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Fun & Free Things to Do in Santa Barbara
We’re going to let you in on a little secret: although Santa Barbara has been long regarded as the playground of the rich and famous, there are also plenty of free activities in the area to entertain visitors of all ages. Museums, parks, beaches and more – just stick to our top 10 free activities list, and you won’t be emptying your wallet on this trip!
Do you like the outdoors? Then beaches and parks are the way to go. Santa Claus Beach is a favorite with Santa Barbara natives. Its wide, sandy shore and mild-to-medium waves make it a fun destination for groups and families. If you have little ones in tow, head to Alameda Park to let them run wild on an elaborate wooden playground that’s popular with the younger set.
If you’re looking for more cultural activities, join the fun by participating in a downtown art walk on the first Thursday of every month. Or visit the Carriage and Western Art Museum to feel like you’re back in the Old West for a day.
Check out this list of completely gratis things to do from sea to shore to schedule your very budget-friendly itinerary.
The 511 Regional BikeMapper provides turn-by-turn directions so you can find the fastest – or flattest – route to the Presidio, as well as tips for safe cycling. If you’re looking to save energy for some of San Francisco’s best bike trails, bring your bike on the free PresidiGo Downtown Shuttle, which offers daily direct service from the Transbay Terminal and Embarcadero BART to the Presidio.
Work up a sweat and see the best view in town for free! One of the most popular hiking destinations in the Santa Barbara area, Inspiration Point offers a scenic panorama of Santa Barbara, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands beyond. Although there are several places to pick up the trail, the most common route is to start on Tunnel Road just past the Santa Barbara Mission. From there, it’s about a three-and-a-half mile hike that will take an hour or two, depending on your pace. The trail is dog friendly, but you should bring a leash. We also recommend packing some water and sunblock. Free parking in the surrounding neighborhoods, but it can be pretty busy on weekends.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Inspiration Point is one of the best (and most photographed) hikes in Santa Barbara.
Geneva’s expert tip: Don’t forget your camera! You’re going to want to snap at least one picture from the top of this scenic trail.
A local favorite, Santa Claus Beach is one of Santa Barbara’s best kept sandy secrets. A relatively uncrowded wide stretch of soft white sand, Santa Claus is actually located in Carpinteria, a sleepy beach town just a short drive (or long bike ride!) from downtown Santa Barbara. Santa Claus gets great, mild waves for all sorts of ocean fun: paddle boarding, boogie boarding, general frolicking etc… The shore offers a shallow, gradual entrance, making this a good beach for younger visitors, too. There’s limited shade, so bring an umbrella. Restaurants, shops and board rentals are nearby. Free street parking is first come, first serve.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Santa Claus Beach is where the locals go to have a budget-friendly good time.
Geneva’s expert tip: Between the natural seashore scenery, mountain backdrop and beachfront homes, you’re guaranteed a lot of golden vacation photo opportunities.
This free, photogenic museum features historical carriages and carriage-related art. It also looks a little like a Hollywood backlot, with staged Old West buildings including shops and saloons. The Carriage and Western Art Museum of Santa Barbara was founded in 1972. You can go there to see one of the largest exhibits of preserved and restored carriages in the nation, including authentic army and circus carriages. It’s home to a collection of vintage celebrity saddles that is second to none; saddles owned by Clark Gable, the Cisco Kid, Jimmy Stewart and many others are on view. The museum is open on weekdays for free, unguided tours. Docent-guided tours are available on the third Sunday of every month, from 1-4 p.m. Private tours for groups and children may be arranged in advance by calling the facility during regular business hours.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Where else can you see famous saddles and carriages, just steps away from the beach?
Geneva’s expert tip: This museum is free, open on weekdays and located in beautiful Pershing Park, just a few blocks from the Santa Barbara harbor.
Possibly the most wondrous of all-natural wonders in Santa Barbara, California. The Coronado Butterfly Preserve is a place where – from late October through early March – monarch butterflies migrate to spend the winter. They hang in clumps and clusters from the branches of the eucalyptus trees, often hundreds at a time. Free to the public (there is a donation box at the entrance), the Coronado Butterfly Preserve open every day from sunrise to sunset. Even in the off season, the preserve is a beautiful place to visit, home to numerous birds and wildlife, Devereux Creek, trails, open area and outdoor gathering areas and classroom.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Coronado Butterfly Preserve is a gorgeous place to see overwintering butterflies in the colder months and hike around in the warmer months.
Geneva’s expert tip: Most people visit the preserve for a self-guided tour, but you can call ahead to arrange a tour to learn more about the overwintering butterflies.
1st Thursday is a monthly evening celebrating art and culture in downtown Santa Barbara. On the first Thursday of every month, participating galleries, shops and other art-related venues open their doors, offering free access to art exhibits and performances. Not limited to artists’ receptions, 1st Thursday also showcases live music, lectures and even wine tastings. Guests are invited to participate and interact with the performers in a social environment, further fostering a creative atmosphere. Plan your tour using the 1st Thursday Passport – a map detailing upcoming attractions available at participating establishments, the Visitor’s Center and online. Or simply head out to State Street and wing it… as long as you follow the music, you’ll do just fine!
