Santa Barbara is our favorite place to getaway. It is a beautiful beach city with gorgeous Spanish Colonial style architecture. It is famously nicknamed, The American Riviera.
LA is only 1.5 hours away from Santa Barbara!
Whether you are going on a girls trip, couples trip, or a family trip, Santa Barbara has something for everyone!
Santa Barbara Travel Guide
BEST PLACES FOR PICTURES
Views. Views. VIEWS!
Totally Instagramable places that are also fun to visit!
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is BOTH family friendly and a great place to take photos!
This is the most unique garden I have been to. Every time I visit, I feel like I have transported to different places throughout the garden. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is full with many kinds of plants from around the world.
At Santa Barbara Botanic Garden you can walk amongst gigantic Redwood Trees and also through a succulent desert garden.
How awesome is that?!
How funny is this “Pets on Leash” sign with the octopus?!
This is how you know you are in a beach town.
The Beautiful Tile Stairs
Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center
651 Paseo Nuevo | Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center is a beautiful outdoor shopping mall for everyone! It is totally worth the drive to take photos of the tile stairs, because there is a lot to do here.
There are many restaurants, a mini kids water splash area that they can run in, and of course, shopping!
Yep, I am adding the courthouse to this list, because it is absolutely gorgeous!
We actually debated about eloping at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse or Hawaii (click to see our wedding!)
ALSO, many people don’t know this…but you can go up the Santa Barbara Courthouse’s clock tower and get a GORGEOUS VIEW OF THE CITY!
Mountains and ocean included.
This is a fun little area in downtown Santa Barbara. I would say it is more for the older crowd (aka. kids wont have much fun).
Many businesses at the Funk Zone are wine bars, bars, art galleries, and boutique shops.
The Funk Zone is so neat, because these buildings are converted warehouses and are decorated with murals or contemporary art pieces!
This park may be small, but the view is BIG!
This is the best place to get a full view of the beautiful city of Santa Barbara.
Franceschi Park is not only a great place to take photos, but it is also a great place to have some alone time to read, have a picnic, or even have a romantic stroll. It is so peaceful up here!
Warning: You will be driving quite high for this view, but I think it’s totally worth it!
BEST PLACES FOR FAMILIES
Places for you + the kids to enjoy!
This is the BEST kids museum ever.
It is all interactive and it is so great to see kids’ eyes light up at every exhibit here!
Even adults are fascinated with all the hands-on technology, science, and creative arts exhibits.
My daughter, Tenley, is 2.5 years old when we visited and loved it! We definitely will be back.
You can build your own car and then race other people! You can experiment with different car designs and weight to make your car go faster.
Anyone remember LITE BRITE?!
MOXI has a giant one that kids can have fun with and it actually does light up too!
Vyome is a new exhibit that allows you to explore the connection between the natural and human world. Interact and touch each unique leaf shapes, you’ll discover the power each shapes holds on the entire network as they bloom.
Tenley was so fascinated by this! We spent a good 15 minutes in this exhibit. Which is long for a toddler!
Not only does MOXI have amazing hands-on interactive exhibits, but it is such a beautiful museum with beautiful views! People even get married here! It is that beautiful.
Go up to the top floor, and there you will see a great water play exhibit for kids, large instrumental exhibits, lookout tower to see the beautiful city, and so much more!
Old Mission Santa Barbara is a historical landmark that was founded in 1786. The mission is very close to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. If you are heading to either of them, I recommend visiting both places!
Once you walk in, you just feel at peace. The Rose Garden is a must see!
I highly recommend coming early for a tour.
PS: Children 4 and under are free!
Our family are annual passholders. We visit the Santa Barbara Zoo at least once a month! We call it the zoo with the ocean view.
It may not be the biggest zoo, but it is a very serene and you still see great wildlife here, such as elephants, gorillas, giraffes, farm animals, and more!
Since it is a smaller zoo, it’s a great place to stop by for a couple of hours and still see a lot of Santa Barbara for the remaining hours of the day.
TIP: You can feel free to pack a picnic or purchase food there and and sit on the hill overlooking the ocean!
Think wooden jungle gym for kids!
It is a great park for the kids to run off some energy in their Kids World area.
Alameda Park has another beautiful section across the street where you can enjoy the lake, garden, and even turtles!
Shoreline Park is great! It has a huge grassy area and a kids playground in front of the beach!
Also, parking is free!
BEST PLACES TO EAT!
Our Favorite Restaurants
This is my favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara. Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach is right on the ocean. You can literally walk down to the ocean in less than 30 seconds.
Recommended Dish: Seafood Pasta (my fave!) and their Uni.
Fresh fish on Stearns Wharf! This pier is near MOXI Museum and the popular State St.
Recommended Dishes: Shrimp and Scallops Pasta (my fave!), Cioppino, and Lobster Tacos.
I come here for their classic clam chowder!
This is a Santa Barbara staple! If you are not able to get McConnell’s near you, then come try it in their hometown of Santa Barbara.
McConnell’s Ice Cream was founded in 1949, but since then it has expanded down to Los Angeles and in some grocery stores!
My favorite smoothie place! Our family always has to stop by Blenders when we are in Santa Barbara. Most of the time, it is to have a smoothie for the drive home.
If you like smoothies, try Blenders in the Grass!