Whether you are a local or a first-time visitor, Santa Barbara is full of new experiences and places to explore! Some of the best times I’ve spent on a vacation are ones that didn’t put a hole in my wallet. Lucky for all of you (and me), Santa Barbara offers plenty of budget-friendly activities. Below are six of my favorite things to do in Santa Barbara that won’t break the bank and will still allow you to embrace the unique, coastal vibe this city has to offer.
Visit Cold Springs Tavern
A short ways off of Highway 154, this historic restaurant once served as a stagecoach stop. They even still sell wild game such as venison, rabbit, and buffalo! Stop by on a Saturday or Sunday, when they offer their infamous tri-tip barbeque sandwiches ($11) and beer-battered onion rings ($9) out in the fresh air. You can listen to live bands alongside many local regulars while enjoying the delicious food and drink. I consider this an absolute must for first-timers in Santa Barbara!
Find Your Favorite Beach
The one thing you have to do in Santa Barbara is visit one of its naturally stunning beaches. With pleasant temperatures almost anytime of the year, you have the opportunity to enjoy the sand and the sun even in the winter season. Whether you want to stretch your legs or just relax, this city provides several coastal getaways. From Butterfly Beach to Refugio State Park, you will have trouble choosing which one to visit first!
If you like to travel with a furry friend, check out this list of dog-friendly beaches in Santa Barbara
Take a Hike
With scenic views almost anywhere you go, it is not very difficult to find a trail near this city. You can find easy paths through flat fields, large gardens, or venture into climbs that give you great photo ops of the Pacific. Depending on your mode of transportation, you can choose from several hikes within the city or right on the outskirts!
Check out this list of the Top-Rated Hikes in Santa Barbara to help choose the right one for you!
Wine Tasting in the Funk Zone
As we should all know, wine tasting and driving do not mix well. Santa Barbara has the perfect solution to this with its very own Funk Zone! With around 30 tasting rooms clustered near downtown, you have the ability to sample bottles from over a dozen different vineyards without having to leave the city! This makes day-drinking a favorite and essential pastime for most people who reside or visit here.
Explore the Harbor
You can’t stay in Santa Barbara without taking a quick (and cold) dip in the Pacific. Stop by the always-bustling Santa Barbara Harbor to rent a sea kayak or stand-up paddleboard for an hour or two. A variety of local shops will offer rentals at an affordable price. Your self-guided tour is guaranteed to give you great sightings of the coastline. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the numerous sea lions, and even dolphins as you paddle your way around.
Picnic at the Courthouse
The one time you actually want to spend a day at court! This Spanish-Moorish structure is striking from the inside, but step underneath its spacious archway and you’ll find yourself inside one of the most beautiful government buildings in the country. Take a trip the top of the “El Mirador” clock tower for sweeping views of Santa Barbara. After you are done, lounge in the sunken garden and have yourself a packed snack.
If you are here in the summertime, stick around for the free Sunken Garden movie series that take place on Friday evenings in July and August.
As you can see, a trip to this coastal town doesn’t have to cost you a fortune! What’s your favorite, budget-friendly activity in Santa Barbara?
For those of you who love to hop around for happy hour, click here for locally-loved places to eat and drink in Santa Barbara for cheap!
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