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: See great art, meet the artists, enjoy live music and mingle with locals as you stroll beautiful downtown.
Geneva’s expert tip: When festivities start dying down, follow your nose to a scrumptious dinner. 1st Thursday takes you near many of the best restaurants in town.
Skateparks are cool. Free skateparks with ocean views? They’re even cooler. Skater’s Point opened in 2000 as part of the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreations Department. This park is open to skaters of all ages and situated in a choice location… it’s right on the beach! The smooth concrete park was designed based on ideas from local and professional skaters. It features design elements like grind rails, a half pipe, transition rails and more. There is also a comfortable spectator’s area. Skater’s point is open every day from 8 a.m. until half an hour after sunset. Elbow and kneepads are required for all skaters, and so are helmets. The skate park is located along the Cabrillo bike and pedestrian path.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Skater’s Point is an oceanfront skate park. Not a skater? It’s still fun to watch from the sidelines.
Geneva’s expert tip: Younger and less-experienced skaters are encouraged to skate on weekends before noon.
Breakwater at Santa Barbara Harbor
The breakwater at the Santa Barbara harbor is a little bit fancy. It’s intended to minimize the effect of wave action on pricey yachts. It’s also free. The long curved walkway that juts out into the sea is perfect for strolling on sunny weather and warm nights. Incorporating stone brought over from Santa Cruz Island, the breakwater is a smooth path lined with banner-waving flagpoles and offers terrific views of the harbor, the city and the distant mountains. The occasional wave splashes over it (fun!), and there’s a small beach at the very end that is never crowded – except when a flock of pelicans decides to land there. There are a variety of restaurants, shops, tour boat departure points and other attractions nearby.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Sometimes the best beach walk is one that doesn’t get your feet sandy. This fits the bill!
Geneva’s expert tip: It’s not a bad idea to show up hungry. There are some delicious eats in the area, including Brophy’s and On The Alley, as well as the Santa Barbara Fish Market if you’re in the mood for more of DIY dinner.
Head to the giant playground at Alameda Park for hours of fun, free play! Kids World is the very best playground in town. There are also wide, open areas with lots of room for games of tag or frisbee. You’ll also find about a million trees and picnic benches, and a gazebo that hosts musicians on special occasions. This park is a great destination for a lazy afternoon spent reading or napping in the sun. It’s also a fun place for a pick-up soccer game among friends. Event spaces and restrooms are available, and the park often hosts large city celebrations and events. The Earth Day and Summer Solstice festivals are held here. Near the also delightful Alice Keck Park, Alameda occupies two city blocks not far from the downtown area of State Street.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Home to the best playground in town, hands down. This wood fortress has all the slides, swings and secret hiding places any kid could want!
Geneva’s expert tip: Nearby picnic areas lend themselves to outdoor birthdays and other celebrations. Bring a pinata and hang it from a low branch.
Free summer movies, free flamenco shows in August, free 365-degree views of the city from the clock tower… the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a mecca of free, fun things. It’s also stunning! Considered one of the most beautiful government buildings in America, Santa Barbara’s historic Spanish-Moorish style courthouse draws thousands of visitors each year. Civic court functions are still part of daily life in this bustling structure, and there are two sights you absolutely cannot miss: the Mural Room and the El Mirador clock tower. The Mural Room, a popular site for weddings, is the jewel of the Courthouse, showcasing a romanticized version of Santa Barbara’s history over 6,000 square feet of wall space. Not to be outdone, the clock tower allows for a breathtaking view of the city.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: There’s no better place to get a view of Santa Barbara than from the top of the Courthouse clock tower.
Geneva’s expert tip: In the summer, free movies are shown in the sunken gardens on Friday nights. Go early to claim your spot!
If you didn’t take a picture of the Queen of the Missions, does your trip to Santa Barbara even count? Most locals would say no. Pack a picnic (don’t forget the local wine) and spread out for happy hour at the rose garden across the way while admiring the view. Referred to as “Queen of the Missions” for its graceful beauty, the Old Mission Santa Barbara is the tenth of 21 missions built in California. The pink-tinged building features twin bell towers and affords outstanding views of the city. Daily tours are available, and remnants of early mission structures (mill, reservoir, kiln, etc.) can also be seen, along with sacred artifacts. An onsite gift shop features jewelry, statues, religious artifacts and more.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: An exceptionally beautiful historical destination, especially when the lush rose garden is in bloom.
Geneva’s expert tip: Visit the mission during the I Madonnari festival to see great (but temporary) works of art, hear live music and eat food from local vendors.
Article by Geneva Ives of 10 Best – View Original Article Here
10 Reasons Why Santa Barbara is a Seriously Special Place for Outdoor Lovers
Tucked between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara features the best of both worlds when it comes to outdoor adventure. Water lovers can enjoy the beaches and some of the most scenic islands in California just a short boat ride away. Hikers will find endless trails in the Los Padres National Forest with towering views of the Pacific. Add world-class wineries, fine dining, spas, manicured gardens, and the beautiful Mediterranean-style architecture of the city, and you’ll understand why Santa Barbara is so beloved. If you’re an outdoor lover, here are 10 ways that you can get the most out of Santa Barbara getaway.
