16 of Santa Barbara’s top attractions


Harbor Way at Cabrillo Boulevard.

At the center of it all is the harbor, the heart of maritime Santa Barbara, complete with marina, walkable breakwater, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (113 Harbor Way, [805] 962-8404, and myriad restaurants, including the Breakwater, Brophy Bros. and Chuck’s Waterfront Grill. To get out on the water yourself, you can rent a sailboat or take lessons (Santa Barbara Sailing Center, 133 Harbor Way, [800] 350-9090,, try a kayak (Paddle Sports, 117B Harbor Way, [805] 899-4925, or relax on a dinner cruise (Condor Cruises, 301 W. Cabrillo Blvd., [805] 882-0088,


There may not be any vineyards, but tasting rooms are scattered around downtown Santa Barbara. The local granddaddy, Santa Barbara Winery, was established in 1962 and has one of the best-developed tasting centers, with a $5 charge. Several other wineries are within a three-block area, dotting a neighborhood across State Street from the Santa Barbara Railroad Station. Others are found around the city. For more information, see, or contact the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau, (805) 966-9222.


2201 Laguna St.;

In the middle of all the new things Santa Barbara has to offer, it’s easy to forget its past. The mission is the place to reconnect with the town’s Spanish colonial roots. Surprisingly, Junípero Serra was not its founder (he died two years earlier), but the mission was among his plans. Exhibits show how the Indians and the clergy lived. Weekdays attract the boisterous school tours, but no matter: The sanctuary is beautiful and peaceful as only an old spiritual place can be. Admission $5.


1100 Anacapa St.; (805) 962-6464

Talk about photo ops. From the clock tower, you get a great sense of the lay of the city, the red roofs and green hillsides. The lush courtyard, a favorite for school tours, was the site of 16 weddings last Valentine’s Day. But most breathtaking of all is the Mural Room. Once used for meetings by the county Board of Supervisors, it ranks among the most spectacular public spaces in America.


See the city’s main tourist attractions in 90 minutes from aboard a vintage red-and-gold trolley car. Tours run hourly 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (, [805] 965-0353). You can ride straight through or hop off and on. Tickets cost $18 ($16 online) for adults and $9 for kids. Main pickup stops are at Stearns Wharf and the Old Mission.



From shoreline park to Andree Clark Bird Refuge.

Breathe in the brisk ocean air while riding a rented bicycle along the shore. A paved, 3-mile bike path runs from Shoreline Park to Andree Clark Bird Refuge, past several restaurants and shops along Cabrillo Boulevard. The path is relatively flat, good for family bike riding. For a map, go to


101 State St. and two other locations in Santa Barbara; (805) 966-2282,

This is a great way to see the beachfront or tour State Street. Rentals include bikes, mopeds and motor scooters as well as pedal-powered surreys that seat 11. Try the three-wheeled Scoot Coupe for a teeth-rattling ride down State Street ($49 an hour). Or try the scooter ($50 for two hours) for the ultimate coastal experience. (Note: You need a motorcycle license to rent one.)


Six days a week (Mondays excluded), rain or shine, you can find a farmers market selling fresh produce and handmade souvenirs within a 10-mile radius of downtown Santa Barbara. The most well-attended is held Saturday mornings at the corner of Santa Barbara and Cota streets. For schedules and locations, go to, or call the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Assn. at (805) 962-5354.


500 Niños Drive; (805) 962-5339,

A small, manageable and beautifully landscaped zoological park with feeding times for giraffes, lorikeets and Humboldt penguins that will please the kids, who will also enjoy the rest of Noah’s Ark. $11 (about a third of the price for an adult ticket to San Diego Zoo), $8 ages 60 and older and 2 to 12.


Stearns Wharf at Cabrillo Boulevard;

This 2,000-foot wharf, once partly owned by actor James Cagney, offers seafood houses, a museum, a pirate cruise and even a palm reader. The best bargain of all might be at Mike’s Bait & Tackle, where you can rent a rod and reel for $5 an hour. What distinguishes this pier from many others in Southern California is the open design of the fishing deck. No rails. Tip: Families with young kids should try the fishing area near the Ty Warner Sea Center, where standard guard rails are in place.



1221 State St.; (805) 962-7776,

Two cavernous rooms with exposed rafters and brick-and-wood walls host a high-energy, mixed crowd served by friendly bartenders. Cover charge varies and so does the music, which includes folk, reggae, rock, jazz and more.


236 E. Cabrillo Blvd.; (805) 897-1982.

When you tire of the beach and Stearns Wharf, this is a little 10-acre gem with a skate park, a restored swath of Laguna Creek and a wonderful kids’ playground with Southwestern-style adobes and beached whales (of the concrete variety) to climb. The park is open sunrise to 10 p.m.; skate park 8 a.m. to half an hour before sunset. But the real draw: a 1916 merry-go-round with exquisite horses and sleighs for $2 a ride.



1130 State St.; (805) 963-4364,

How could such a small, stately venue hold such great art? Peruse antiquities, Impressionists, buddhas, even works from contemporary artists such as Dan Flavin. The attached museum store is worth a stop on its own. Open Tuesdays to Sundays. $9, $6 ages 65 and older and 6 to 17, 5 and younger free; free admission Sundays.


2559 Puesta del Sol Road; (805) 682-4711,

Taxidermic mammals, including a grizzly and California condors, have wonderful murals of Santa Barbara-area terrain as backdrops. This museum tells a rich history of the Chumash. A special exhibit, “Romancing the Indian: Photographs of Edward S. Curtis,” runs through April 6. There’s also a great area in the back of the museum for walks and picnics. Open daily. $8, $7 ages 65 and older and 13 to 17, $5 ages 2 to 12.


15 W. Ortega St.; (805) 962-7970,

This retro lounge has red vinyl booths and a range of musical offerings. It draws a twentysomething crowd with one of the most packed dance floors in town. But early-evening happy hours and free appetizers are a draw for nearly anyone. No cover most nights.


1400 Santa Barbara St.;

The two-block city park is home to Kids’ World, an 8,000-square-foot playground with a mock castle for climbing, swings, slides and sculptures of sea creatures. Alameda also has green space, a gazebo and picnic tables.