There’s a lot of negative talk around attractions and experiences that are too “touristy” these days. And while we understand the desire to venture off the beaten path, we sometimes find that the road more traveled has better views. That being said, being a tourist in a Californian town like Santa Barbara is extra precious, because our most well-known sights and landmarks are still relaxing, invigorating, and memorable.
Here, we’re highlighting some of the most popular visitor experiences in Santa Barbara, as well as can’t-miss attractions that every tourist or traveler will enjoy checking out.
Santa Barbara Trolley Tours
One of the most comprehensive ways to see the city of Santa Barbara is to take an open-air train ride with the Santa Barbara Trolley Company. Pay one fare and get access to the looping trolley for a full day. The hop-on, hop-off style allows you enjoy the freedom of getting lost in the attractions and sights that grab you for as long as you’d like. If you stay on the bus, the tour runs for around 90 minutes—hitting a wave of memorable spots along the way.
The tour highlights include Stearns Wharf and the Dolphin Fountain, both of which are located a short walk from Hotel Milo. The wharf is one of the best places to look out on the ocean, and back at Santa Barbara itself. It’s also well stocked with souvenir shops, wine-tasting operations, and amazing seafood restaurants. Tours also visit East Beach, Andrea Clark Bird Refuge, and the Museum of Natural History.
Santa Barbara Beaches
We think it’s always been okay to be a California tourist, largely because so many Californian tourists are actually locals! Inland residents flock to the shores of coastal towns during sunny months to enjoy the water and sun—and Santa Barbara is no exception. Proudly, we have some of the finest coastal hangouts in Southern California, each of which is well worth touring, hiking, and relaxing on.
Among the many examples, we have East Beach, and West Beach—both vibrant and well-located spots are a short walk from Hotel Milo. Another favorite is Butterfly Beach, which is exceptionally clean, accented by nearby cliffs and hiking trails, and a popular hangout from Santa Barbara’s celebrity locals. For more examples, check out our guide to Exploring The Beaches of Santa Barbara.
Day Trips from Santa Barbara
When you visit Santa Barbara, you’re visiting a city and county that breathes the vibrant air of the surrounding region and landscape rich with flavor and experience. One of the most “touristy” things you can do when visiting Santa Barbara—and something we highly encourage—is to get out and enjoy a Santa Barbara day trip to one of the countless neighboring areas. From going out on the water, to heading up into the Santa Ynez Mountains, and then down into the surrounding wine country—the options for day trips out of Santa Barbara are endless.
One of our favorite examples of such an excursion, is taking the family for a day horseback riding up in the mountains, and then down to neighboring beaches. You can also take sailing or whale watching excursions out on the nearby Pacifc Ocean. Santa Barbara County offers a wide variety of wine-tasting, camping, climbing, and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Shopping & Eating
You should also be touristy in the most “you” way imaginable. That means, if you love shopping, then spend your time touring the shopping scene of Santa Barbara. We can get you started with our favorite artful fashion boutiques, jewelry shops, gift shops, retail plazas and pop-up flea experiences. For some more examples, check out our Essential Santa Barbara Shopping Guide.
The same thought goes for indulging in exquisite local cuisine—which Santa Barbara has plenty of. You may fancy exploring the best tacos in town, or the most popular breakfast spots. Our city is well-stocked from the casually delicious, to the most decadent. For an example of one dining tourist niche, you can check out our Guide to Fine Dining in Santa Barbara.
Discover more of Santa Barbara
Planning a visit to the American Riviera? Explore Santa Barbara like a local and discover insider recommendations on the Hotel Milo Santa Barbara blog!