Santa Barbara - The American Riviera

Santa Barbara - The American Riviera - The Riviera Towel Company

Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara    - The American Riviera Home to The Riviera Towel Company and dozens of historic and natural attractions. 

Santa Barbara is a beautiful coastal town and a popular weekend destination in Southern California, known for its excellent beaches, restaurants and romantic Pacific Ocean views. Take a helicopter tour, explore the wine country with a knowledgeable guide, see the magnificent Redwood Forest at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, and walk on Stearns Wharf which dates back to 1872. If you are looking for romantic things to do in Santa Barbara, CA in the evening, visit the historic Lobero Theatre where you can watch ballet, chamber orchestra, jazz and other performances.

»Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Located on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art was founded in 1941 and today houses a collection of over 27,000 works of American, Asian, and European art. Originally the Santa Barbara Post Office, the building was renovated and now contains 60,000 square feet for art exhibits as well as an auditorium, a library, a museum store, and a cafe.

The museum focuses on education with its 40 programs and presents lectures, performances, and seminars, and is one of the top Santa Barbara attractions. The Ridley-Tree Education Center is also located in the 11,500 square foot McCormick House. Tours are available. Read more

1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, California, Phone: 805-963-4364

Romantic resorts, inns and hotels in Santa Barbara: Autocamp Santa Barbara, San Ysidro Ranch, The Canary Hotel, Bacara Resort & Spa and Hotel Indigo. Photo: Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Weekend Getaways & Attractions near me: From NYC, Ohio, TX Places to Visit, PA, CA, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago

»Lotusland, Santa Barbara, California

Lotusland, Santa Barbara, California

Lotusland is a magnificent exotic garden located on the private property that used to be home to the well-known Polish opera singer and socialite Madame Ganna Walska. The 37-acre property features spectacular collections of exotic plants that Madam Walska collected and tended during her life. Her friends and admirers have also donated some of the collections. The whimsical tone of the garden reflects her taste for the dramatic and the unexpected.

After Madam Walska died in 1984, Lotusland became a nonprofit public botanical garden, and its exceptional educational programs continue to benefit the local community. If you are looking for things to do in Santa Barbara for garden lovers, this is a must-see attractions. Its numerous innovative horticultural practices are admired and shared by botanic gardens all over the world. It is a magical, breathtakingly beautiful place to visit and to feel the spirit of one exceptional woman. Read more

Ganna Walska Lotusland, 695 Ashley Rd, Santa Barbara, California, Phone: 805-969-9990


»Santa Barbara Zoo

Santa Barbara Zoo

The Santa Barbara Zoo provides open, naturalistic habitats to more than 500 animals from 146 species of reptiles, mammals, birds, and insects. The zoo is located on thirty acres of lush botanic gardens that feature many native plants, ornamentals, trees, cacti, succulents, and exotic species. The zoo is considered one of the best small zoos in the country and is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara with kids.

Since its opening in 1963, the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens has been fulfilling its mission of preserving, conserving, and enhancing the natural world through research, education, and recreation. The zoo organizes numerous special events and programs such as Zoo camp and monthly multidisciplinary hand-on activities for kids such as Be A Zookeeper for a Day. What young person would not love spending a day playing with baby meerkats? Read more

500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, California, Phone: 805-962-5339



Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, California

Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, California

The Lobero is the oldest continuously performing theatre in California and one of the top Santa Barbara points of interest. Founded in 1873 and rebuilt in 1924, the Lobero building is one of Santa Barbara’s most treasured architectural jewels. Lobero has always been Santa Barbara’s favorite stage for both professional and community performances, and many of the big Santa Barbara performing arts groups call Lobero home: State Street Ballet, Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, and others.

From its glory days to today, the Lobero has presented jazz in a variety of formats, hosting jazz greats such as Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Dave Holland, among others. Some truly great names have graced the stage of the Lobero: Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, Igor Stravinsky, Betty Grable, and Tyrone Power, to mention just a few.