This east-west range rises sharply from the Pacific, creating a towering backdrop to the coastal city. Located primarily in the Los Padres National Forest, the mountains are filled with excellent hiking trails, many of which culminate with spectacular views of the city and the ocean below. Ambitious hikers can tackle the 2,485-foot Gaviota Peak, which is just two miles from the ocean and accessible by about a 6.5 mile (out and back) trail that rises nearly 2,000 feet in elevation. Many shorter trips are also available, including a popular trail to Lizard’s Mouth, a mountaintop rock formation that offers another unforgettable vista over Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara features some of the best surf breaks in the world, which is why many of the top names in the sport make the town their home. You can watch the top dogs in action or take to the waves yourself. Rincon Point, known in the surf community as the “Queen of the Coast,” features waves that travel for up to half a mile. Leadbetter Point features smaller breakers just west of Santa Barbara Harbor and is perfect for those just learning the sport. Campus Point at the University of California is another mellower spot for visitors to get up on a board and become a part of that famous surf culture.
Just off the coast of Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands National Park offers a spectacular setting to explore. For thousands of years, the isolation of the islands led to the creation of unique and plants and wildlife that you won’t see anywhere else. The park has mainland visitor’s centers in Santa Barbara and Ventura, but the best option is to take a trip to the islands (transportation options are here). Once you’re there, there’s no transportation, food services, or any other support. All you’ll find are scenic trails and unforgettable ocean views of these rugged national treasures.
Cycling is a great way to explore Santa Barbara. Bring your bike and enjoy comfortable beach cruises or challenge yourself by traveling through the mountains. One of the most iconic climbs for road cyclists in Southern California is Gibraltar, a nine mile ride that features more than 3,000 feet of climbing. Local cyclists refer to it as the Alpe d’Huez of Santa Barbara, recalling the famous mountain stage of the Tour de France. Mountain bikers have lots of options when it comes to going off-road. Stick close to town and explore Elings Park, which features about five miles of singletrack trails that are perfect for beginners. Serious riders will want to check out Jesusita and its 7 miles of trails in the mountains just outside of town. Be prepared for long climbs and some technical section of trail.
This water activity has exploded in recent years, and you won’t find a more scenic place to stand up on the water than in Santa Barbara. Both the Santa Barbara Adventure Company and Cal Coast Adventures offer both rentals and lessons at several area beaches. (They can also help with rentals/lessons for kayaking and surfing as well.) One of the post popular spots is Santa Barbara Harbor, which features calm waters and sandy beaches. After your ride, stop by the Chuck’s Waterfront Grill or the Shoreline Beach Cafe for a well-earned meal.
Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens
Get to know more about the area’s plant life at the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens. You’ll find more than 1,000 different native California plants in this 78 acre preserve that’s also a world-class center for research. You can take docent-led tour to find out more, or simply enjoy the hiking everything from cool Redwood forests to sandy desert terrain on your own.
Let the wind do the work while you enjoy the views while out on a sailboat. Start at Santa Barbara Harbor and you’ll be able to explore the coastline, the Santa Barbara Channel and the Channel Islands National Park. Regular northwest winds make this an excellent spot both novice boaters and experienced sailors. Santa Barbara Sailing offers both instruction as well as private and public cruises. From mid-February to mid-May, take a whale-watching cruise to spot the majestic Pacific Gray Whales.
Island Kayak Tour
This kind of boating requires more effort on your part, but trust us, it’s worth it. The best ways to see the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary is by kayak, which allows you to explore many caves that are inaccessible by foot. The Santa Barbara Adventure Company offers a trip to the Scorpion Anchorage, which features some of the best sea caves in the world. A trip includes a ferry ride to the islands, boats, gear, and a guide.
Santa Barbara features three spectacular golf courses that are among the most scenic in the country. The Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Rancho San Marcos sits in the valley of the Santa Ynez Mountains amid century-old oaks and historic ranch buildings. The Glen Annie Golf Club is in the foothills just outside the city. The front nine holes feature lakes and water hazards while the back nine on the mountain feature ocean and channel views. Finally the Sandpiper Golf Club, named by Golf Digest as one of the top 100 public courses in the country, features a links-style course with ocean and mountain views on every hole.
Enjoy the Beach
A day at the beach doesn’t necessarily mean just lying around—although there’s nothing wrong with that. Santa Barbara has a wide variety of beaches to suit many moods. If you want to get in a game of volleyball, East Beach is the place to be. It also offers bike rentals, playgrounds, cafes, and other beach amenities. Arroyo Burro Beach is a dog-friendly beach that’s an excellent beachcombing spot. Leadbetter Beach is the hot spot for surfing, boogie boarding, and swimming, while the west-facing Butterfly Beach may be the best place to watch a sunset.
