Whether you live in San Francisco or Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is perfect for a weekend road trip. I describe the city as a city with a little bit of everything. It's got the beach town feel on one side, complete with a beach, boardwalk, and pier. Not far away on the exact opposite side are towering mountains, filled with hiking trails with spectacular views of Santa Barbara. In between the beach and the mountain is the city of Santa Barbara, with a busy downtown filled will well balanced mix of store fronts from antique stores, to ice cream parlors, to high priced restaurants.
In my latest trip to Santa Barbara (over the three day Memorial Weekend), we had two full days of sightseeing around Santa Barbara. Through some planning via Santa Barbara's visitor website
and friends and family, we had quite the itinerary.
A long street of stores, bars, restaurants, and theaters. What makes State Street unique is the pleasant mix of store types starting with antique stores, to boutiques, to large chain stores like Abercrombie and Macy's. Bars and restaurants line the street, so finding food is never a problem. This is a must stop street to walk down. Start walking from the beach, as it's more lively (though parking is more of a hassle). Additionally, there are a handful of full decorated alleys with restaurants lining the whole city.
Mission Santa Barbara
One of the many Missions that exist in California. There is a tour (paid) that we did not attend and a gift shop for tourists. The outside of the Mission is well maintained. Across from Mission Santa Barbara is a free rose garden that was in full bloom. On this Memorial Weekend, we were lucky to be in town during a multi day chalk art festival featuring artists working on their art.
Santa Barbara County Courthouse
This is a location is half historic visit and half a good area to view the city. Still a working courthouse, this historic site has been modernized. There is a four story high clock tower which offers an amazing view of the Santa Barbara. Best of all, this courthouse and it's clock tower is completely free to enter and view.
Suggest by both a friend and the Santa Barbara visitor website, this part of town is know as the artsy part of town for those hip new businesses. Though it came highly recommended, we did not get a chance to visit the Funk Zone. The Funk Zone is located near where State Street meets Stearns Wharf.
Santa Barbara Beach
Being a coast town, there is also a beach. The sand at Santa Barbara beach is very smooth near land. But the closer you get to the water, the more debris is mixed in with the sand. Though there were many people out at the beach, not many people were in the water. (Maybe it has something to do with the oil rigs visible from the shore?)
A decently large wharf with a lot of food options plus a museum. Unlike many other wharf/piers, Stearns Wharf is large enough to allow cars to drive up and park (with a fee). Walking on is free. The beginning of the wharf that lines the beach is commonly surrounded by sand sculptures. Though the sculptures are amazing, be prepared to tip if you want a pictures (otherwise, you'll be in for a rude surprise).
Bike the Boardwalk
Bike rentals are available near the entrance of State Street and Sterns Wharf. The bike shop has rentals like four person bikes, to two person bikes, to single bikes. From Sterns Wharf, there is a bike path. One direction is a mile along the beach while the other direction is two miles along the beach.