33 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-963-0761 Photo: Lobero Theatre


»Shoreline Park

Shoreline Park

The best reasons to visit the Shoreline Park are the magnificent views of the city, the Santa Barbara coastline, and the Santa Ynez Mountains. If you are lucky, you even might spot some passing whales and the attraction is completely free. This popular 14.6-acre park situated on a coastal bluff has something for everyone: playgrounds, picnic tables, barbeques, sidewalks, and cozy benches. If you are wondering what to do in Santa Barbara with kids, this is a great place to visit.

To enter the park, visitors pass through the beautiful Torii gate and down the Shoreline Park staircase that leads to the bluff and the beach below. You can let your dog splash through the waves from the Shoreline Park Staircase to the eastern edge of the Arroyo Burro Estuary.


»Santa Barbara Orchid Estate

Santa Barbara Orchid Estate
The Santa Barbara Orchid Estate was established in 1957 on five acres of spectacular coastal Santa Barbara landscape, just a few steps from the ocean. It is now owned and managed by Paul Gripp and his two children, Parry and Alice, all of whom are world-known propagators and collectors of orchid species and hybrids. Their specialty is outdoor temperature-tolerant orchids.

The Estate welcomes visitors, and once you see the profusion of colors, shapes, sizes, and forms of these flowers, it is easy to get hooked on their magnificent exotic blooms. There are hundreds of varieties of orchids for sale, directly or by mail, and the owners provide you with all the information you need on growing and nurturing your new blooms. The owners offer detailed advice on how to grow orchids and frequently organize lectures and exhibitions.

1250 Orchid Drive, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-967-1284


Sustainable Vine Wine Tours

Sustainable Vine Wine Tours

Taking a tour of Santa Barbara County wineries with two certified and experienced sommeliers is an absolute treat for any wine lover. When Scott Bull and Bryan Hope, the owners of the Sustainable Vine Wine Tours, take you on a tour, they will personally drive you in one of their Mercedes-Benz luxury vehicles and take you on a trip through some exceptional local wineries, vineyards, and barrel rooms. They will also educate and entertain you. Tour groups are small – six to nine people – and the outings last almost the whole day – from 10am to about 5pm. The tours include not only wine tasting but an organic lunch in one of the vineyards. Read more

3981 La Colina Rd., Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-698-3911


»Green Flash Charters

Green Flash Charters

There are many occasions for which chartering a sailboat would be a great idea: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries of any kind, or just some very special party. With Captain Arthur and Chef Sherri you are sure to have an unforgettable time. This cruise includes not only a sea adventure but also some very fine foods prepared by Chef Sherri.

It can be a two-hour Harbor/Coastal cruise, a half-day charter with a multi course gourmet meal with wines, a full day trip with a multi course meal, fine snacks, and wines, or you can go on an overnight Channel Islands trip that lasts two days and one night, with multi course dinners, meals, and wines or other beverages of your choice. Green Flash is a Catana 471, and it is famous for its speed and comfort. The ship is luxuriously appointed and tastefully decorated. The charters can take a maximum of six people (Phone: 805 689-4057).


»Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf

Completed in 1872, Stearns Wharf is the oldest wooden wharf in continuous use in California. In the past, it was used for passenger and freight services for about 25 years, and it is named after its builder, John P. Stearns. The wharf is located at the end of State Street and is one of the most visited places in Santa Barbara.

Today, there are 17 businesses on Stearns Wharf including shops and restaurants, a shellfish market, and two educational facilities: the Channel Islands Exhibit Hall and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, which is an interactive facility for ocean education. Visitors also have the option of taking cruises and water taxis from the wharf.


»Santa Barbara Tasting Tours

Santa Barbara Tasting Tours

Santa Barbara Tasting Tours offers food walking tours along State Street in downtown Santa Barbara. The three and a half hour lunchtime tour includes food tastings at six different restaurants and shops in the downtown area. In addition to the food tastings, tour guides point out interesting historical sights such as the Arlington and Granada Theaters, the Presidio, and the city courthouse.

