How to Spend 1 Day in Santa Barbara
With museums, Spanish colonial sites, and gorgeous coastline, Santa Barbara offers plenty to see and do. Fortunately, it’s compact enough that you’ll be able to get a taste of what this city has to offer in just one day. Here’s how.
Morning: Go Back in Time
Start off your morning with a visit to the Old Mission of Santa Barbara, a Franciscan mission built in 1786 and arguably the city’s most important historic site. Inside the property, visitors will find art and artifacts, recreations of period rooms (including a priest’s quarters and a kitchen), and gardens and courtyards.
From the Mission, it’s a quick jaunt north to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to experience its collection of exhibits detailing the natural life of the Santa Barbara region.
Afternoon: Head to the Beach
After visiting the museum, go straight down to Stearns Wharf to try out local seafood while taking in great views. Popular dining options include The Harbor Restaurant and the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company.
From the wharf, make your way to Leadbetter Beach, a scenic stretch of sand that’s loved by sunbathing tourists and locals alike. Here you can learn how to surf or stand-up paddleboard. Alternatively, travel west to the 15-acre Shoreline Park, which mixes manicured parklands with rugged coastline and offers views of the Channel Islands in the distance.
Night: Take In Dinner and a Show
As night falls, grab an early dinner and then head to The Granada Theatre, located downtown on State Street. Dating to the early 20th century (and extensively renovated in the late 1990s), this historic theater hosts the bulk of the city’s important cultural events: The State Street Ballet, the Santa Barbara Choral Society and CAMA, the Opera Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara Symphony all operate out of the theater.
If you’ve got energy leftover after a show, wrap up the evening with a trip to the Funk Zone, a trendy arts district full of art galleries, boutiques, breweries, and wine bars.