Santa Barbara Day Trip And Weekend Guide

Posted on February 20, 2017 |

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 luxurious 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.

Looking for something a little more like the hotel experience? Check out Lavender Inn by the Sea and let them pamper you with a tasty wine and cheese happy hour every night before you slip away to dreamland just blocks from West Beach.

What to Do:

Start the day with a bit of history and visit our Old Mission Santa Barbara. Docent-led or running solo, you’ll get a good dose of early Santa Barbara history as you wander through the ancient walls of the mission. Spend the lunch hours strolling through Santa Barbara’s coolest neighborhood on our Funk Zone Food & Photo Tour where our expert guides will show you where to eat and drink in this graffiti-laden ‘hood and help you find all the new hip eateries, breweries, and wine bars to visit later that night.

Once the tour ends, boogie on up to the Santa Barbara Courthouse and soak up the last bit of sunshine for the day 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!

Places to Eat & Drink:

If you’re an early bird or you just love a good cuppa joe first thing in the AM, head over to Handlebar Coffee Roasters before the line is out the door to get your caffeine fix. Next, eat like a local for breakfast and get a plate full of tasty diner-style eats at Cajun Kitchen. Word to the wise: get there early or risk waiting 45-60 minutes for a table!

If you didn’t get enough of that tasty fresh seafood on our 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, trivia night or karaoke depending on the day of the week.

Experience Santa Barbara Like A Movie Star

How to Get Here:

Fly in to 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 two favorites when it comes to living in the lap of luxury: Belmond El Encanto and Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. 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 Biltmore as you take in the view of Butterfly Beach. Talk about tough decisions.

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 of 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, relax and sip away the day on our 4-hour urban El Paseo Wine & Photo Tour that will lead you through all the top-shelf wine tasting rooms of the Presidio and Urban Wine Trail. In a group of 10 guests or less, you will have the chance to taste ten different French-style wines grown in our local Santa Ynez Valley, learn about Santa Barbara’s early history, and take your smartphone travel photo game to the next level.

Spending another day in paradise? Head over to the Channel Islands with Santa Barbara Adventure Company and explore the high seas via kayak with their expert guides. This isn’t your typical paddle around the harbor experience. No, siree! Get up close and personal with the animal residents of the islands while you paddle through our famous sea caves. More of a bird than a fish? Take to the skies with Nanco Helicopters for stunning aerial views of the coastline and wine country before landing onsite at Gainey Vineyard for a next level wine tasting experience.

Places to Eat & Drink:

Our go-to place is The Lark, but we know how tricky it can be to get a table at this hot spot. So now is the time to take advantage of the owner’s new restaurant, Loquita, which is just a block away and serves up the best paella, pintxos, and tapas in town. Rather lay low for the night? Escape like a movie star to San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito and dine at The Stonehouse, an historic stone house nestled in the hills complete with lovely terrace garden views.

If you’re looking for the best in wine paired dinners, look no further than Wine Cask in the Presidio, co-owned by wine genius Doug Margerum and restaurant guru Mitchell Sjerven. If you’re game to go off the beaten path, head up the coast to Bacara’s Angel Oak restaurant and be dazzled by their wine list that is comparable to a novel, featuring more than 1,000 different wines from around the globe.


Stay In-The-Know About The 805

Our monthly newsletter features info on Santa Barbara County's food & drink scene, plus neighborhood guides and special discounts to our tours & other tours around the globe.

Sign Up

Read More From Blog