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What To Do For 36 Hours In Santa Barbara, California

36 hours in santa barbara

Between the beautiful beaches, enthralling museums, historic districts, and outdoor activities, Santa Barbara is a city perfect for exploring. This idyllic town is a jewel sitting along California’s southern coast and brims with natural beauty and engaging attractions the whole family will love. From the gorgeous galleries in Santa Barbara Museum of Art to the stately architecture of Old Mission Santa Barbara and the vibrant Stearns Wharf, this place has no shortage of things to see and do. Even if you have a limited time in the city, you can still enjoy the wondrous attractions that abound. Make the most of your time in the city, and add some of these sensational experiences to your itinerary! Read more below for what to for 36 hours in Santa Barbara, California.

Day 1: Afternoon

Discover Santa Barbara’s beautiful harbor at Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara
Source: Photo by user Andrew Dupont used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Located next to Santa Barbara’s harbor, Stearns Wharf is a vibrant hub of dining options, family-friendly recreation, and colorful shops and boutiques. This historic wharf was constructed in 1872 but remains an exciting attraction for tourists and locals alike. Stroll along the scenic waterfront and admire views of the glittering beaches and Santa Ynez Mountains, or scout for souvenirs in the charming specialty stores. Visit attractions like Madame Rosinka’s, where you can get your palm read, or dip your fingers into the touch pool at the interactive Sea Center. Whenever you get hungry, there are plenty of places to enjoy a refreshing snack or meal!

Stearns Wharf

Address: Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

Website: Stearns Wharf

Sample fresh seafood at Santa Barbara Shellfish Company

Fresh Shellfish made to order Stunning views of Santa Barbara What are you waiting for? #local #fresh #shellfish #santabarbara #waterfront #stearnswharf #foodie #views

Posted by SB Shellfish Co. on Tuesday, 18 September 2018

For delicious seafood in a scenic setting, Santa Barbara Shellfish Company is a great dining option at Stears Wharf. Opened in 1980 as a buying station for local shellfish and crabs, this place has transformed into a mouthwatering eatery that serves fresh seafood. The menu is filled with tempting options like garlic baked clams, steamed local crab, shrimp tacos, and other recipes the owners have passed down through their family and picked up from their fisherman friends. Wash everything down with a pint of local beer or a glass of wine, and take in the beautiful ocean views.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company

Address: 230 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: Santa Barbara Shellfish Company

Opening hours: 11am - 9pm (daily)

Get up-close with local marine life at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Whale figure at Ty Warner Sea Center
Source: Photo by user Jllm06 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The wondrous Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is perfect for family-friendly entertainment. This museum has two campuses. At the Mission Canyon campus, visitors will be wowed by a life-size skeleton of a 72-foot (22 m) blue whale, learn about space exploration at the Gladwin Planetarium, and admire historic buildings on a woodland stroll. The second campus is the Sea Center located at Stearns Wharf. Here, visitors can learn all about the marine creatures that are native to the Santa Barbara Channel. This hands-on establishment includes a touch pool where guests can interact with sea creatures like sharks, rays, and sea urchins.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Address: 2559 Puesta Del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, United States and 211 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, California

Website: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 15 USD

Day 1: Evening

Stroll and shop along La Arcada Plaza

La Arcada, Santa Barbara
Source: Photo by user mattlucht used under CC BY 2.0

With its beautiful, tile-lined pathways, fanciful sculptures, and trickling fountains, La Arcada Plaza is a great place to enjoy an evening stroll. This wonderful shopping and dining plaza was designed in 1927 and features wonderful historic buildings. As you meander through the charming streets, you can pop into the art galleries and shop in lovely boutiques. There are also a variety of eateries where you can enjoy a meal.

La Arcada Plaza

Address: 1114 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: La Arcada Plaza

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 9am - 11pm (closed on Sun)

Admire the beauty of Santa Barbra County Courthouse

Santa Barbara County Courthouse CA (cropped)
Source: Photo by user John Stanton used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Santa Barbra County Courthouse is one of the city’s most beautiful attractions. This government building was constructed in 1929 and is a stunning example of Spanish-Moorish architecture. The interior of the courthouse is just as impressive as the exterior, with hand-painted frescoes on the ceiling, wrought-iron chandeliers, and intricate tile mosaics. On guided tours, guests will learn about the building’s design and local history as they visit gorgeous areas like Mural Room and Bisno Schall Clock Gallery. For breathtaking panoramas of Santa Barbara and the surrounding ocean, visitors can climb to the top of El Mirador clock tower.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Address: 1100 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 8am - 5pm; Fri: 10am - 4:45pm (closed on Sat & Sun)

Indulge in local cuisine at Bouchon

On tonight's menu: Crispy Skin Pacific Salmon served with warm German potato salad with grain mustard and...

