Santa Barbara must be one of the most beautiful cities in the United States.  We love the Spanish revival architecture, beaches lined with palm trees, amazing cuisine, and of course the laid-back California vibe.  We lived in Santa Barbara in the 1990s and we still have family there, so we get to return regularly.  It’s always exciting to visit and so very hard to leave.

We spent a week there this winter, which is out of the peak tourist season in summer, but the weather was very moderate.  There were no crowds and getting into restaurants was easy.

We stayed at The Fess Parker: A Doubletree by Hilton Resort, which is a wonderful family (and pet) friendly hotel.  Located across the street from the beach and within walking distance from the pier, it’s in a perfect spot.  The resort has some great restaurants and relaxing pools!

Running through the middle of Santa Barbara, State Street is the ‘main drag’ of Santa Barbara and is lined with shops, restaurants, night clubs and movie theaters.  We spent a good part of our trip there, and it’s fun to wander around on State with the crowds.

Sterns Wharf lies at the end of State Street.  It is one of the only wharves on the entire West Coast of the US that you can drive on and park your car.  The boys loved it!

View of #santabarbara from Sterns Wharf. The sky was so beautiful that day! #sternswharfsantabarbara #flashbackfriday

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It has a great aquarium (see our post on Sea Center Fun in Santa Barbara for more info), restaurants, gift shops, ice cream counters, and an adorable candy store.  You can even book a sunset cruise! We took a ride on the “Lil’ Toot”, which is a narrated boat ride around the harbor.  The boys loved the ride and we saw several adorable harbor seals.  One way tickets are $5 per adult and $1 per child.  

 My favorite thing about the wharf is the amazing view of Santa Barbara!

Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show

Another of our favorite things to do in Santa Barbara is to stroll along the beach on Sundays between 10 and sunset to see the wonderful creations at the weekly Art and Crafts show.  

Established in 1965, the show features original works of art made by local artists.  You can find the show on E. Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara in front of Skater’s Point.  

Ideas for Kids and Teens 

  • Grab your skateboard and have some fun at Skater’s Point.   Helmets are required.  
  • Leadbetter Beach is the perfect place to learn to surf or paddle board.  They also have volleyball nets, and surfboard rentals are available.
  • Bike along Santa Barbara’s beautiful waterfront.  You can rent bikes at Wheel Fun Bike Rentals at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort.  

For the younger ones

Chase Palm Park is a great place to play out some energy.  It’s located across E. Cabrillo Blvd from the beach and art show.   This park features a shipwreck playground and a beautiful antique carousel.  A ride on the carousel costs $2.50.

The Sea Center is great for kids of all ages.  Learn more in our recent post: Sea Center Fun in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara has something for everyone.  If we missed one of your favorite spots, share it with us in the comments!

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Family Fun in Santa Barbara


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