A few weekends ago, my family and I enjoyed 3 nights in the beautiful, sunny city of Santa Barbara, California. As I sit down to type this Santa Barbara Travel Guide and share with you our favorite places we ate and explored, I wish I was already back in Santa Barbara!
I think when most people think of Santa Barbara, the first thing that comes to their minds is Wine Country, and boy is the wine country beautiful. But Santa Barbara is an absolutely beautiful beachside city that has even more to offer than it’s a delicious wine. We took our kiddos with us (4 and 2 years old) and had a fabulous family vacation. If you have kiddos and are looking for a great family-friendly destination, put Santa Barbara at the top of your list! With their small airport right there, it’s easy to fly into, grab a rent car and head directly to the beach. We had the best time.
With two kids in tow, three nights, and four days we were able to accomplish and explore a lot. Here is what we did!
Mony’s Taqueria — All of the tacos were freaking delicious and authentic, and my favorite thing about it? all of the different salsa options to choose from! We liked it so much, we ate it twice! haha. We grabbed it to-go before heading to the airport!
Santa Barbara Public Market — this spot was is a food lovers dream. A large, european style market filled with nothing but good restaurant options, a wine store, a beer garden, and sweet treats. Of course, I had to try a little bit of everything and, no joke, it was all phenomenal! This place is an absolute MUST stop for anyone visiting Santa Barbara! What we had: the most incredible fish tacos from Corazon, dumplings from The Empty Bowl, a poke bowl from Big Eye Raw Bar, and delicious beer from The Garden. The girls finished off their meal with organic, gluten free ice cream from Rori’s Ice Cream.
Handlebar Coffee Shop — We stopped here before going to Alice Keck Park for a big cup of (fantastic) coffee and grabbed the girls a little morning snack before a big brunch. They had a fresh chocolate croissant that was absolutely delicious, and I enjoyed an almond milk latte that I wish I had in my hand right now.
Helena Avenue Bakery — This place was such a pleasant surprise. No one had recommended this stop to us (probably because it’s very new), but after a very early morning of the girls waking us up at 4:30am (they never quite get the time change memo on vacation) Helena Bakery was the first spot to open nearby our hotel, so we were there when the doors opened with starving little early birds! I got the most incredible bagel sandwich that I would eat over and over and over again! Not to mention, the coffee is fantastic!
Finch and Fork — recommended to me by a friend, we stopped by here for lunch one day and it was delicious! My husband had a fantastic burger, and I had a great seared tuna salad! The kiddos also loved their chicken tenders! It’s located in the downtown area so you can walk over to shop, see the historical county courthouse, and few other great museums and parks nearby!
The Lucky Penny — located in the funk zone, this pizza and coffee shop not only has some of the most delicious pizza I’ve ever had, but it also has a cool, chill ambience that is perfect for food lovers to take their families!
Loquita — oh, Loquita… can you put a restaurant in Dallas, too, please? I’ll help you run it! 🙂 but really, this was our favorite spot we ate during our stay in Santa Barbara. Located in the Funk Zone this delicious, Spanish-style tapas spot took us back to our days studying abroad in spain with a beautiful ambiance and fantastic service to top it all off! I was worried it wouldn’t be kid friendly, but they couldn’t have been kinder to our kiddos and more helpful in making sure their dinner experience was enjoyable, too. Their beautiful patio made the perfect kid friendly date night. Not to mention, we had some of the best wine during our dinner, which we fully intend on buying a case of for the holidays to share with our family and friends.
Santo Mezcal — Also located in the funk zone, we stopped by here one day for a little afternoon snack and margarita for mommy and daddy. We had the Octopus Ceviche, and it was delicious! The margarita though was the star of the show! A great one!!
Boathouse — Situated on Hendry’s beach, the location and views at this restaurant are a solid 10! We watched a gorgeous sunset and let the kids run around by the beach before and after dinner. The food was fairly good, but the location and views were 100% worth the trip! If you have kiddos and want a nice, beachside dinner. Boathouse is your spot. I mean, just look at this sunset view.