Posted by Bouchon Santa Barbara on Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Bouchon is an elegant, fine-dining restaurant that is renowned for its emphasis on local ingredients and fantastic wine pairings. Intimate and inviting, this place features a seasonal menu of French-inspired cuisine, with fresh seafood from the Santa Barbara Channel, produce from the countryside, and refreshing regional wines from local vineyards. Their decadent desserts are also unbeatable. With its dedication to sourcing the best of local ingredients and harmonious wine pairings, Bouchon is the perfect place to sample the best flavors of Santa Barbara.


Address: 9 W Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: Bouchon

Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 5pm - 9pm; Fri - Sat: 5pm - 10pm

Day 1: Night

Sip on a creative cocktail at the Good Lion

For after-dinner drinks, look no further than the Good Lion. This cocktail bar offers a weekly rotating drinks menu brimming with inventive mixed drinks that highlight seasonal produce, fruits, herbs, and spices. Each creative cocktail bursts with flavor and many of their ingredients come from local organic farms and partners. Sit back in the sophisticated lounge and sip on something unique. In addition to cocktails, they also have a small menu of California craft beers as well as local wines.

The Good Lion

Address: 1212 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: The Good Lion

Opening hours: 4pm - 1am (daily)

Listen to live music at SOhO Restaurant and Music Club

Whatever your preference for music, you’re sure to have a brilliant time at SOhO Restaurant and Music Club. This warm, laidback venue is open daily and features a well-rounded line-up of jazz, blues, rock, and acoustic performances throughout the year. Whether you prefer to sit back and relax or can’t wait to hit the floor dancing, there is always something exciting happening here. In addition to the wonderful music selection, this venue also offers a superb restaurant where you can dine on local fare.

SOhO Restaurant and Music Club

Address: 1221 State St #205, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: SOhO Restaurant and Music Club

Opening hours: 6pm - 1am (daily)

Day 2: Morning

Feast on comfort food at Cajun Kitchen Cafe - De La Vina

Give your morning a kickstart at Cajun Kitchen Cafe. With a menu bursting with comfort food favorites, this casual restaurant is a delightful place to start your day. Try specialties like beignets or shrimp and andouille grits, and feast on classic dishes like chicken and waffles. You can also opt for one of the amazing omelets or eggs benedict dishes. From blackened catfish to buttermilk waffles, the menu here is filled with delicious options to start your day.

Cajun Kitchen Cafe - De La Vina

Address: 2817, 1924 De La Vina St A, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: Cajun Kitchen Cafe - De La Vina

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 6:30am - 2:30pm; Sun: 7am - 2:30pm

Learn about the legacy of Old Mission Santa Barbara (from USD 12.0)

The historic Old Mission Santa Barbara is an impressive architectural marvel that provides a fascinating glimpse into the city’s past. This historic landmark was constructed in 1786 by Spanish Franciscans and includes the beautiful Mission Church, lush gardens, and an engaging museum. Admire the stunning architecture as you tour the church, then explore the exhibits about Native Americans and colonial life. There is also a historic cemetery and mausoleum that guests can visit. Tours can be self-guided or led by a docent for an extra fee.

General Admission to Old Mission Santa Barbara

Duration: 1 to 3 hours

Take in the panoramas from Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Meadow wildflowers
Source: Photo by user brewbooks used under CC BY-SA 2.0

With its lush landscapes and breathtaking vistas of the Santa Ynez Mountains and Santa Barbara Channel Islands, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is an idyllic attraction. This massive park brims with a staggering collection of native plants, towering trees, and historic structures. Wander along the tranquil paths and take in the beauty of cultivated gardens like Redwood Section, Woodland Trail, and Canyon Section. From the brilliant wildflowers and sweeping views from Meadow Section to the shrub-covered slopes of Campbell Trail, this place is awash with beautiful panoramas and stunning wildlife.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Address: 1212 Mission Canyon Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, United States

Website: Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 14 USD

Day 2: Afternoon

Snack on tacos from Lilly's Taqueria

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

For unbelievably tasty tacos bursting with flavor, look no further than Lilly’s Taqueria. This casual restaurant in Santa Barbara serves up simple, authentic tacos that include classic favorites and unique meat fillings like beef cheek and tongue. Served in warm, corn tortillas, drizzle your taco with a squeeze of fresh lime and a spoonful of salsa for an easy, delicious meal. These are a fantastic option for a quick afternoon pick-me-up.

Lilly's Taqueria

Address: 310 Chapala St #3408, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: Lilly’s Taqueria

Opening hours: Sun - Mon, Wed - Thu: 10:30am - 9pm; Fri - Sat: 10:30am - 10pm (closed on Wed)

Sip and saunter along Santa Barbara with a self-guided wine walk (from USD 40.0)

This self-guided wine walk is a delightful way to encounter the decadent viticulture heritage of Santa Barbara. Download the easy-to-use app then traverse Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone neighborhood. Enjoy sightseeing in the area as you pass by tasting rooms and wineries. This self-paced tour includes stops at seven local establishments along Anacapa Street, where you can enjoy wine flights, special glass tastings, and package offers like two-for-one tastings. Enjoy a taste of the local life and savor indulgent samples of regional wines.

