Five Free Things To Do In Santa Barbara, California


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. 

In this post, we share the top 5 FREE Things to do while visiting Santa Barbara (and one fun slight expense in nearby Solvang.)

By the way, if you need help planning your California Itinerary, check out this 10 Day Road Trip For California Guide.

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. In this post, we share the top 5 FREE Things to do while visiting Santa Barbara (and one fun slight expense in nearby Solvang.)  #california #familytravel #santabarbara

Stroll On The Santa Barbara Beaches

First thing in the morning, we enjoyed a beautiful stroll down East Cabrillo Blvd for breakfast. Afterward, we were on mission for a new camera for my husband. We had been shopping for one before traveling to California, but had not settled on one yet. When we strolled into Samy’s Camera shop and were greeted with the kind’ve WOW service we love to write about, we made our decision and purchased a Sony A6300 from Larry Mills.

things to do in santa barbara california

Santa Barbara Courthouse and Clocktower

Larry recommended we head to the Santa Barbara Courthouse and Clock tower next.  This proved to be the perfect first stop for trying out the new camera.

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. 

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

Breathtaking Views of Santa Barbara

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

Driving to Solvang: Hwy 154 San Marcos Pass

Getting hungry but really wanting to enjoy lunch in Solvang, we went back to the hotel to pick up the car.  The scenic drive on Hwy 154 over San Marcos Pass affords some lovely views of the Santa Ynez Valley.  

We took advantage of our new camera while we enjoyed the views from this Vista Point.

Solvang Sweets

It was a long and might I add, beautiful, drive from Monterey Bay, California to The Fess Parker Inn in Santa Barbara, California.  After having a fabulous dinner at The Novo Restaurant and Lounge in San Luis Obispo, we were unable to squeeze in a stop in Solvang.  Since this was on my must do list, we  had to find a way to do it while staying in Santa Barbara.  

A trip to Solvang may cost you a little bit of money as it’s hard to pass up the food and sweets.  We had an unfortunate and rather frustrating time in Solvang finding a place that could accommodate our kids’ food allergies.  

Disappointing as this was, we were finally able to find some food and get on with why I was really in Solvang: DANISHES! I was so excited to discover that Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery had some nut-free options my kids could also enjoy.  

Adorable Alert!

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. 

One More Landmark For The Day

On our way back  to the hotel, we stopped off to get some pictures of the famous Fig tree I had read about online.  

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

It 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.

The Journey Continues But Tonight We Rest

Being fairly exhausted from such a busy day, we opted to stay in that night and have a pizza. Being in California for just three days with three kids we had already visited seven cities, stayed in three hotels, driven nearly 500 miles, taken countless photos, and we had not even been to Disney yet! With two more glorious weeks to go, tonight, we relax!  Up next?  Anaheim and the Mouse of course!!

California can be an expensive place to visit, but there is so much to see and do for free if you just look around.  Santa Barbara and Solvang both offer beautiful architecture, outdoor scenery, and countless interesting sights to see all for no charge! 

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


8 thoughts on “Five Free Things To Do In Santa Barbara, California”

  1. 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


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