The central coast of California offers much more to do than you could pack into a whole week, let alone one day. Santa Barbara is situated between lush hills and sandy coastlines. This casual beach town is rife with history and exploding with culture. Whether you spend the day people-watching on downtown State Street, taking a tour of Old Mission Santa Barbara, playing a game of volleyball on East Beach or sampling some of Santa Barbara County’s incredible wines, you’ll probably be planning your next trip before you even leave.
It’s hard to miss all the history in Santa Barbara, even if you weren't specifically looking for it. Just wandering around downtown, you’re likely to pass several historic sites, including the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, el Presidio de Santa Barbara, and the Granada, Lobero and Arlington theaters.
For a remarkable view of the city and a real dose of history, take a drive up to Old Mission Santa Barbara at the top of State Street. More than 200 years old, this was the 10th California mission to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. Simply enjoy the views and gardens or take a tour of cemetery, church and museum.
Although Santa Barbara is surrounded by rolling hills full of vineyards and wineries, you can get a good sampling of the area’s wines without ever leaving the heart of the city. The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail takes you through a redeveloped industrial area that has become home to more than a dozen tasting rooms, all located just outside of downtown. Many tasting rooms are clustered near each other, making it easy to hop from winery to winery on foot.
If staying near the water and soaking up the sun is more your style, Santa Barbara has that covered, with many beaches to choose from. East Beach is a trendy spot where you can always get in on a volleyball game. Arroyo Burro Beach offers high cliffs, seclusion and a quiet place to watch the waves. Butterfly Beach is the perfect spot to catch a beautiful sunset, as it is one of the few accessible west-facing beaches along this part of the coast.
After your day in the sun, walk over to Stearn’s Wharf for a bite to eat, more local wine and the requisite tourist trinket shops. If you’re looking for a late-night crowd, head to the harbor for more waterfront restaurants and bars.
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