Article by Jeff Banowetz of Roots Rated – View Original Article Here
A Guide To Cycling In Santa Barbara
Cycling in Santa Barbara is a great way to explore the city, get some exercise and take in the spectacular views. And Santa Barbara’s Mediterranean climate makes it an ideal area for all outdoor activities including bike rides. Bicyclists have come to love Santa Barbara’s quiet, winding roads with views of the mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
Santa Barbara has become a travel destination for many cyclists, including some big-name bike rides. For nine years running the Amgen Tour of California, a Tour de France-style cycle road race, has included Santa Barbara as a stop. The iconic race route hugs the coastline and sends riders up the steep Gibraltar Road, much to fans’ delight.
As a bike-friendly destination Santa Barbara has a lot of options for travelers. Whether you bring your own bike, or rent one from one of the many options in town, you can be sure to enjoy cycling in Santa Barbara as soon as you arrive.
Santa Barbara as a Cycling Destination
Cyclists have an abundance of route options in town, from leisurely rides along the beach to much more challenging routes up in the mountains with breathtaking views.
Local cycling organization CycleCalCoast has taken all the guesswork out of local courses by providing detailed cycling routes and maps which include points of interest, healthy food stops, and bathroom breaks.
Some of our favorite Santa Barbara cycling routes include:
- Biking along Cabrillo Boulevard next to Santa Barbara’s beaches
- Cruising up Mountain Drive to Montecito’s foothills
- A challenging climb up Santa Barbara’s Gibraltar Road
- Venture to the Santa Ynez Valley for long routes with scenic views. Or try vineyard hoping in the Valley, Santa Barbara’s wine country.
Santa Barbara Bike Rentals & Tour Operators
From electric bikes to road bikes, beach cruisers to surreys, mountain bikes to tandem bikes, Santa Barbara has a bike for everyone. Luckily, for most people traveling from out of town there are excellent options for renting a bike and helmet. Our recommended list of bike rental and bike tour options below will help meet any cycling need:
WheelFun Rentals – Two different tours and rentals for bikes, surreys, rollerblades, etc. Found down at Cabrillo Boulevard near the beach.
CalCoast Adventures – Five different bike tours and bike rentals available. Try the city bike tour for a leisurely ride highlighting the best of Santa Barbara. Or try the mountain bike tour, taking riders off the beaten path and up into the mountains.
Wine Country Cycling – Cycling tours focused in the Santa Ynez Valley and specialized bike rentals. Wine country tours include a professional guide and wine tasting!
SB Bikes To Go – Bike Rental Station – located in the Paseo Nuevo Mall next to Panda Express and Eureka Burger. This bike rental kiosk allows people to rent a bike simply with a credit card. And a short walk from the hotel makes it convenient for our guests.
Bring Your Bike and Travel Car Free
Make your trip completely car free by bringing your bike and taking the Pacific Surfliner with service from San Diego, Irvine, Santa Ana and Los Angeles. The Santa Barbara Car Free Program is a great option for travelers looking to leave their cars at home and participants can find special discounts all over town when they present their Amtrak ticket.
Hotel Santa Barbara offers a great SB Car Free deal for guests traveling with the train. Plus, our central downtown location means you can cycle anywhere.
Santa Barbara by Bike
Bicycling in Santa Barbara is BIG. Santa Barbara has put in over 40 miles of bike-ways in the last two decades, is ranked 3rd in the nation for cities of our size in terms of bicycle commute ridership and is ranked number 1 in all of California for bicycle ridership! Safe cycling, secure bike parking and bike lanes and paths are available all around town.
Whether you are a seasoned cyclist looking for adventure on the open road or a more leisurely bike rider, Santa Barbara has something for you. Take advantage of the ideal weather and hop on a bike during your next Santa Barbara visit, or better yet, make cycling in Santa Barbara the theme for your stay. We hope to see you out there on the open road!
Article by Jennie Jacobs of Hotel Santa Barbara – View Original Article Here
Santa Barbara Ranked Top Bike City in California
The City of Santa Barbara ranked first in all California cities when it comes to bicycle ridership for both commuting and recreation, bicycle safety, demographic breadth of ridership, and infrastructure improvements on the way. The ranking was issued by PeopleForBikes, a bicycle advocacy organization made up of major players in the bicycle industry. Santa Barbara got an overall score of 3.1 for the year 2019, up from 1.9 the year before. Typically, the City of Davis has long dominated most surveys on bicycle-accessible cities, but ranking ahead of Davis this year were Ventura, Lompoc, Goleta, Santa Maria, Carpinteria, and Buellton.
The survey ranking was announced just on the heels of last week’s bicycle tourism summit held in the Santa Ynez Valley. The summit, organized by 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, focused on how bicycle tourism can enhance the Santa Ynez tourist economy by, among other things, extending the length of the tourist season. About 130 riders, including Hartmann, several elected officials, and a handful of transportation wonks and bicycle advocates, showed up for a rolling, two-wheeled town hall forum prior to the late-afternoon confab, where cycling evangelist Russ Roca demonstrated how bicycle tourism had helped invigorate the sagging economy of Eastern Oregon.
