Santa Barbara Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Santa Barbara

A popular weekend location and coastal city, Santa Barbara, has some of Southern California's top locations. Originating as a Spanish mission in 1782 and incorporated as a city in the state of California in 1850, the city enjoys great popularity for its beaches and beautiful architecture.

This city's name comes from the original Spanish mission's name, and the mission property and parish are still available to visit. The city's Spanish heritage is still very evident in the architecture, with terra cotta and stucco being popular building materials.

Santa Barbara is a city that has shown remarkable resiliency since its recovery from the 1925 earthquake. Today, the city is filled with historical and cultural attractions that are always worth visiting.

Some of the historical icons to see include Santa Barbara County Courthouse, the Arlington Theater, Our Lady of Sorrows Church, and the Moreton Fig Tree. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is an excellent place to visit for its exhibits and educational programs. Anyone interested in taking full advantage of shopping and dining opportunities will want to visit Paseo Nuevo, State street, or Stearns Wharf.

Take this self-guided tour to get acquainted with the unique historical, cultural, and shopping and dining attractions in this beautiful coastal city in California.
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Santa Barbara Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Santa Barbara Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Santa Barbara (See other walking tours in Santa Barbara)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: HollyZ
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Santa Barbara County Courthouse
  • Our Lady of Sorrows Church
  • Arlington Theater
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • Paseo Nuevo
  • State Street
  • Moreton Bay Fig Tree
  • Stearns Wharf
1
Santa Barbara County Courthouse

1) Santa Barbara County Courthouse (must see)

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse features Spanish-Moorish Architecture, dating back to 1929. This lovely courthouse building enjoys a reputation as being America's most beautiful government building. As a working courthouse, the court's schedule may influence how often public touring is available, but it is worth your time.

There are lawn and garden areas that surround this building, with the Sunken Garden being a popular venue space. This garden area stands on the former site of the 1872 courthouse, destroyed in the 1925 earthquake. Outdoor performances are popular evening and weekend events.

The courthouse has an 85-foot clock tower known as El Mirador. Visitors who ride the elevator to the top of this tower can enjoy city views. Coastal and mountain views are also visible from the tower.

In addition to being an architectural marvel, this courthouse also boasts impressive tile work. The Mural Room is one of the most popular places for visitors to see. These canvas murals span over 4,000 square feet and depict the founding of the original Spanish mission.

The Spirit of the Ocean fountain, dating back to 1927, still stands on the courthouse grounds. This fountain features the images of a man and woman on either side of a dolphin.

The main lobby has an information booth where visitors can inquire about docent-led tours. Mondays through Fridays, tours are usually available at 10:30 am and 2:00 pm. On Saturdays and Sundays, tours are at 2:00 pm.

Why You Should Visit

Unique architecture and art beautifully tell the story of the area's history.
Gardens feature beautiful landscaping that offers perfect photo opportunities.
2
Our Lady of Sorrows Church

2) Our Lady of Sorrows Church

Our Lady of Sorrows Church was built in 1929. As a designated landmark, the church received its status in 2016. The building that houses the congregation today sits on beautiful grounds. Visitors often enjoy taking pictures of the church from outside.

The church's grounds are beautifully landscaped. Roses and other flowering plants help to provide an inviting atmosphere. Regardless of whether you plan to go inside or not, you'll enjoy at least seeing the grounds.

The church building beautifully reflects the area's Spanish heritage. One thing that stands out for many visitors is the height of the ceilings, which are similar to those of many cathedrals. The church has stained glass windows with beautiful designs. This building is perfect for touring in between masses.

In addition to stained glass windows and high ceilings, visitors will also enjoy the carvings. One of the highlights is a rose window above the main altar area, casting natural light on the nave area.
3
Arlington Theater

3) Arlington Theater

The Arlington Theater has a unique vintage feel that visitors enjoy, with its antique furniture and decor. There are concessions to enjoy with reasonable prices, as well as a popcorn stand. A bar serves beer, cocktails, and wine for everyone to enjoy.

