Giraffe head
Spend a day viewing wildlife and shows at this sprawling zoo.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

8 Ways to Enjoy the Charms and Delights of Santa Barbara

Soak up Life in the American Riviera

Just two hours north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara has a small town vibe, enriched with a lush sense of historical and cultural understanding. Its upscale environment is a feast for the senses, whether you’re relaxing at a resort, going wine tasting, or learning about the area’s ancient and modern origins.

No matter who you go with and what time of year you visit, the city will sweep you off your feet with its gorgeous ocean views and charming Spanish architecture. Here are some of the best things to do in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Zoo

Fun for the whole family, the Santa Barbara Zoo has over 146 species on display amid 30 acres of land. Sandwiched between a bird refuge and a public beach, the zoo is compact but offers a lot of bang for your buck. Apart from viewing animals like penguins, giraffes and monkeys, there are also plenty of activities designed to keep even very small children entertained.

You can feed sheep in the barnyard, ride a steam train around the park and enjoy live performances and animal-themed art exhibits all year long.

Old Mission facility with garden and palm trees out front.This 16th century Spanish mission still has an active church congregation.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Old Mission Santa Barbara

Just outside downtown Santa Barbara lies a 16th-century Spanish mission founded by a Franciscan priest. While its original purpose was to convert the indigenous population to Catholicism, these days it functions as more of a relic of the past, although it does have an active church congregation still.

Docent-led and self-guided tours are available of the facilities, which include nine rooms of period artifacts, a garden full of mission-era plants, and stunning Spanish art and architecture.  This Santa Barbara attraction is a fascinating look into the history of the area amid a peaceful setting with views of the Pacific Ocean.

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City street with old Spanish style store fronts and palm trees.Take a stroll or shop to your heart's content along State Street.Photo Credit: Getty Images

State Street

Known for its upscale shops and restaurants, Santa Barbara’s State Street runs straight through the heart of the city’s downtown district. Stroll along the pedestrian-friendly area full of recognizable stores like Saks Off Fifth and Apple, where you’ll also find local boutiques stocked with artisan goods and handmade clothing.

Shopaholics will especially enjoy Paseo Nuevo, the outdoor shopping mall at the south end of the street. Once you shop ’til you drop, enjoy a beverage or a bite to eat at one of the unique local eateries. Aside from a variety of international cuisines, State Street is also home to the famous McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, once called “the best in the world” by TIME magazine.

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