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Santa Barbara

About Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara, California

County Courthouse

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Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California, runner on trail

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara has long been an oasis for Los Angelenos seeking respite from big-city life. The attractions begin at the ocean and end in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. A few miles up the coast east and west—but still very much a part of Santa Barbara—are the exclusive residential districts of Montecito and Hope Ranch. Santa Barbara is on a jog in the coastline, so the ocean is actually to the south, instead of the west; for this reason, directions can be confusing. "Up" the coast toward San Francisco is west, "down" toward Los Angeles is east, and the mountains are north.

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  • 74° / 58°
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Things You Can't Miss

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Make This Your Mission

The Old Mission Santa Barbara, dating from 1786, is an architectural and cultural landmark. Tour the church and gardens, and enjoy the interpretive displays.

Make This Your Mission

Image Credit: Alan Tobey/Getty Images

Go Native at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The garden preserves and displays 65 acres of trees, wildflowers and cacti, including rare native plants. Take a tour or stroll solo.

Go Native at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Image Credit: Stephen Saks/Alamy

Take the Red Tile Walking Tour

The self-guided tour takes you around 12 blocks of the city’s landmarks and architectural gems, including 22 adobe buildings dating from the 1700s.

Take the Red Tile Walking Tour

Image Credit: Flickr/Getty Images

A Courthouse With a View

The County Courthouse, in all its Spanish-Moorish glory, has been in business for 160 years. The tower offers a 360-degree view of the city’s red-tile roofs.

A Courthouse With a View

Image Credit: Getty Images/Robert Harding World Imagery

Hit the (East) Beach

East Beach, with white sand and warm water, is the best spot around to watch serious volleyball. The playground and bike path are great for families.

Hit the (East) Beach

Image Credit: Blaine Harrington III/Alamy

Samantha's Pick You Know You Want to Try This

Take a lesson at Santa Barbara Fitness Tours, then go paddleboarding in the bay. Feel the fresh salt air on your face and gaze up at the mountains.

You Know You Want to Try This

Image Credit: Gunter Marx Photography/Corbis

Samantha's Pick Marvel at Whales

Winter is whale-watching season, when thousands of gray whales pass by on their way to calving grounds in the Baja lagoons of Mexico.

Marvel at Whales

Image Credit: George D. Lepp/Corbis

Samantha's Pick Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park

One of my favorite drives in the United States is the winding mountain pass of Painted Cave Road, where you’ll see jaw-dropping views of the Pacific.

Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park

Image Credit: Marek Zuk/Alamy

Samantha's Pick An American Meal

For a bit of the Old West try dinner at Cold Spring Tavern, opened as a stagecoach stop in 1886. Meat and house-baked breads are specialties.

An American Meal

Image Credit: Chuck Place/Alamy

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Must Reads Before You Go

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Enjoy breathtaking photos and descriptions of the most beautiful places in America, including Yellowstone Caldera and Death Valley.

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How to Tip When You're Traveling in the U.S.

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Do you know how much to tip? These tipping guidelines cover restaurant tips, taxi tips, massage tips, hairdresser tips and more.

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10 Scenic Bike Rides for All Levels

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Top 10 Free Things to Do in America

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