This theater is one of the most versatile venues in the city. Visitors go to see everything from film festivals to concerts to lectures. Because the theater seats 2,000, everyone can be sure of having a seat at events they enjoy. This theater has a balcony area that also offers fantastic views.

The style of the building is known as Mission Revival, with faux-Spanish villas inside the building. An interesting effect that visitors will notice is twinkling stars on the ceiling.
4
Santa Barbara Museum of Art

4) Santa Barbara Museum of Art (must see)

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is in a building that served as the Santa Barbara Post Office between 1914 and 1932. David Adler, a Chicago architect, simplified the facade that helped make the building more suitable as a museum. Adler was also responsible for the creation of the gallery areas, which guests have enjoyed since 1941.

Gallery additions in 1942, 1963, 985, and 1988 increased the numbers of works for the public to savor. The museum offers 60,000 square feet of exhibition and activity space in a well-lit setting. A children's gallery includes exhibits with interactive programming.

Visitors can visit the Museum Shop for gifts and the cafe for quick snacks. The auditorium has 154 seats and is perfect for special events. There is also a library with 50,000 books in its collection, as well as 55,000 slides.

The permanent collections span all forms of art, from prints and paintings to textiles, ceramics, and furniture. Some of the most famous artists featured include Ansel Adams, Henri Rosseau, Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, and artists from the Santa Barbara Collections.

Collections on display at this museum include antiquities from the Greek and Roman Empires and the Mediterranean, as well as the ancient people of North and South America. Asian art on display in this museum includes sculptures and tapestries from China, Japan, Korea, and the Himalayan region.

The museum also has a collection of Latin American art, spanning 1930 to 1990. These collections offer a diverse look into how different cultures have shaped the artistic world.

Why You Should Visit

Check out a diverse collection of art from all eras, including ancient and modern times.
Enjoy the evolution of this building from a post office to its current museum status.

Tips

Look for the free hands-on workshops regularly offered.
5
Paseo Nuevo

5) Paseo Nuevo (must see)

Paseo Nuevo is a shopping center that boasts Spanish-style architecture for an exciting shopping experience. Beautiful courtyard areas are a perfect place to gather with shopping buddies and enjoy the sunshine.

Regular events, such as outdoor markets and activities for children, as well as a movie theater, provide fun for everyone. Regardless of whether you're seeking fun in addition to your shopping or are looking for activities for a family day out, Paseo Nuevo won't disappoint you.

Local stores are well-represented here, including Angie's Boutique, Maker's Market, Te Amo, and Zitzilan Imports. The Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara also has a store here. Shopping at these merchants helps to support the local community.

Popular stores represented at this shopping center include Claire's, Gap Kids, Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, Game Stop, and Victoria's Secret.

Paseo Nuevo also offers several restaurant options. Some of the restaurants include 805 Boba, California Pasta, California Pizza Kitchen, Eureka Burger, Panda Express, Pickles & Swiss, and Sushytime.

If you're looking for a quick snack or drink, try some French pastries from Le Macaron. You might also consider an acai bowl from Oak Berry or fresh-squeezed juice from Pressed Juicery. See's Candies, Sweet Creams, and Tendi Gelato are also available for a quick break.

Regardless of why you decide to visit this shopping center, you'll come away pleased with what they have to offer. The atmosphere is on that encourages you to get out and enjoy everything.

Paseo Nuevo Mall is part of The Paseo de la Guerra complex of historic buildings. Since 1977 it is listed (as El Paseo and Casa de la Guerra) in National Register of Historic Places.
6
State Street

6) State Street

State Street has a reputation for being one of the most pedestrian-friendly plazas in Santa Barbara. Because this area is easy for visitors to go walking in, the street attracts a lot of visitors daily.

Many of the most popular stores are locally-owned boutiques or gift stores, such as 33 Jewels at El Paseo, Beads of the Earth, and Letter Perfect Santa Barbara. National brands that are well-represented include the Apple Store, CVS, Foot Locker, H & M, the Levi's Store, Old Navy, and Sunglass Hut.

