Along this palm-lined thoroughfare you’ll be surrounded on all sides by shops, boutiques, tantalizing eateries and beautiful buildings. It’s easy to explore by foot or on the electric shuttle that runs the length of downtown. For those who are returning, you may have hit the highlights, but have you truly discovered the hidden gems just off the beaten path?
There’s plenty to see and do downtown. From historic cultural venues like Granada Theatre to interesting museums and luxurious spas, you’ll find plenty of activities within a short walk of each other. And, strolling through Downtown will give you a chance to admire the city’s unique architecture. Designed in the Spanish Colonial style, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a great example of the predominant architecture that bloomed in the area following the 1925 earthquake. Climb the steps or take a quick elevator ride to the top of the courthouse’s watchtower, where you’ll enjoy 360-degree views of the city and the quintessential red-tile rooftops that surround it.
Along the streets of downtown you’ll find some of the most distinct and diverse shopping around, from consignment stores to gift and souvenir shops, open-air markets to galleries. With the beautiful landscape and architecture as a backdrop, a short trip to downtown can easily become an all-day, marathon shopping trip. You’ll find locally owned boutiques and trusted, name-brand stores, as well as one of the city’s most unique jewels, La Arcada Court. With entrances on State Street and Figueroa, La Arcada is a quaint and charming substitute for the larger malls, boasting some of Santa Barbara’s top restaurants and art galleries as well as a number of retail boutiques. Tile-lined walkways, fountains, sidewalk cafes and beautiful sculptures decorate the lush landscapes of this outdoor courtyard.
DOWNTOWN RESTAURANTS AND FOOD
After all that shopping and sightseeing you’ll definitely want to get a bite at one of the dozens of restaurants that pepper downtown Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara’s eclectic dining options are the perfect compliment to the gorgeous weather and scenery. World-renowned chefs source fresh ingredients from daily farmers’ markets and fish markets near the harbor to create incredible dishes that make for an unforgettable dining experience. With so many options you can have a different culinary experience for every meal.
If you want to dive deeper into local food experiences, enjoy a self-guided tour of the Santa Barbara Public Market for tastes of seafood, flavorful organic meals, and Asian fare. Or, go on a proper foodie excursion with Taste of Santa Barbara Food Tours or Santa Barbara Tasting Tours and savor the local cuisine with an expert guide.
PARKING AND TRANSPORTATION
With so much to do in downtown your schedule will be packed. Luckily, getting from one thing to the next isn’t a chore and there are transportation options for every kind of visitor. Make the most of the sunny weather and fresh air by walking through downtown or riding the miles upon miles of bike paths that run throughout the city. Tour the town on two wheels by renting a bike or bringing your own, and don’t forget to grab a Santa Barbara County Bike Map, available at local bike shops, the Downtown Santa Barbara Visitor Center or as a downloadable app.
If you need a lift but want to stay car free, downtown has a number of choices. Public transportation options are as varied as the places they can take you and include busses, open-air trollies and pedicabs. For those who want to drive, the city has nine parking lots and five parking structures with more than 3,000 parking stalls. You can also track real-time parking availability.
Absolutely love Santa Barbara. I did all my high school years there and have never forgotten how gorgeous it is. I do return every 5 years for class reunions.