On the table are proposed new bike paths that might run along the Santa Ynez River from Buellton to Solvang and along abandoned, narrow-gauge railroad tracks from Los Olivos to Los Alamos. Ed France, reigning czar of the Bicycle Coalition, gushed afterward, “Hartmann was on fire,” adding, “In the past we’ve had supporters on the Board of Supervisors; now we have a champion.”
In the meantime, the City of Santa Barbara just voted to issue a request for proposals for a new bike-share program with as many as 500 bikes — including electric bikes — to be strategically located throughout the city’s urban cores. The soonest a vendor could be selected and operating would be sometime this fall.
Article by Nick Welsh of the Santa Barbara Independent – View Original Article Here
Unique Things to Do in Santa Barbara on a Weekend Getaway from L.A.
Santa Barbara is often touted as the American Riviera and with its seaside views and many vineyards, the Central Coast destination does bear some similarity to its French counterpart. Yet Santa Barbara, located just 90 miles up the coast from Los Angeles and accessible via train, is certainly an easier trip for Angelenos. From the station, visitors can easily remain car-free as they explore the area’s many restaurants, shops, bars, and, of course, wineries and tasting rooms. There’s more to do here than we could possibly highlight, but the following includes some solid and unique options for a weekend getaway.
Places to Stay
Hotel Indigo – Hotel Indigo resides a very short walk from the Amtrak station. Pack light, and you won’t even need to call a car. Room are modern, compact, and efficient. The hotel offers a daily selection of light snacks for peckish guests and shares a space with Mexican restaurant Santo Mezcal for larger meals. The hotel also serves as an MCASB Satellite museum, which accounts for their art curation. You can peruse the pieces scattered throughout the hotel’s communal areas, as well as their Art Library. Bike rentals, accessible rooms, and free wifi are available. Ideal for: Adventurous travelers who want a solid place to shower, sleep, and perhaps answer a few emails before exploring their destination.
Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort – If an ocean view is key, the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort a very short walk from the water and recently underwent a $16 million transformation from the Fess Parker hotel to the Hilton brand. The four-star property’s amenities include five restaurants, a spa, fitness center, pool, tennis courts, and free transport back to the Amtrak station. Ideal for: Those travelers who appreciate reliable amenities, convenience, and beautiful views.
Hotel Californian – The Hotel Californian has its roots in a 1925 hotel of the same name that was devastated by an earthquake just shortly after it was built. The modern Hotel Californian comes via designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. It’s an elegant luxury offering with Moroccan flair, and best of all, it’s located in a completely walkable area. Guest rooms are gorgeous and amenities include a Turkish spa, rooftop pool, all-day cafe Goat Tree, and contemporary restaurant Blackbird. Ideal for: Travelers who want a luxury experience in a walkable neighborhood.
Things to Do
MOXI – MOXI just opened in February of 2017, offering an interactive museum that both adults and kids will enjoy. Exhibits blend science, art, tech, and gaming, and include booths where one can create their own film soundtracks; VR exhibits and programming; instruments powered by wind and sun, and tracks where you can build and test your own mini-race cars. A recent exhibit even allowed us to convert the whorls of our fingerprints into music. For those who’d prefer evening activities sans kids, MOXI offers adults-only Afterparty nights. Check their calendar to find out when the next one is. — MOXI, The World Museum of Exploration + Innovation is located at 125 State Street. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children.
Susan Quinlan Doll & Teddy Bear Museum & Library – Where else are you going to see 150 display cases full of over 4,000 dolls and teddy bears, not to mention some 10,000 books on the subject? Retired librarian Susan Quinlan founded the museum in 2005, amassing her collection over the course of 30 years. Guests will find dolls and bears of all types, crafted from a variety of materials. Some are fantastical, some are surprisingly lifelike, and some correlate to specific holidays or fictional characters (like this Medusa Mummy doll.) — The Susan Quinlan Doll & Teddy Bear Museum & Library is located at 122 West Canon Perdido Street. Open Friday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and all major holidays. Because hours may vary, it is advised to call ahead at 805-730-1707.
