards. They have a large outdoor patio, as well as a bright and airy interior.
Milk & Honey: This cocktail and tapas bar is a great spot to sip on a high-quality drink while sharing a few small plates. The menu has a ton of creative cocktails – the Heat of Passion is a personal favorite!
Test Pilot: If you love a good tiki bar, you have to visit Test Pilot (which is located in The Funk Zone)! This fun and festive bar whips up unique and super delicious craft cocktails.
Pearl Social: Another Funk Zone staple is Pearl Social. This intimate cocktail and music bar offers a great selection of creative drinks.
What is the Best Time to Visit Santa Barbara?
No matter when you’re planning on visiting Santa Barbara, you’re pretty much always in luck – there’s really not a bad time to visit! Let’s go over a quick rundown of what you can expect in each season:
Summer: Weather-wise, the summer is an excellent time to visit Santa Barbara. Along the coast, average temperatures during the day tend to be around the mid to high 70s. Keep in mind that, as you go further inland, you can expect the weather to be a bit warmer. This is especially true of the Santa Ynez Valley. Temperatures tend to range from the mid 80s to low 90s. Of course, you do need to keep in mind that Santa Barbara is a popular summer destination. Expect to deal with more crowds during this season.
Fall: The fall may just be the best time to visit Santa Barbara, especially if you want to spend a lot of time at the beach. The warm summer weather continues into the early fall, with the average temperatures during the day ranging from the low to high 70s. Since school is back in session and fewer people are traveling, you can also expect the area to be much less busy.
Winter: While the weather cools down a bit in the winter, it’s still great for exploring the city and spending a lot of time outside. Average daytime temperatures tend to hover around the mid 60s. Excluding the holidays, the city also won’t be super busy. The only major downside is that you likely won’t want to jump in the ocean around this time of the year (unless you’re bringing a wetsuit!).
Spring: In the spring, the weather typically warms up to the low 70s during the day. While it’s still not the best weather for swimming in the ocean, it’s perfect for strolling through town and going on hikes! You’ll also have a chance to enjoy the flowers in bloom all over the county (especially nice if you’re visiting the botanic garden!). Keep in mind that, with schools going on spring break, there may be some bigger crowds.
How to Get to Santa Barbara
Depending on where you’re coming from, you have a few different options for getting to Santa Barbara. Here’s what you need to know about coming in from Los Angeles and elsewhere.
If you’re coming in from Los Angeles, you have two main options: driving or taking the Amtrak train.
Driving to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles
The drive is pretty straightforward. You’ll just get on Highway 101 North, and take it all the way to Santa Barbara. This will take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on where in L.A. you’re coming from.
Taking the Train to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles
The Amtrak train is also a great and fairly easy option. Just keep in mind that you may need to use a rideshare a few times while in Santa Barbara (especially if you’re following the day 2 itinerary). In addition to Union Station in DTLA, there are a variety of Amtrak stations in the county, primarily in The Valley. Check out the full list of California stations to find your closest option.
From Union Station, the ride is about two and a half hours to the Santa Barbara Amtrak Station, which is super conveniently located right across State Street from The Funk Zone. A one-way ticket will cost between $20 to $40, depending on which station you depart from and which seat you choose.
If you’re coming from another city, in addition to driving, there are two options to consider: taking the train or flying in.
Flying to Santa Barbara
The county’s airport is the Santa Barbara Airport (SBA). While you may have some luck finding a flight in, it’s unfortunately a small airport with only four gates, so options are very limited. You’ll find better options in Los Angeles at either Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) or Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
I’d highly recommend trying to find an option at Burbank first, as it’s closer to Santa Barbara and much less of a hassle to fly in and out of compared to LAX.
If you fly into Los Angeles, you can rent a car and drive up to Santa Barbara. From LAX, it’s about a 2-hour drive, and from BUR, it’s about an hour and a half. Alternatively, you can take the Amtrak train, which you can read more about in the section above.
From LAX, you’d need to take a FlyAway bus (a one-way ticket currently costs $9.75) to Union Station to catch the train. From BUR, the Burbank Amtrak station is conveniently located right across the street, so you can just walk.
Taking the Train to Santa Barbara
Taking the Amtrak train to the Santa Barbara Amtrak Station is a great option, particularly for those coming in from other parts of California. There are routes from San Diego, San Luis Obispo, San Jose, and more. Explore the Amtrak website to see the most convenient route for you, and to find the price for your specific train.
Plan an Unforgettable California Adventure
Heading to California? We’ve got all sorts of super detailed, in-depth California travel guides written by locals to help you plan an amazing trip.
- San Francisco: We’ve got a guide to spending 3 days in SF, one day in San Francisco for planning a shorter trip, and a complete guide to finding the perfect place to stay in San Francisco. We also have guides to 14 perfect weekend getaways from San Francisco and the best day trips in the Bay Area. Oh, we almost forgot, here are the 15 best hikes near San Francisco, written by two Bay Area locals.
- Los Angeles: Read our perfect 2 Day L.A. itinerary, our guide to spending one amazing day in L.A. (with two versions!), and a guide to helping you figure out where to stay.
- San Diego: Learn how to spend a day in San Diego, a weekend in San Diego, and where you should stay.
- Lake Tahoe: Plan the perfect summertime adventure with our 3 day Tahoe itinerary, guide to the best hikes, and our guide to the best things to do in Tahoe.
- Santa Barbara: We have a guide to planning a weekend in Santa Barbara, and a guide to a day trip to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles if you’re pressed for time.
- Mammoth Lakes: To plan a perfect getaway in the Eastern Sierra, read our guide to the best things to do in Mammoth Lakes in the summer. Plus, our guide to the best hikes in Mammoth, featuring the epic climb to the top of Duck Pass.
- Big Sur: Plan the perfect weekend away with our complete Big Sur itinerary.
- Yosemite National Park: Plan an amazing trip with our guide to planning an amazing Yosemite itinerary, and our guide to choosing where to stay at Yosemite.
- Joshua Tree National Park: Plan the perfect trip with our perfect weekend itinerary (or a day trip, if you have less time), a guide to the best hikes, and some cool places to stay in Joshua Tree.
- Death Valley National Park: We have a SUPER detailed guide to planning the perfect Death Valley itinerary, and a guide to the best hikes in Death Valley National Park.
- California Road Trips: See the best of the Pacific Coast Highway on our San Francisco to San Diego road trip, or make the trip up Highway from on a Los Angeles to SanFrancisco road trip. If you’re more into mountains than beaches, a Highway 395 road trip from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe might be more your speed.