Some of the best ways to spend a day of vacation are doing things that don’t cost a cent. Santa Barbara has plenty of places to explore, so we created a list of the greatest free destinations in town:
Franceschi park is one of the great, tucked-away secrets of Santa Barbara. This rundown botanical garden used to be owned and run by Francesco Franceschi, a noted Italian horticulturist, who brought plants from around the world and cultivated them here in Santa Barbara. While most of the park is older, the gardens ooze rustic charm shaped by old stone and stunning views of Downtown and the harbor.
The Mission was founded in 1786 by the famous Spanish Franciscans who established similar religious destinations throughout California. More that 200 years later, it remains a gem of the city that all first-time visitors should check out. Visitors are welcome to stroll through on their own and see the historical church, gardens, cemetery and mausoleum. There are also guided tours of the grounds available for those who want to pay a few bucks for some historical insights.
Welcome to the world famous volleyball court known as East Beach! Located just a brief walk down Cabrillo Boulevard from Hotel Milo, this beach hosts frequent volleyball tournaments known both locally and nationally. All the courts are free to play, it’s just up to you to get there early for a spot. Often, small teams come looking to play other people so ask around and try to get a fun competitive game going. You might even luck out and end up with a world class volleyball player on your team.
Although this may be one of the smallest parks around, the drive to it and the paintings themselves are well worth your time. Three miles South of San Marcos Pass is Painted Cave Road, which is a scenic mountain drive that leads to a small, thirty-foot long trail that winding up to old caves. Sadly the caves have a gate across the front of them so that people can no longer tamper with this historic beauty, but you can still plainly see the archaic Chumash art up on its sandstone walls. Get a glimpse of this ancient Native American landmark in the late afternoon, and then drive up to the top of the road for a colorful and glorious Santa Barbara sunset that overlooks the backcountry.
There are endless restaurants, boutiques and art galleries along State Street. Spend the afternoon with your friends or family walking about and exploring the heart of Downtown Santa Barbara. No need to drive anywhere, you can start your stroll from Hotel Milo and head towards upper State. While wandering, check out the historic La Arcada courtyard tucked away and filled with art galleries, excellent little cafes, as well as the most decadent chocolates and handmade candies around.