Salt Cave Santa Barbara – Relax in a dimly lit cave, entirely surrounded by pink Himalayan salt crystals, which, according to Salt‘s owners, date back 200 million years. Some love the salt for its purported healing properties; others may find the space perfect for meditation or a nap. You can lie on the floor among the crystals, or you can lounge in a zero-gravity chair while ambient music plays. There’s something quite relaxing about the gentle crunch of the salt under your body as you make yourself comfortable. Standard sessions run about 45 minutes, but you can also sign up for cave yoga classes, sound baths, massages, salt scrubs, or workshops. A variety of bath and body products, including salt scrubs and soaks, are available in the gift shop. – – Salt is located at 740 State Street. Open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sessions start at $25.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse – A courthouse may not seem like a great vacation stop, but you’d be remiss to ignore this historic building. Built in 1929 in the Moorish-Spanish style, the palatial and operational courthouse offers murals, gorgeous design, and a clock tower from which one can check out some stellar panoramic views from the Pacific Ocean to the Saint Ynez Mountains. Outside, you’ll find the Spirit of the Ocean fountain, a replica of an old sandstone fountain that had begun to fall apart. The spot is popular with photographers for obvious reasons, but history buffs will also enjoy the guided tours. – – The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is located at 1100 Anacapa Street. Daily tours are available at 2 p.m. and on weekends at 10:30 a.m.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art – The Santa Barbara Museum of Art was founded in the 1940s and contains around 27,000 pieces of art, some dating back 5,000 years, as well as a store and cafe, an auditorium, and a library. Among their collection are several Monet paintings (apparently, no other museum in the world has more); David Alfaro Siqueiros’ mural “Portrait of Mexico Today, 1932”; and the 1940 photo series “London’s Honourable Scars: Photographs of the Blitz” from photographer Cecil Beaton. This collection is in addition to the museum’s various rotating exhibits. – – Santa Barbara Museum of Art is located at 1130 State Street. General admission for adults is $5.
Lotusland – Opera singer Madame Gonna Walska began building a garden on her property in the early 1940s and would continue to exercise her green thumb until her death in 1984. Today, the late singer’s 37-acre estate is a nonprofit botanical garden that the public may tour. There are numerous sections, including one full of plants meant to attract butterflies, a cactus garden, and a topiary. – – Lotusland is located at near Cold Springs Road and Sycamore Canyon Road; exact directions are mailed with tour confirmation. Two-hour guided tours are available February 16 through November 15, Weds. through Sat., 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. They are $48 for adults; $24 for ages 3 to 17. Those who become members may enjoy self-guided tours.
Cat Therapy – Santa Barbara’s cat cafe, Cat Therapy, offers a variety way to socialize with adoptable furry friends. Guests will generally get to meet around a dozen cats on any given visit. You can stop by during lounge hours, or sign up for an all levels yoga class, during which kitties freely roam. If you need to pause your downward dog to pet one that’s strolled onto your mat, that’s more than allowed. Did I perhaps use petting a fluffy black cat as an excuse to quit planking? Possibly. – – Cat Therapy is located at 1213 State Street, Suite L. Hour-long reservations are $10 on weekdays; $12 on weekends; $7 on Thursdays between 3-6 p.m.; or free on your birthday. Cat Yoga is $25 for an hour-long class, plus an additional half hour for socializing with cats. Mats provided.
Eat & Drink
Santa Barbara Public Market – For groups who just can’t agree on what to eat, the Santa Barbara Public Market is a food hall with a wide array of options including noodle bar Empty Bowl, Ca’ Dario for pizzas and pastas, and Big Eye Raw Bar. You can also sample oils and vinegars at il Fustino, or get a scoop of Rori’s Artisanal Ice Cream’s fantastic Brown Sugar Banana. – – Santa Barbara Public Market is located at 38 West Victoria Street.
Norton’s Deli – For a quick, but flavorful bite, stop by Norton’s Deli. This New York-style eatery serves Hebrew National hot dogs smothered in toppings and hearty subs, Philly cheesesteaks, and sandwiches. Key is Mom’s PLT, in which crispy pastrami subs for bacon alongside lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayo on toasted sourdough. Unsurprisingly, Guy Fieri was a fan when he stopped by for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. – – Norton’s Deli is located at 18 W Figueroa Street.
The Black Sheep – The Black Sheep is a casual gastropub with cool, low-brow art; a creative cocktail menu; and global fare suitable for sharing. Cocktails are not made with hard liquor, but instead utilize sake, wine, vermouth and other spirits for light twists on classics like the Yuzu margarita or a Manhattan made with a bourbon-infused sake. Menu standouts include the oxtail poutine, purple potato tacos, nachos made with roasted cauliflower and fried kale, and the very tender braised beef cheeks. For $60/person, enjoy a family-style tasting menu. – – The Black Sheep is located at 126 E 6th Street.
Roy – Roy has been around for over 20 years, serving classic American fare at reasonable prices. This laid-back lounge isn’t specifically a late-night spot, but it is a good one if you’re in the mood for a cheese plate and a gimlet or glass of wine after dark. It’s ideal for conversation among friends and strangers, and the art selection on the walls rotates regularly. – – Roy is located at 7 W Carrillo Street.
Test Pilot – For tiki drinks, it’s definitely Test Pilot, where The Buccaneer—bourbon, coconut, rooibos, passion fruit, citrus, cacao—comes served in a hollowed out coconut with a little pirate flag. Other cocktails range from the sweet tropical fare one might expect to more balanced or boozy options not often found at tiki joints. Adult slushies are also an option; enjoy a seasonal slush for just $7, Monday through Friday before 7 p.m. – – Test Pilot is located at 211 Helena Avenue
The Valley Project – There is no shortage of wineries and tasting rooms in Santa Barbara. One option is The Valley Project whose tasting room is focused on displaying the diversity of Santa Barbara County’s American Vitacultural Areas (AVA). An AVA is a region where wine grapes are grown, each one defined by its own geography, each resulting wine with its own terroir. Guests will find a large chalk mural of the region via L.A. artist Elkpen as they enter, then can learn about the region via soil samples and wine tastings. – – The Valley Project is located at 116 E Yanonali Street.