If you want to grab quick snacks or drinks, 7-Eleven, Chocolats Du Calibressan, and Mini-Mart are great places to stop. Consider stopping by SB liquor & Crafts during your trip to buy liquor or crafts brews.

The street also plays host to regular family-friendly events throughout the year. Some of these events include crafts and other types of fun for all ages.
7
Moreton Bay Fig Tree

7) Moreton Bay Fig Tree (must see)

The Moreton Bay Fig Tree is popularly believed to be the United States' biggest fig tree. This tree has its humble origins in a seedling planted by a young girl in 1876. A friend of this girl transplanted the young tree to its present location. Since taking root at its location, the tree has thrived due to the weather.

This tree achieved National Historic Landmark status in 1970, and the City of Santa Barbara has owned the land where the tree sites since 1976. The tree has a listing on the California Register of Big Trees. This tree's height totals 80 feet, with a 176-foot crown spread. A chain barrier at the roots helps provide protection for the tree.

The site where the tree grows is also the site where explorer El Capitan Gaspar de Portolá and his crew camped in 1769. These Spaniards' explorations played a leading role in establishing California as a colony.
8
Stearns Wharf

8) Stearns Wharf (must see)

Stearns wharf has been a part of Santa Barbara's landscape since 1872 when it became the longest wharf between San Pedro and San Francisco. The wharf was an essential part of California's shipping industry for over 25 years. Today, the waterfront holds a lot of excellent surprises for visitors.

The Sea Center is an excellent place to enjoy marine life. You can grab a water taxi if you'd like to explore a little more of the area beyond the pier. Madame Roskinkas is the best place to visit if you want your fortune told. Stearns Wharf Bait & Tackle has everything that you need should you plan a future trip here for fishing.

Stearns Wharf is host to some of Santa Barbara's best dining, with some of the best possible views of the city. Longboards Grill has casual dining, and Char West offers favorites like char-burgers and fish and chips.

Visitors in the mood for fish will enjoy Moby Dicks for the daily catch and Santa Barbara shellfish Company for shellfish fresh off the boat. For a dining experience that includes steak and a full bar menu, consider the Harbor Restaurant.

There are also some excellent shopping options to take advantage of during your visit. Stop by Nature's Own Gift Shop to get some unique shells. If you're looking for some ice cream, give the Great Pacific Ice Cream Company a try. Mother Steams Candy Shop has tasty candy and fun souvenirs to take home with you.

Why You Should Visit

Views of the Pacific Ocean that you will not want to miss.
Enjoy plenty of dining and shopping opportunities, unlike any other.

Tips

Consider visiting the pier around sunset for memorable photo opportunities.

Walking Tours in Santa Barbara, California

Create Your Own Walk in Santa Barbara

Create Your Own Walk in Santa Barbara

Creating your own self-guided walk in Santa Barbara is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Museums Walking Tour

Museums Walking Tour

Santa Barbara has a variety of interesting museums, most of them situated in the downtown area of the city and in the harbor, the most important of which is Santa Barbara's Old Mission and Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Discover the Spanish heritage of America and the beauty and richness of local nature through this Museums self-guided walking tour.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Santa Barbara Shopping Tour

Santa Barbara Shopping Tour

Santa Barbara has plenty of world class retail shops and diverse local crafts shops for pleasing the most meticulous consumers. Wonderful outdoor paseos, shadowed plazas and long-brick sidewalks make shopping in Santa Barbara the most enjoyable way to spend your free time. Take this self-guided walking tour to discover the best venues for shopping in Santa Barbara.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Historical Buildings Walking Tour

Ranking as one of the most attractive places on earth, by climate and geography alone, Santa Barbara also boasts a wealth of historic architecture tastefully and seamlessly accommodated into the city's modern day incarnation. To a first-time visitor to Santa Barbara, even the most cursory observation reveals the predominant role that these historic locations play in the identity and character...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles