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How to Spend 1 Day in Santa Barbara

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.

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12 Tours and Activities

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Wine Tasting Tour from Santa Ynez Valley
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Wine Tasting Tour from Santa Ynez Valley

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30
The Vineyard Picnic Tour is an all-inclusive wine tasting tour featuring three wineries in Santa Barbara Wine Country, in the Santa Ynez Valley. Join in with other like-minded wine enthusiasts for a relaxing day among the vineyards, sampling wines, seeing the wine making process, and savoring a picnic lunch at one of the wineries. A catered picnic lunch, served at a winery, is included.
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  • 5 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$145.67
From
$145.67

Santa Barbara Electric Bike Tour

Santa Barbara Electric Bike Tour

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203
Explore Santa Barbara by electric bike, covering plenty of ground on a morning or afternoon excursion. Ride your easy-to-use beach cruiser to key landmarks such as State Street and the Santa Barbara Mission as your knowledgeable guide shares the city’s history during this Santa Barbara bike tour. Have your camera ready as you glide along the renowned Pacific coastline. Numbers are limited to five people, ensuring personalized attention and a small-group experience.
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  • 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$95.00
Price varies by group size
From
$95.00
Price varies by group size

Downtown Santa Barbara Food Tour

Downtown Santa Barbara Food Tour

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381
Eat delicious lunch food, drink great drinks and learn about downtown Santa Barbara on this 3.5ish-hour walking tour. Indulge your palate for a few hours with sipping, sampling, and savoring. You will enjoy food from 5-6+ local eateries, 1-2 wine tastings or 1 wine tasting plus another alcoholic beverage (depends on the day, it could be wine, beer or a cocktail). Go where locals like to go. This fun, informative and local walking lunch tour is sure to pleasantly fill you up and entertain the whole family. Great for a daytime activity and awesome way to learn about other places to eat and drink on your visit! TOURS CAN EASILY BE MADE PRIVATE - please email, call or text us for more information regarding private experiences. IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE WALKING OR HEALTH ISSUES, please let us know, we do occasionally offer slower paced tours or please consider a private tour experience to meet your comfort level.
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  • 3 to 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$130.00
From
$130.00

Santa Barbara Trolley Tour

Santa Barbara Trolley Tour

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295
All Aboard Santa Barbara’s Original & Longest Running Trolley Tour and Charter Services See the American Riviera in 90 minutes Santa Barbara sightseeing at its finest on the original, fully narrated Santa Barbara Trolley Tour. For 30 years, we've been providing trolley tours in the Santa Barbara community. Join us as we visit local hot spots such as the Santa Barbara Courthouse, Santa Barbara Zoo, Museum of Natural History, the historic Santa Barbara Mission, and more, all fully narrated by our energetic and knowledgeable tour guides! Our pick up location is only a 10 minute walk from Stearns Wharf, at the Visitor Center located at 1 Garden St.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$25.65
From
$25.65

Santa Ynez Valley Cupcake and Wine Tour
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Santa Ynez Valley Cupcake and Wine Tour

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15
This wine tour features a delicious sampling of cupcakes from a local bakery. Your group will be picked up by an air-conditioned shuttle in the morning. We will preview the day and head up to Santa Ynez Valley. Once there, you will enjoy wine tasting at three of the area's best wineries. Wineries visited vary based on availability. Your group will visit beautiful Los Olivos and enjoy an incredible cupcake and wine tasting. Your guides will cover local human history and insight into the wine region along the way. Included: - Pick Up from Your Hotel - Cupcake tasting - All wine tasting fees - you will visit 3 wineries of those listed - Deli-style lunch (Not included on Saturdays or Sundays due to winery restrictions on weekends. There will be lunch options available for purchase at the wineries.)
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$179.00
From
$179.00

Exclusive Ghost Walking Tour at Santa Barbara

Exclusive Ghost Walking Tour at Santa Barbara

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11
Learn all about Santa Barbara’s wealth of history—including its many ghostly encounters and macabre events—on this small-group, after-dark walking tour. Meet your guide right downtown, and set off: you’ll visit key local landmarks like the El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, City Hall, Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and more. You’ll even visit what is supposedly the most haunted building in California—and may just encounter disembodied specters as you go.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$55.00
From
$55.00

Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara with Experienced Guide

Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara with Experienced Guide

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196
This private Santa Barbara kayaking tour lets you explore the marine life and landmarks of Santa Barbara Harbor and the spectacular coastline on the ‘American Riviera’ along one of four different routes. Take in views of rugged shoreline cliffs and the Santa Ynez Mountains, and be on the lookout for dolphins and seals. This 1.5- to 2.5-hour tour is led by an experienced kayak guide who points out natural features and customizes the speed of the ride according to your skill level.
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  • 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$60.00
From
$60.00

Santa Barbara Vineyard to Table Taste Tour by Bike

Santa Barbara Vineyard to Table Taste Tour by Bike

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72
Ride through the towns and vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley wine region on this bike tour with transport from Santa Barbara. With a guide, you'll pedal a Rad Power E-bike or Specialized Sport bike to a winery and other spots for wine tastings, an olive-oil tasting, and an Italian-inspired picnic lunch. A bike tour allows you to enjoy better views of the scenery than from inside a car, and three different distance options are offered to suit your ability and preference.
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  • 7 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$189.00
From
$189.00

Santa Barbara Funk Zone Food and Photo Tour
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out

Santa Barbara Funk Zone Food and Photo Tour

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79
Indulge your passions for food, photography and fun during this 3-hour, small-group, culinary and picture-taking tour in Santa Barbara. Dig into some tasty food and drink during stops at three different local eateries, a microbrewery, two wineries and a distillery in the city’s artsy Funk Zone. As you snack and imbibe, you’ll get helpful tips to capture high-quality food photography using anything from a smartphone to a high-end digital SLR. This small-group trip, limited to 14 guests, includes a guide and all food and drink.
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  • 3 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$125.00
From
$125.00

Small-Group Wine Tasting Tour of Santa Barbara Wine Country
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Small-Group Wine Tasting Tour of Santa Barbara Wine Country

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Visit wineries that are not open to the public on this exclusive wine tasting tour. Drive through the scenic Santa Ynez Valley and visit small, family-owned establishments where you’ll taste wines and visit barrel rooms, often with the owners themselves. There’s never any standing at a crowded bar with other guests—all tastings are seated and private.
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  • 6 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$194.12
From
$194.12

Private Santa Barbara Small-Production Wine Tour
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Private Santa Barbara Small-Production Wine Tour

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There are plenty of Santa Barbara winery tours that revolve around popular commercial wineries, but this tour offers the chance to try something a bit more exclusive. Instead of standing at the bar of a crowded cellar door for your tasting, enjoy seated one-on-one tastings at a series of private small-production wineries. Customize your itinerary based on your own tastes and interests, and learn the secrets behind the wines on behind-the-scenes tours of those vineyards and barrel rooms.
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  • 5 to 6 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$381.42
Price varies by group size
From
$381.42
Price varies by group size

Personalized and Guided Hiking, Biking, Rock Climbing or Tennis Adventure

Personalized and Guided Hiking, Biking, Rock Climbing or Tennis Adventure

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2
Whether you are in town for the day from nearby Los Angeles or Santa Barbara or planning an anniversary or birthday celebration for two or looking for a group activity for your company, yoga retreat, wedding party, family reunion or team building, Trails by Potter is the guiding company for you, whether it is for hiking, biking, rock climbing or tennis! We use the finest equipment, provide snacks and water for all activities and add personal touches: from meeting you at your hotel, helping you choose hotel and dinner reservations, offering referrals to massage therapists and spa treatments to recommending ‘not-to-miss’ Ojai places and moments.Trails by Potter will accommodate any level of fitness from beginner to moderate exerciser to weekend warrior and anyone in between. Many of our repeat customers will plan multiple activities during their week or weekend stay.
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  • 2 to 4 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$160.00
From
$160.00