Santa Barbara Tourist Guide

  • Best Places to Stay:

    El Encanto (beautiful historic hotel on the Riviera)

    Fess Parkers Doubletree(right off the beach, walking distance to most things)

    Bacara Resort (on beach north of sb - very pricey)

    Cabrillo Inn (great location on East beach - very affordable, decent rooms)


    Our favorite Restaurants:

    East Beach Grill- great for breakfast, right on East Beach, very close to Fess Parker and Cabrillo Inn, very beachy, great for kids, always a line on weekends between 9-10am, secure the table first and get walk up to order second.


    Brophy Brothers- great clam chowder, amazing view, always crazy packed at night, food not that good - go for lunch or late afternoon snack, order chowder, sit on deck and drink a beer, watch the boats come in, located on West Beach in the boat harbor, any local can direct you.


    The Palace Grill-  

    8 E. Cota Street, corner of State and Cota, fun cajun restaurant. Great martinis, noisy, always a long line on weekends, can't make reservations, so prepare to wait between 6-8pm on weekends. 


    Arigato Sushi - 1225 State Street, simple the best sushi I have ever had, if you like sushi, you must go and order whatever the wait-staff recommends. You can't make reservations, so if you go at 5:30, you will probably get a seat when it opens, otherwise prepare to wait, but it is worth it!


    La Super Rica - 622 N. Milpas St, Santa Barbara, considered a 5-star mexican food restaurant. One of Julia Child's favorite places to eat. The food is amazing - like no other "American - Mexican" food you have ever had. The place is a dive and there is usually a line a block long to order at the window. Pick up the food and take it to the park or beach for lunch or dinner. 


    Lucky's, Trattoria Mollie, Pan e Vino in Montecito are also very good - and if you want to see famous people, might be your best bet.


    Photo credit:


    Fun Free Places to Go:

    Chase Palm Park - great place to take kids, old-fashioned carousel, sunken ship playground, lots of beautiful botanics, definitely have a picnic here or walk through. Just off East Beach near Fess Parker's Resort.


    State Street - lots of fun, expensive, and some not-so-expensive shops and restaurants, also a couple movie theaters. Just start at the bottom, walk up one side and down the other. 


    Stearns Wharf - fun to walk to the end, can take a water taxi to the harbor (where Brophy's is), interesting to note that this place burnt down in the late 90's.

    Mission Rose Garden - you can tour the Mission itself, for a small fee, but not worth it in my opinion (unless you are a big Catholic which I obviously know you are not). But the outdoors park and rose garden in the front is lovely. Bring a bottle of wine or a frisbee and sit on the grass and smell the roses. 


    Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden - Corner of Santa Barbara and Arrellaga

    This park is one of our favorites. The beautiful landscaping, pond stocked with coy and turtles make is perfect for a simple stroll through unique low-water gardens or a picnic on the rolling lawns.  


    Douglas Family Preserve - End of Linda Street on the Mesa

    This park is fairly undeveloped with no restroom or picnic facilities. It is a prime place for walking humans and dogs (who can go without a leash) along the bluffs overlooking the ocean.  Purchased by the "people" of Santa Barbara to prevent development. The Michael Douglas family gave most of the money. A beautiful spot to see the sunset. My favorite beach is just down below this. 

    Santa Barbara Courthouse - beautiful grounds, and architecture, go to the top and look at the city.


    Great beaches:

    East beach (in front of Fess Parkers, Hendry's Beach - Officially named Arroyo Burro Beach, this beach has an ideal location, a sense of privacy and plenty of amenities.  There is a little restaurant called the Brown Pelican that is there, a little pricey, and food is okay. Butterfly Beach - Across from the Four Seasons Biltmore, only bummer about this beach is that it is gone at high tide.


    Fun Places to Go that Cost a little $$-

    Santa Barbara Zoo - amazing views, beautiful animals, can walk through in an hour and a half. If you like zoos, this is the best one I have ever been to.

    Sea Center - out on Stearns Wharf, brand new, not that much in it, but is kinda cool if you have kiddos with you. 


    My Ideal 3-day Santa Barbara Weekend:

     Friday morning: get up and make my way to East Beach grill for a mid-morning breakfast, take the paper, and sun/walk on the beach afterward. Throw on my tennis shoes and walk down to Stearns Wharf (making sure that I walk through Chase Palm Park and ride the carousel), walk down to the end of the Wharf and look back at the view of SB, take water taxi to Harbor, have chowder and beer at Brophy Brothers, walk down to State Street, viewing the fun little shops along the way. Back to the hotel to freshen up, take bottle of wine up to Mission Rose Gardens for sunset, go to The Palace for late dinner afterward.


    Saturday morning: Get up, drive to Hendry's beach, walk up to Douglas Preserve, enjoy view, back down to beach for late breakfast at Brown Pelican, drive to Santa Ynez and Los Olivos for wine tasting, making sure I stop at Gainey, Artiste, and Firestone. Late lunch at Los Olivos Cafe (yes, the one from the movie Sideways). Pick up lots of great wine to take home. Back to hotel to rest, get sober and freshen up, dinner at Arigato.


    Sunday morning: Walk Butterfly beach at low tide. Stop at La Super Rica for lunch - order practically everything on the menu. Take the food to SB Courthouse, picnic on the grounds, go up to the top of the courthouse and get my bearings and enjoy the view, walk over to Alice Keck Park, crack open one of the bottles of wine from yesterday. Sit in the shade and take a nap. Back to hotel for rest, late evening dinner at Pan e Vino in Montecito.