A First-Timers Guide to Santa Barbara

Sunny Santa Barbara! Considered a dream destination and for good reasons. Beautiful beaches with the Santa Ynez Mountains as a dramatic backdrop creates idyllic surroundings for the central coast of California. This ‘upscale beach town’ has a lot to offer: scenic hikes, wine tours, trendy shopping, local food spots and much more! Check out my guide below for those who are visiting the city for the first time.


Take a “Funky” Tour

The Funk Zone is a former warehouse district turned hipster scene. It is a 10-block radius located in Lower State that consists of art galleries, microbreweries, and wine tasting rooms. You can try craft beer at the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. or have a tasty cocktail at the tiki-themed bar Test Pilot. Another option is to participate in the Urban Wine trail– a self-guided wine tasting tour throughout Santa Barbara that has many ‘stops’ stationed in the Funk Zone. This city is surrounded by wineries so you know the quality is going to be top notch.

See the State and the Stearn

State Street runs all the way through downtown Santa Barbara and is lined with hundreds of boutiques, bars and restaurants. The notable Spanish architecture and tree-lined blocks are a perfect backdrop to spend an afternoon wandering this road. On Tuesdays from 4:00 – 7:30 you can visit the Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market, which is a favorite destination for local chefs. State Street ends at the ocean and into Stearns Wharf- a long pier that holds a few seafood restaurants and great views of the city as well as the harbor. I suggest stopping by the Santa Barbara Shellfish Co., sitting at a table next to the water and ordering a whole crab!

Make it a Beach Day

Some of the main attractions in Santa Barbara are its gorgeous beaches! Take a day to unwind, pack a picnic, and head to one (or more) of these options.

Butterfly Beach has a more relaxed feel with picturesque surroundings. Its also a walk away from Montecito, an upscale part of town with great window shopping and restaurants.

Leadbetter Beach is more for those who want to partake in some recreational activities. Kayaking, wind-surfing and paddle-boarding are common among beach goers.

East Beach can be a little touristy but a lot of fun! It is next to downtown which makes it easily accessible. Play beach volleyball or even rent a bike to cruise down Cabrillo Boulevard!

Hop Around for Happy Hour!

Santa Barbara is home to a diverse range of drinking establishments: dive bars, cocktail lounges in swanky hotels, breweries, and more. One of the best ways to check them out is during happy hour! You will be able to enjoy refreshing drinks  and small bites for discounted prices. Some of my favorites from the trip were:

Finch and Fork, a stylish New American restaurant on State Street offering craft cocktails and small bites for a low price from 4PM – 7PM daily.

Ty Lounge at the Four Seasons Biltmore, which has great patio views of the ocean and an drink menu. You can enjoy happy hour on Monday – Thursday from 4PM – 6PM- they even offer live entertainment on most days of the week!

The Good Lion, a speakeasy with an ever-changing cocktail menu and a small list of local beers & wines. Their happy hour specials are a huge draw for locals and visitors alike.

Taste the Local Flavors

Make sure to try out as many eateries as you can while visiting the city! The food is diverse and the products used are so fresh! It doesn’t hurt that an ocean is right next door- seafood is picked from the harbor daily to create inspired dishes. For each meal, I suggest visiting these restaurants:

Breakfast: Renaud’s Patisserie was founded 10 years ago and is famous for their delectable pastries. Everything on the menu is handmade and influenced by French cuisine. With two locations in the downtown area and one in Montecito, you will have no excuse not to stop by and satisfy your morning munchies!

Lunch: After you have worked up an appetite exploring all the city has to offer, stop at the Santa Barbara Public Market for multiple delicious options to snack on. Tacos, noodles, sushi and wood-fired pizzas are some of the choices you will have. The market also sells local beer &wine and hosts many different social events each month.

Dinner: The most authentic Mexican food you can get in town is at  Los Agaves. It is an award-winning restaurant and considered one of Santa Barbara’s top 5. Classic dishes with an innovative twist, served in an inviting atmosphere makes for the perfect ending to a day in paradise.


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