Got only three days in America’s Riviera? Don’t worry – that’s still plenty of time to see what makes this America’s darling of a city. Hills, mountains, and ocean all coalesce into this beachside town, renowned for its pastel sunsets, its unbelievable weather, and some great nightlife – all while keeping the bustle of Los Angeles at arm’s length.
Day One: Do What The Tourists Do
Let’s get situated. Getting your bearings on this beautiful coastal city needn’t be a chore. If your back’s to the ocean, then chances are you’re facing due North, and most of downtown Santa Barbara uses this as a waypoint. Your main thoroughfare is State Street, which is lined with boutique shops and trendy restaurants. An easy day can be spent wander along the brick sidewalks and taking in the beauty of Santa Barbara and all it provides for shopping and dining experiences. Take lunch, then head East on Figueroa and explore the Santa Barbara Courthouse – the Mural Room alone is worth the experience, but the Sunken Gardens and bell-tower are also nice.
After the Courthouse, take the Electric Shuttle which ferries passengers up and down State Street for a quarter and stops every couple blocks. Take it to the bottom and walk out on Stern’s Wharf, Santa Barbara’s #1 tourist attrction. This historic landmark is always a favorite and is a great spot to watch the sunset – particularly at Deep Sea Tasting Room where the wines are refined yet affordable and the view is, well, priceless.
Day Two: See What the Locals See
Now that you’ve explored the heart of Santa Barbara, consider seeing the rest of the coastline and some of Montecito on an electric bike ride or Segway tour. These tours will take you along the coast, show you East Beach where the world-class volleyball players play, the ancient Chumash Indian landmarks, past Santa Barbara’s Zoo and its beautiful bird refuge, down into the tip of Montecito where you’ll hear chilling stories of these plutocrats, their otherworldly lives, and the innovative tyranny of how they marked their place in the world. Upon your return you’ll be poised for an afternoon wine tour in Santa Barbara’s own Funk Zone. Fast becoming something of an urban-renewal center, this is urban wine trail sports over a dozen different notable wine-makers of the region, and plenty time can be spent sampling them all. Consider Municipal, Santa Barbara Winery, and Carr some safe bets.
Day Three: See the Countryside
No trip to Santa Barbara would be complete without exploring the countryside. There are a variety of ways to spend your day – skydiving, horseback riding, and jeep safaris through the Santa Ynez valley to name a few, but a great time can be spent leisurely hanging out by the beach, at one of the area’s great spas (the Bacara, Avia, and the Biltmore Spas come to mind), or by exploring the eucalyptus and butterflies at the Ellwood Butterfly Preserve. Bring your camera – this place is overwhelmingly beautiful.