Some of the tours stop at popular places like El Paseo, La Arcada, and the Santa Barbara Public Market. The tastings include restaurants as well as delis, cheese shops, wineries, chocolate shops, and other places for desserts. Private tours are also available (805-295-8687).


»Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Santa Barbara Maritime MuseumLocated on Harbor Way on Santa Barbara’s harbor, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is devoted to preserving the maritime history of its local coast. The museum uses its man artifacts, exhibits, and events to achieve this goal. Exhibits include interesting features like cannons, paintings, interactive maps, seaplanes, and much more.

The museum also offers educational opportunities for children and adults, allowing them to learn about local maritime history. For example, its “Tall Ship Education Program” has hands-on activities to teach children about things like problem solving and teamwork. The museum can be rented for special occasions like weddings and parties. Tours led by experienced docents are available and generally last about 45 minutes. Read more

113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, California, Phone: 805-962-8404


»Arroyo Burro County Beach Park

Arroyo Burro County Beach Park

The Arroyo Burro Beach Park is a Santa Barbara county park located on Cliff Drive just south of Elings Park. It is called Hendry’s Beach by locals, and it is a popular place for picnics and ocean activities, which include swimming, surfing, and fishing. There are other fun things to do here such as bird watching or horseback riding on the park’s numerous trails. The park has a long history that dates back to 1947 when the first six acres were bought to start a park. Today it features a large parking lot, picnic tables and BBQ grills, and is one of the top Santa Barbara attractions.

»Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural HistoryLocated on Puesta Del Sol in Mission Canyon behind the Santa Barbara Mission, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is dedicated to teaching visitors about local natural history through its exhibits. Founded in 1916, it is the oldest museum in the city and sits on 12 acres along picturesque Mission Creek. The exhibits are housed in a group of mission-style buildings situated in an oak woodland landscape. Some of the exhibits include an impressive 74-foot whale skeleton and other displays of marine life, fossils, birds and mammals. If you are wondering what to do in Santa Barbara on a rainy day, visit this unique museum. Visitors can look through the books in the Museum Library or go for a walk on the museum’s Nature Trail along Mission Creek. Read more

2559 Puesta Del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-682-4711


»The Lark

The LarkThe Lark, surrounded by local surf shops and galleries, is located in the historic Santa Barbara Fish Market building. You can sit inside or enjoy the breeze on the outside porch. The ambience is romantic with flickering candles and old lamps, and the large communal tables are homey and welcoming – you can share one of them with 23 friends or make new friends with some of the other guests. The cheery atmosphere is just the beginning.

Executive Chef Jason Paluska uses locally sourced fresh seasonal ingredients to create dishes that are made with the best of what the Central Coast has to offer with just the right touch of exotic flavors from faraway places. Try Crispy Smoked Pork Belly with roasted blackberry, almond brittle, pickled jimmy nardello chile, and chicharron, and you will be hooked for life. There is a full bar that emphasizes its selections from small Santa Barbara wine makers. Read more

131 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, California, Phone: 805-284-0370 Photo: The Lark


»The Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market

The Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market

232 Anacapa Street #1A, Santa Barbara, California, Phone: 805-962-5354

»Finch & Fork

Finch & Fork
Finch & Fork is a hip and fun American Bar and Grill located in downtown Santa Barbara. Dark wood paneling and a profusion of colorful bottles on display create a bright and inviting atmosphere. Chef James Siao uses fresh local ingredients from local fishers, farmers, and ranchers to perfect modern California dishes with his own twist and flare. He turns comfort food like deviled eggs into something really special with additions of smoked trout, pickled shallot, and olive relish. The menu changes often, and there is a nice selection of local wines and some truly imaginative cocktails: try the Blackberry Cooler with Wild turkey rye31 West Carrillo St., Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-879-9100