The true beginning of Southern California is Santa Barbara, and there are many things to do in and near there. From most places in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is about two hours away, so this day trip will be at least 10-12 hours if you partake in most of the suggestions below.
The drive to Santa Barbara is one of the best parts of the trip, especially if you take Pacific Coast Highway the entire way rather than just the 101 north, though you should add an extra hour to the trip if you do take PCH (and especially if you are combining this Santa Barbara Day Trip with our The Getty Villa & Nobu Malibu Day Trip). You can also take Amtrak (Pacific Surfliner line) to downtown Santa Barbara from many places in Southern California, though to get to Los Olivos for wine tasting you will need a car.
Downtown Santa Barbara:
State Street is the main street that runs the length of downtown Santa Barbara. On State Street you will find interesting shopping, great restaurants, theaters, art galleries, antique shops, and just about anything you are looking for. It runs into the beach at Carbrillo Boulevard, where you can take a leisurely stroll along the ocean or check out The Funk Zone (more on The Funk Zone below under “Food Options“).
Just a block off of State Street at 38 West Victoria Street is the Santa Barbara Public Market. The indoor market contains various food, wine and grocery stands that offer handcrafted, regionally sourced and sustainably made foods, as well as wine and beer tastings.
If you are in the mood for a museum then visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Art at 1130 State Street. The Museum is well-known for its ancient art, Asian Art, French and English 19th and early 20th Century art and contemporary art.
If history is what you are looking for, make a stop at the Santa Barbara Mission. The Mission was established on the Feast of Saint Barbara, December 4, 1786 and was the tenth of twenty-one California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans.
Urban Scavenger Hunt:
You can also turn a trip to Santa Barbara into a giant game board with an Urban Scavenger Hunt. Combine the excitement of the Amazing Race with a three-hour tour. Guided from any smart phone, you and your partners can make your way among well-known gems of Downtown Santa Barbara, including State Street, Arlington Theater and other well-known parts of Downtown Santa Barbara, solving clues and completing challenges while learning local history.
The Scavenger Hunts are available 365 days a year, sunrise to sunset. Start when you want and play at your pace. Save 20% off with our promo code: normally $49, with our code your adventure is only $39.20 for a team of 2-5 people after using the following Promotion Code: DTSOCAL. You can easily sign up online at www.UrbanAdventureQuest.com right on your smart phone and don’t forget to use the Promotion Code: DTSOCAL.
Los Olivos and Wine Tasting:
After a few hours in Downtown Santa Barbara, head to the Santa Ynez Valley for Wine Tasting, and in particular, Los Olivos, which is about forty minutes away from downtown Santa Barbara.
Visit the Santa Barbara Wine Website to get a full sense of the Los Olivos wine scene as well as more information on the tasting rooms and vineyards throughout the region. To reach Los Olivos from Santa Barbara, take the 101 northwest along the coast, exiting either in Solvang or farther north at Hwy. 154, or take the shorter in miles but longer time-wise route, taking Hwy. 154 (San Marcos Pass Road) all the way up from the foothills on the north side of Santa Barbara (reached via Hwy. 192). The drive along the 154 to Los Olivos is along a mostly one road highway where you will see rolling hills and some farms.
Grand Avenue, the main street of downtown Los Olivos, is lined with wineries and olive oil tasting rooms. You can find additional information regarding all that Los Olivos has to offer by visiting the helpful Los Olivos Website.
While there, make sure you visit the Carhartt Tasting Room, at 2990 Grand Avenue, which is at the entrance of Los Olivos and is the “World’s Smallest Tasting Room”. Make sure you try Carhartt’s Sangiovese, which is good for all occasions. The 2012 estate Syrah is excellent with grilled food and the 2012 Cabernet is tasty with steaks.
For a break in wine tasting, switch to beer tasting and make a pitstop at the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.’s “The Cottage Taproom” at 2446 Alamo Pintado, Suite C.
After wine and beer tasting, sober up with coffee and ice cream. Just off of Grand Avenue is Corner House Coffee at 2902 San Marcos Ave, a nice rustic spot. Try the lemon zest coffee.
Other Things To Do:
If you have a few hours to spare, you can either drive through the Dutch-modeled town of Solvang about 6 miles south on Alamo Pintado Road by following the signs from Los Olivos. Alternatively, if you are in the mood to gamble for a few hours (and don’t mind the smell of smoke), try your luck at Chumash Casino at 3400 California 246, Santa Ynez, CA 93460. The Casino is about 5 miles south of Los Olivos off of the 154 and Edison Street.
For dining options, The Willows in Chumash Casino is a “AAA” Four Diamond-rated restaurant. Another option is The Hitching Post in Buelton at 406 E Hwy 246, Buellton, CA 93427, which is featured in the film “Sideways”. If you are in the mood for Cajun cuisine and don’t mind driving back to Downtown Santa Barbara, then it’s the Palace Grill at 8 E Cota St Santa Barbara, CA 93101 and make sure to have the world-famous Palace Cajun Martini. Or if you are in the mood for pizza then try the pies at Olio Pizzeria at 11 W. Victoria St. Suite 21, just off of State Street.
The Funk Zone is Santa Barbara’s unique collection of hip eateries, artisan shops, art galleries, microbreweries and a craft distillery set in an industrial district between State Street and Garden Street, and Montecito Street to Cabrillo Boulevard. Here you will walk among historical marine structures, industrial lots, and old houses. One of Santa Barbara’s best restaurants The Lark at 131 Anacapa Street is located among the other bars, restaurants and shops.
If you want to extend this day trip into an overnight trip and are looking for a place to stay, then the Spanish Garden Inn at 915 Garden Street in downtown Santa Barbara should be one of your top-hotel choices. The Inn was built on the site of an old art school and opened in 2001. It has an excellent selection of DVDs and board games at the front desk if you feel like staying in to enjoy the very comfortable rooms. There is also a wine bar and a light breakfast is included with your stay.
Day Trip Into A Weekend Trip:
If you are interested in expanding this Santa Barbara Day Trip into a multi-day trip, consider heading south on Pacific Coast Highway to enjoy the The Getty Villa and Nobu Malibu Day Trip for a suggested itinerary.
Like This Post?
If you like this suggestion, please share it via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+. Have your own relevant suggestions? Then please post a comment.