5 Must-Do Things in Santa Barbara

With its red-tiled roofs, white stucco walls, palm trees and vineyards, Santa Barbara often feels as if it’s been transported straight from Tuscany or Spain – but its broad white beaches are pure California. You could easily divide your time between sunbathing, shopping on State Street, and just soaking up the relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere of this gentle, elegant city. But Santa Barbara is more than its gorgeous looks and high end boutiques. If you have a chance to explore, check out our favourite things to do.


Party in the Funk Zone


You’ll find Santa Barbara’s more modern side in this district between the ocean and Highway 101. Converted warehouses painted with colourful graffiti murals host nightclubs, bars, art studios and surf shops. Shop for vintage knickknacks during the day, and enjoy live music, cocktails and dancing by night.


Spend a day in the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara


People-watch at the Farmers’ Market


Strolling past stalls piled with fresh, locally produced fruit, flowers, vegetables, nuts and honey is a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning. If you’re there in season the local strawberries are especially delicious.


Farmers Market
Enjoy local produce at the Farmer's Market 




Daydream in Lotusland


In 1941 eccentric opera singer Madame Ganna Walska bought an estate in the hills above Santa Barbara, and spent the next 40 years filling the grounds with bromeliads, cacti and euphorbia. The extravagant gardens include a dramatic display of topiary animals, a “theater garden” attended by spooky stone sculptures, and a water garden filled with the estate’s namesake flower. Today Lotusland is one of the world’s top ten botanic gardens. Visits must be booked in advance.


Visit the extravagant gardens at Lotusland
Visit the extravagant gardens at Lotusland


Explore Channel Islands National Park


They’re only a handful of miles out to sea, yet this small chain of islands feels incredibly pristine and remote. Take in the incredible views as you hike across San Miguel or Santa Rosa Island, and watch out for sea lions, pelicans and whales as you snorkel or kayak around the sea grottos.


Channel Islands
Sunset over Santa Rosa Island 


Hike up to Inspiration Point


As you’d expect from the name, the views from this ridge above Santa Barbara are breathtaking. You can reach the Jesusita Trail either via the relatively gentle Tunnel Road or the more challenging San Roque Road route – which offers stunning sea views along the way. If you time your walk for late afternoon you’ll be in the shade for the steepest part of the walk, and you should get to see the landscape bathed in golden light when you reach the top.


Santa Barbara offers students and visitors the perfect mix between relaxed beach vibes, Mediterranean style architecture, and trendy cafes and bars serving local cuisine and wine. It's the ideal spot to learn English. 


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