Chuck’s Waterfront Grill – Chuck’s is the kind of long-standing, casual restaurant you’d expect in a coastal town. Enjoy steaks, seafood, cocktails and wine right on the harbor, perhaps while seated outside at a table with a fire pit smack in the middle for when chillier temperatures roll in after sunset. – – Chuck’s is located at 113 Harbor Way.
Helena Avenue Bakery – This Funk Zone cafe is ideal for grabbing a coffee and a sweet or savory pastry before going about your day. But if it’s a more leisurely morning, you can also take a seat at one of the communal tables with a comforting buttermilk biscuit sandwich or breakfast bowl. Come lunch, they offer sandwiches, salads, and soups, too. The bakery belongs to the Acme Hospitality family, which has several restaurants in the area. Helena thus shares an address with siblings The Lark, one of Santa Barbara’s favorite restaurants for seasonal, contemporary cuisine and drinks, and wine bar Les Marchands, where Helena’s delicious breads are fully utilized come weekend brunch. Both the avocado toast and house-made ricotta and strawberry jam on brioche are excellent. – – Helena Avenue Bakery is located at 131 Anacapa Street.
La Super-Rice Taqueria – The draw of this family-run Mexican restaurant is two-fold: People love their house-made corn tortillas, and among those people was chef Julia Child, who frequently extolled the glories of this particular eatery. This causes visitors to flock accordingly, and you can count yourself among them if you want to see if it lives up to the hype. Or, if looking to stray from this hotspot, stop by the nearby Taqueria El Bajio, which opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast. – – La Super-Rica Taqueira is located at 622 N Milpas Street.
Article by Juliet Bennett Rylah of We Like LA – View Original Article Here
9 Popular Bike Trails in Santa Barbara
Gorgeous ocean views, diverse terrain and a delightfully mild climate make Santa Barbara an ideal place for a bike ride. With bike trails to suit every experience level and ability, you’ll have no trouble finding the right path, whether it’s taking a leisurely ride along Cabrillo Boulevard, climbing a winding road to a spectacular vista or descending full speed down a single track. Check out these popular bike paths and trails, listed in order of difficulty, to decide which ones to explore first.
Need a bike? No problem. There are many bike rental shops around town with everything from beach cruisers to mountain bikes. Check out Wheel Fun Rentals, conveniently located near Stearns Wharf. Rather ride with a group? Santa Barbara Adventure Company offers daily bike tours throughout the city, while Trek Travel and Backroads offer multi-day cycling adventures.
Easy Bike Trails
For an unbeatable ocean backdrop and plenty of places to stop along the way, start at the Santa Barbara Waterfront. The following trails originate at Stearns Wharf and Leadbetter Beach, and are considered easy because the paths are flat and paved.
Stearns Wharf to Old Mission Santa Barbara
Beginning at Stearns Wharf (217 Stearns Wharf), take an unhurried ride up State Street to Old Mission Santa Barbara (2201 Laguna Street), an iconic historic landmark dating back to 1786. Along the way, turn right on E. Canon Perdido Street to pass El Presidio Historic Park (23 E. Canon Perdido Street), Santa Barbara’s birthplace. Continue up State Street, toward Old Mission Santa Barbara, and take a right on E. Micheltorena Street to marvel at the lush Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden (1500 Santa Barbara Street) or, let the kids loose on the wooden castle playground at Alameda Park (1500 Santa Barbara Street). Back on State Street, continue riding away from the ocean and make a right on E. Los Olivos Street. The Mission will be on your left as you pass Mission Historic Park on your right.
Length: 3 miles one-way
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete
Cabrillo Bike Path to Butterfly Beach
The most popular bike path in Santa Barbara, Cabrillo Bike Path, runs from Leadbetter Beach to Butterfly Beach. At approximately 4.5 miles long, paved and flat, Cabrillo Bike Path is a great option for families and easygoing rides. Stop along the way for souvenir shopping at Stearns Wharf or at Chase Palm Park (323 E. Cabrillo Blvd) for a picnic. With the ocean to your right most of the way, you will pass the Andree Clark Bird Refuge (1400 E. Cabrillo Blvd) approximately three miles into the ride. Turn right on Channel Drive and follow the road’s curves until you hit Fairway Road, where you will continue straight and back onto a bike path. As you round the last turn, Butterfly Beach will come into view on your right. Be sure to bring your camera as this ride is as picturesque as a postcard.
