Santa Barbara Day Trip And Weekend Guide
Looking for a quick getaway? You’re in luck! Santa Barbara can fulfill all your vacation or wanderlust needs in just 24-48 hours.
We’re known for our Mediterranean climate, beautiful beaches, exquisite wine, and drool-worthy food. But just because you’re visiting paradise doesn’t mean you have to spend your life savings to have all the fun (unless you want to)!
Next time you’re looking to get away for the day or plan to spend the night in Santa Barbara, keep some of these budget-friendly or luxury travel tips in mind.
How To See Santa Barbara On A Budget
How to Get Here:
Ride The Train: We LOVE taking the Pacific Surfliner train! If you’re coming from LA/SD or San Luis Obispo, we highly recommend this mode of transportation that is fully stocked with tasty bites as well as local beer and wine and has some of the best views of the coastline. Bonus: you don’t have to worry about parking or driving after you’ve had a couple beers.
Where to Stay:
The Wayfarer is just a hop and skip from the train station and sits on the edge of the Funk Zone where we host our food tour. They have private rooms as well as shared rooms, but don’t be fooled by their title of “hostel”. These guys aren’t anything like the hostels you’ve trekked through in Europe. We’re talking fur blankets on the beds and amenities you usually find at a 4 or 5 star hotel. It’s really more of a poshtel, a posh hostel.
Looking for something a little more like the hotel experience? Book a stay at the historically charming Hotel Santa Barbara in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. Bonus: Book a weekend stay in their king room and score discounted tickets to our El Paseo Wine Tour!
What to Do:
Start the day with a bike ride along the beach on classic beach cruiser from Wheel Fun Rentals or a kayak adventure through the harbor starting at Santa Barbara Sailing Center. Get a close up of those stunning beach views and sea life before you head downtown for a bit of culture.
Hop on the Downtown Shuttle for just 50 cents and stop at Figueroa Street where you can grab a cup of joe at French Press or a bakery treat at Jeannine’s before heading over to the Santa Barbara Courthouse. Take in 360 degree views of the city and marvel at the view of the Channel Islands, downtown area, and surrounding mountains. Insider’s tip: this place has THE best view in town and it doesn’t cost you a cent!
Educate yourself and discover incredible pieces of the past at the Karpele’s Manuscript Library. Among the treasures of this free admission museum is the original draft of the Bill of Rights, Einstein’s famous E=MC2 formula, and over a million more relics.
Round out the day with a self-guided nature walk through the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden or a challenging yet rewarding hike up Inspiration Point. Both have incredible panoramic vantage points at the top and offer stunning sunset views.
Places to Eat & Drink:
If you love a damn good donut first thing in the AM, head over to Hook & Press inside Mosaic Locale right at opening before the line is out the door to get your sugar fix for the day and a most Instagrammable breakfast treat. Need more of a protein boost in the AM? Eat like a local at Lito’s on Haley Street, one of the city’s oldest Mexican restaurants, where you can order generous sized breakfast burritos for a single digit price point.
If you didn’t get enough of that tasty fresh seafood on our Funk Zone food tour, circle back to Enterprise Fish Co. for happy hour where the oysters on the half-shell are just $1 every Wednesday and the drinks are always on point. Still looking for a place to rest while you knock one back and enjoy lively entertainment? Head over to Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. for a craft beer and your choice of live music, comedy night or bingo depending on the day of the week.
Looking for those tasty late night eats after a night of crawling lower State Street? Stumble into Little Kitchen for modern comfort food that’s both healthy and delicious, serving up late night bites Friday-Sunday, after 11:30pm.
How To Experience Santa Barbara In Style
How to Get Here:
Fly into the Santa Barbara airport and uber your way to town, which is just a short 10 minute drive away. Think you might have to suffer yet another layover in LA on the way here? Think again. We’re offering direct flights more and more these days. (We’re looking at you Denver, Dallas, and Portland.)
Where to Stay:
We’ve got a couple favorites when it comes to living in the lap of luxury: Belmond El Encanto and Rosewood Miramar Beach resort. Choose a stunning view of the city from high atop the American Riviera at El Encanto while you sip champagne on their sunny patio or listen to the ocean waves lap on shore at the Rosewood Miramar as you take in stunning ocean views. Talk about your tough decisions.
Looking to stay where all the fun is? You can’t go wrong with a few nights stay at the plush Moroccan inspired Hotel Californian, centered on lower State Street just steps away from Stearns Wharf and inside the buzzing Funk Zone neighborhood.
What to Do:
Spend a morning tip-toeing through the tulips at Lotusland where a docent will lead you through more than twenty exquisite gardens and regale you with tales about one of Santa Barbara’s OG Real Housewives. Local tip: Be sure to reserve your tickets ahead of time as they often sell out and a visit to this hidden gem in Montecito is by reservation only.
In the afternoon, pamper yourself with a Himalayan salt scrub or hot salt stone massage inside the largest crystal salt cave in North America. Salt is nestled in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara and offers a truly unique spa experience like no other! Make the most of your down time and stay for a guided meditation or salt cave yoga class before heading out for a quiet evening in or a night on the town.
Sometimes the best way to fill those afternoon hours is to shop it out! Explore the upscale boutique and gallery scene of Montecito’s Coast Village Road where you’ll find everything from one-of-a-kind pieces to must have duds of the season. End your shopping excursion with a visit to the James Perse boutique at the Rosewood Miramar before you toast to the good life with a glass of champagne on their beachfront patio and bar.
Escape the city life and spend a day in our Santa Ynez Valley. Kick off with an early morning flight on Sky’s The Limit hot air balloon ride featuring awe inspiring vineyard views and a champagne celebration upon landing. Prefer to keep your feet on the ground? Join us for a 4 hour culturally immersive food tour in Solvang where you’ll discover the town’s unique history, incredible comfort food scene and even go behind the scenes of one of the town’s oldest bakeries. Finish out the day with wine tasting in Los Olivos at boutique wineries before heading to The Bear and Star for a refined ranch to table feast.
Places to Eat & Drink:
Brunch it up at the city’s hot new Cafe Ana near the historic courthouse before you shop your way through the State Street boutiques. Take a lunch break at the curated Smithy Kitchen + Bar, tucked behind the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, for organic, rustic fare.
Cut calorie counting for the day and “eat more pizza” at Bettina. Get cozy at this Montecito neighborhood restaurant with apertivi, antipasto, and incredible pizza. Relive your Italian foodie memories with curated cocktails and traditional Italian eats made with real California ingredients.
Rather lay low for the night? Indulge in an exclusive 18-course dinner located inside the Montecito Inn. Your experience will start at 7pm in a dimly lit room where the story of The Silver Bough unfolds with rare ingredients paired with top tier wine and spirits. This truly unique experience is unlike any other and is a must on the list of luxury to-do’s.
Looking for more private experiences? Give us a call or shoot us an email and we’ll help you plan the ultimate foodie getaway.