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Five Free Things To Do In Santa Barbara, California

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Think a family vacation to California is outside of your budget? Think again. Many California cities offer fun and free things to do so your family doesn’t have to break the bank. If you are looking for one of the best places to travel in the US on a dime, check out these 5 absolutely FREE THINGS TO DO IN SANTA BARBARA in this beautiful and picturesque California coastal setting.

things to do in santa barbara, california

Free Things To Do In Santa Barbara, CA

Our California road trip included a two night stay in Santa Barbara, California. Needless to say, we definitely wanted more time because beauty abounds in this coastal town and it’s nearby neighbor, Solvang.

We had 18 days to explore the entire state of California including 3 US National Parks so we had to stay on a tight schedule, but we would definitely like a trip back to the coastal area and Santa Barbara, CA. 

1. Stroll On The Santa Barbara Beaches

First thing in the morning, take a beautiful stroll down East Cabrillo Blvd for breakfast. Then walk over to the downtown area to do a little early morning shopping and enjoy some chatting with the locals.

Santa Barbara beach

You will be rewarded with one of the most Instagrammable spots in all of California.  

2. Santa Barbara Courthouse and Clocktower

Santa Barbara Courthouse and Clocktower

After a bit of window shopping, head to the Santa Barbara Courthouse and Clock tower next.

In keeping with the Spanish-Moorish architecture of all of Santa Barbara, the Courthouse is a real treat to explore. The bonus of being free makes it a perfect stop for families and photography aficionados alike. 

Santa Barbara with kids
Santa Barbara courthouse

We happened to be visiting right at noon and were able to enjoy the ringing of the clock tower bells.  

Ringing of the Santa Barbara Clock Tower

After enjoying the bells, we climbed the stairs to enjoy the 360° view from the top.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

3. Drive Over Hwy 154 San Marcos Pass

On day two of you visit to Santa Barbara, make time to drive to nearby Solvang for some authentic Danish food….did you hear me say, danishes?

But, before you are treated to this quaint community, you can also enjoy the FREE scenic drive on Hwy 154 over San Marcos Pass and stop to take in the lovely views of the Santa Ynez Valley.  

Santa Ynez Valley California

4. Enjoy Authentic Solvang Danish and Its Sweets

A trip to Solvang may cost you a little bit of money as it’s hard to pass up the food and sweets, but enjoying the quaint authentic Danish community is absolutely free.  

Solvang, California

Since this was on my must do list, we  had to find a way to do it while staying in Santa Barbara.  

I was so excited to discover that Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery had some nut-free options my kids could also enjoy.  

Olson's cheese danish in Solvang
Solvang CA danishes

The town of Solvang is quite adorable and after getting over my disappointment in the restaurants, we enjoyed the rest of our afternoon in this town. 

5. Visit the Famous Santa Barbara Fig Tree

The Moreton Bay Fig Tree is believed to be the largest Fig tree in the United States and was planted originally in 1863. This tree is utterly massive!

The tree was transplanted to its current location a year later and now belongs to the city of Santa Barbara and is listed on register of Big Trees as well as being considered a California State Landmark.  

I confess, I had no idea that Fig trees even grew big at all much less to this enormous state.

California can be an expensive place to visit, but there is so much to see and do for free in Santa Barbara that is made our list of Cheap Places To Visit in the US. With nearby Solvang being so quaint and equally affordable, this is definitely a must stop location if you are on a California road trip.

For some more ideas for visiting nearby Los Angeles, check this list of  10 Awesome Things To Do in Los Angeles, California.

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Tuesday 17th of October 2017

I visited Santa Barbara a few years ago and had NO IDEA a few of these places existed! I didn't even think to head to Solvang.


Tuesday 17th of October 2017

It was fun! I could definitely spend a week in SB, however if I had it to do over.

Cathy (MummyTravels)

Thursday 21st of September 2017

Wow that is a full-on itinerary - I would have loved to get to Santa Barbara, which was the dream end point of our California road trip but we were taking it all a bit slower and didn't have time. Next time, I know what to do (and to make a stop in Solvang as well) Thanks for linking up with #citytripping


Thursday 21st of September 2017

Haha!!! That's how we always roll! Full-on! Thanks for stopping by!

Amanda @ Cupcake N Dreams

Wednesday 20th of September 2017

This pictures are gorgeous! I use to live in LA so I stopped once in Santa Barbara and even took in a rooftop view. Now I want to go back to explore the beaches and the courthouse! #citytripping

Amanda @ Cupcake N Dreams


Thursday 21st of September 2017

Thanks! The pictures don't do it justice! I definitely want to go back too!

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