Length: 4.6 miles one-way
Trail surfaces: asphalt and concrete
Experience downtown Santa Barbara on two wheels by riding up State Street with this easy, family-friendly ride. Start at the Dolphin Fountain at the foot of Stearns Wharf, pedal up State Street past the AMTRAK Station and under the freeway. As you emerge on the other side, turn right on Haley Street. Turn left on Santa Barbara Street to pass Architect Jeff Shelton‘s signature creation, Vera Cruz (519 Fig Ave). Continue on Santa Barbara Street, where you’ll pass Santa Barbara Historical Museum (136 E. De La Guerra Street) and Handlebar Coffee Roasters (128 E. Canon Perdido Street), a locally-owned bicycle themed coffee shop. Make a left onto E. Figueroa Street to observe the Santa Barbara Courthouse (1100 Anacapa Street), and then turn right, back onto State Street. When you hit E. Micheltorena Street, turn right to check out Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden (1500 Santa Barbara Street) and Alameda Park (1500 Santa Barbara Street). Back on State Street, continue riding away from the ocean and make a right on E. Los Olivos Street. You’ll ride past the landmark Old Mission Santa Barbara (2201 Laguna Street) on your left. Finally, when E. Los Olivos Street turns into Mission Canyon Road, make a left onto Las Encias Road, and your next left onto Puesta Del Sol, where you’ll find the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (2559 Puesta Del Sol). As you ride back down State Street, toward Stearns Wharf, stop at Paseo Nuevo (651 Paseo Nuevo), a beautiful outdoor shopping mall, to check out the tiled Spanish steps.
Length: 3 miles one-way
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete
Intermediate Cycling Trails
Gear up with one of these longer, slightly more difficult rides. Refuel along the way by stopping for lunch at one of the recommended spots.
Obern Trail to Goleta Beach Park
Make this ride as easy or as difficult as you desire. Paved and flat with just two gradual climbs, the length is what determines the level of difficulty of this trail. Starting at Stearns Wharf or at the top of State Street, turn left onto W. Victoria Street and then left again onto W. Micheltorena Street to cross El Camino Real Freeway. Once over the freeway, navigate to San Pascual Street, which will lead you to Modoc Road. Follow Modoc Road until you see the Obern Trailhead on your left. Follow the trail until it ends near Sandspit Road, where you’ll find The Beachside Bar and Café (5905 Sandspit Road), a perfect half-way point to grab a bite before heading back downtown the way you came.
Length: 10.5 miles one-way
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete with a dirt trail that runs parallel to the paved trail in some places
Mesa to Hendry’s Beach
Start at the Dolphin Fountain at the foot of Stearns Wharf and head west on the beach bike path. Enjoy beautiful ocean views to your left as you gradually approach Leadbetter Beach. Switch to the street bike lane at the corner of La Marina, gradually climb Shoreline Drive then turn left at Cliff Drive. Continue down Cliff Drive until you see a large parking lot on your left. At the end of the parking lot, you’ll find Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach (2981 Cliff Drive), plenty of bike parking, a repair station and even a pump to fill up your tires. Park your bike and after enjoying lunch, follow the stairs behind the restaurant to the observatory for a breathtaking lookout.
Length: 4.3 miles one-way
Trail surfaces: asphalt and concrete
Want a longer route?
After lunch, head back toward Cliff Drive, but make a left onto Las Positas Road. Turn right onto Modoc Road and follow signage for the Crosstown Route through quiet westside neighborhoods. From San Andres Street, make a left on W. Anapamu Street. Cross the pedestrian bridge at the end of W. Anapamu Street and cut over to Victoria Street. Make a right on State Street into the bike lane, which will lead you straight back to Stearns Wharf.
Length: 9.9-mile loop
Trail surfaces: asphalt and concrete
Hard and Advanced Cycling Trails
Only serious cyclists should consider riding one of these unforgettable, but also more difficult, trails. The tight switchbacks and steep climbs on both of these trails pay off with magnificent views at the top.
Old San Marcos Pass / Painted Cave Road
If you love a challenge, climb the winding Old San Marcos Pass and Painted Cave Road for gorgeous panoramic views, but make sure your brakes are in good shape – the ride back down can be dicey. Start at N. San Marcos Road and after three miles, cross Highway 154 onto Painted Cave Road. Follow Painted Cave Road as it grows steeper and steeper, to E. Camino Cielo Road. If you still have energy, turn right on E. Camino Cielo and ride an additional 8.4 miles to Gibraltar Road.
Length: 5.5 miles one-way
Elevation Gain: 2,392 feet
Average Grade: 8.3%
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete
Old Mission to La Cumbre Peak (Gibraltar Road)
Experienced cyclists will earn serious bragging rights by climbing this 6.5-mile trail which boasts a 3,000-foot elevation gain. Start at Tucker Grove Park and ride east on Cathedral Oaks, which turns into 192/Foothill Road, to start a 5.8-mile warm up. Turn right onto Mission Canyon Road and once you pass Rocky Nook Park (610 Mission Canyon Road), turn left onto Mountain Drive, where you’ll start to climb. Stay left to continue on Mountain Drive until Mountain Drive makes a 90 degree right turn and you’ll continue straight onto Gibraltar Road. From there, it’s just 6.5 miles of climbing between you and the top!
Lengths: 12.3 miles one-way
Elevation Gain: 3,000 feet
Grade: varies between 7% and 15% with some technical descents
Trail Surfaces: asphalt and concrete