Santa Barbara Self-Guided Anacapa Wine Walk

Duration: 3 to 4 hours

10 reviews

Explore the exhibits in Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Santa Barbara Museum of Art sculpture court
Source: Photo by user Jllm06 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The marvelous Santa Barbara Museum of Art is a must-see for any art aficionado. This exemplary museum opened in 1941 and boasts a staggering collection of over 27,000 works of American, Asian, and European art. From classic paintings to contemporary photography, the museum spans many genres across 5,000 years. Discover the breathtaking collection of paintings by Monet and learn world history through the assortment of international antiquities, have fun in the interactive children’s gallery, and more! There is also an on-site cafe, museum store, and a library.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Address: 1130 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 11am - 5pm; Thu: 11pm - 8pm (closed on Mon)

Price: 5 USD

Day 2: Evening

Enjoy family-friendly fun at East Beach

East Beach, Santa Barbara, California
Source: Photo by user Steven Straiton used under CC BY 2.0

No visit to Santa Barbara is complete without a visit to one of its renowned beaches! East Beach is a stretch of sandy coastline along the city’s eastern end, and it is a wonderful family-friendly escape. Pack a picnic and lounge on golden sands, then enjoy a friendly competition of volleyball at one of the many courts on the beach. For a more active afternoon, rent a bicycle or stroll along the waterfront promenade, or hit the waves and try sea kayaking or stand-up paddle-boarding. Just inland from the beach is Chase Palm Park, where children will love playing on the shipwreck-themed playground.

East Beach

Address: 323 E Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: East Beach

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

Price: Free

Catch a performance at Lobero Theater

USA-Santa Barbara-Lobero Theatre
Source: Photo by user Eugene Zelenko used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Founded in 1873, Lobero Theater is a historic venue that continues to feature fantastic arts and cultural performances. It is the oldest continuously performing theater in California, and this intimate venue has a stunning lineup of musical performances across many genres, including jazz, chamber music, and opera. Many local and national acts grace this stage, and the theater hosts annual events, including Santa Barbara International Film Festival. From the exterior’s beautiful architecture to the fantastic performers, an evening here is an unbeatable experience when in Santa Barbara.

Lobero Theater

Address: 33 E Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: Lobero Theater

Enjoy a fine-dining experience at Jane

At this beautiful restaurant in Santa Barbara’s Theater Art District, local ingredients invigorate seasonal menus filled with shareable dishes. Jane is a family-owned fine-dining restaurant that is loved by locals and visitors alike. Each dish is made from scratch, and you can accompany your meal with a glass of regional or international wine, or some craft beer. Whether you stop by for brunch, lunch, dinner, or just dessert, the menu is brimming with fantastic options bursting with flavor.


Address: 1311 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: Jane

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 11:30am - 2:30pm; 5:30am - 10pm (closed on Sun)

Day 2: Night

Quench your thirst at Test Pilot

This vibrant bar serves up a menu of brilliant, tropical cocktails to try out. Sample inventive concoctions like the Millennium Falcon Fizz, Ken-Tiki Kentucky, or the Brass Monkey, which feature unique blends of spices and mixers. You can also opt for a glass of local wine or beer. In the summer months, the boozy slushies burst with seasonal flavors - there are even non-alcoholic options to enjoy. Test Pilot also hosts a happy hour until seven in the evening from Monday to Friday.

Test Pilot

Address: 211 Helena Ave, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: Test Pilot

Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 4pm - 1am; Fri - Sat: 2pm - 2am; Sun: 2pm - 1am

Dance the night away at EOS Lounge

Vibrant and dynamic, EOS Lounge is a spacious dance and music venue that will have you out on the dance floor all night long. This outstanding club is located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, and it features a huge stage with a state-of-the-art sound system and two dance floors. When you need a break or need to rehydrate, head to one of the three bars or hang out in the luxurious lounge. This place also has a beautiful terrace area where guests can hang out.

EOS Lounge

Address: 500 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, United States

Website: EOS Lounge

Opening hours: Thu - Sat: 9pm - 1:30am (closed from Sun - Wed)

The irresistible charm of Santa Barbara

There is so much to enjoy in this gorgeous area, from beautiful parks and historic landmarks to creative cocktail bars and stellar shopping areas. 36 hours in Santa Barbara can give you just a taste of all the amazing things this city has to offer. Enjoy beautiful beaches, amazing panoramic views, and fantastic attractions fit for the whole family! Start planning your getaway today and enjoy this itinerary for what to do for 36 hours in Santa Barbara, California.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Hannah is a freelance writer, list making aficionado, and world traveler currently based in Germany. She is an avid explorer, and believes in creating new experiences to put on her bucket list to...Read more

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