Sambo’s — located right next door to our hotel and along the beach. If you want a good old fashioned diner style breakfast, you’ll love Sambo. It’s a great spot to take kids as its open early and very kid friendly!
Scarlett Begonia — This was the breakfast and brunch spot recommended by just about everyone. I love where it’s located and the vibes, and if you’re looking for a good ole sunday-funday brunch spot with bloody mary’s and mimosas, this is it!
McConnell’s Ice Cream — open for over 70 years, McConnell’s is a Santa Barbara classic ice cream stop and it did NOT disapoint! My kiddos especially loved it!
Stearn’s Wharf- take a walk down stearns wharf for picturesque views of the ocean and all of the beautiful sail boats. It’s filled with fun, yet touristy, shops and restaurants, as well as the Sea Center (see below). We did a little visit of the Stearn’s Wharf everyday! The kids loved it!
Santa Barbara Sea Center– Located on the beautiful Stearn’s Wharf, a quick trip through the Sea Center is great for the kiddos! Sutton loved petting the shark and starfish! She actually enjoyed it so much, we went twice!
MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation – talk about a cool spot to visit with kids! I wish we had this in Dallas!! The entire museum is filled with hands on exhibits; for example, here is a picture of a car that Sutton built. She then put it on a conveyer belt where her car raced other children’s. I was as into it as she was! This is just one of the absolutely crazy cool things to experience at the Moxi. This was by far my favorite kid activity that we did! We cannot wait to go back to Santa Barbara and visit Moxi!
The Funk Zone — We stayed near “the funk zone” and I am so very glad, this area of town is right up our alley! The Funk Zone is Santa Barbara’s unique arts, business, and industrial district. It’s filled with all of our personal favorite restaurants that we tried, great wine tasting rooms, and cool shops that we loved shopping!
Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden — Stop by this absolutely stunning park and be sure to bring something to feed the ducks. My kiddos loved this park so much that we stopped by here THREE TIMES to feed the ducks. They really love ducks! haha.
Santa Barbara Historical County Courthouse –This spanish-colonial style historical building that was built in 1929 is absolutely stunning. This still functioning courthouse red tile roofs and gorgeous gardens surrounding it are the perfect place to sit down and have a little picnic or just walk around for a beautiful walk.
Santa Barbara Wine Collective — Even though we were in Santa Barbara with the kids, we still wanted to get a taste of some of the local wineries. Santa Barbara Wine Collective was the perfect family friendly spot and a great place to sit down and taste a variety of wines from the nearby vineyards!
The Beach — Santa Barbara is surrounded by beautiful beaches for your kids to enjoy splashing and sand digging and for mom to enjoy watching them play, giggle and listen to the waves crashing. It really doesn’t get much better. Our hotel was located right across the street from the beach, so we spent lots of time watching the kids play here!
Santa Barbara is packed with wonderful hotels, and I have heard nothing but great things about all of them! We stayed at Hotel Milo, which is situated on the beachfront within walking distance to: Stearn’s Wharf, all of the fun restaurants and shops in the Funk Zone, the Moxi, the Sea Center, and the marina if you decide to take a boat ride one day! It’s an easy, 5 minute drive away from Downtown Santa Barbara where you can enjoy parks and shopping there, too. We loved staying here, mainly because of it’s central location to everything, but also because it is a beautiful hotel with pools for the kiddos to take a swim and great service! I definitely recommend staying at Hotel Milo!
I received so many wonderful recommendations from all of you on Instagram, thank you so much for making our trip so enjoyable! I wish we could have gone to each and every one of the spots you recommended!! Please do share with others your favorite spots to eat, things to do, and places to stay in Santa Barbara in the comments so that others who read this Santa Barbara Travel Guide can see it all!!!
Thank you Visit Santa Barbara for hosting an amazing stay for my little family! We can’t wait to come back to beautiful Santa Barbara!