Santa Barbara, The American Riviera


This post may have affiliate links. Please read our affiliate and earnings disclaimer for more information.



Have you been to Santa Barbara?


Santa Barbara is a coastal city in Central California 95 miles southeast of Los Angeles along Highway 101, nestled between the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean and the picturesque verdant green hills of Santa Ynez Mountains. 

The city has splendid Mediterranean architecture, beautiful beaches and with its Mediterranean climate,  the city earned its name, The American Riviera!

We visited Santa Barbara as part of our Spring Break road trip from Los Angeles, driving along the Central California coast towards our home in Central Valley. It was our first visit and we were excited to explore the area.

We did not know much about this city and so I looked up through google the Santa Barbara attractions. 


3 Must Do Attractions in Santa Barbara!


Downtown Santa Barbara



Take in the scene and stroll along in this pedestrian-friendly downtown State Street lined with upscale boutiques, restaurants, and wine tasting rooms as well.



Paseo Nuevo is an outdoor mall with multiple shops and a theater. What fascinated me most is the stairs going up to the second floor decorated with painted tiles in between the steps. It was beautiful!


This tile work is just beautiful!


We were on a hunt for McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams noted as the best ice cream in the area. This ice cream shop is an original California ice cream established in 1949. Their ice cream is made from scratch with the finest organic ingredients sourced locally with their delicious waffles fresh made right there in the shop.


There were plenty of flavors to choose from!


As most delicious ice cream shops are, there is a usual wait but the line passes fast and there is plenty of seating inside and on the second floor. The outside patio is a wonderful place to sit and people watch as you enjoy your ice cream.



We were there on a Tuesday and part of the street was closed off for farmer’s market. There were plenty of fresh produce and bread and pies and tourists and locals shopping. 

From Paseo Nuevo, walk southeast down State Street, about 1.2 miles towards the beach and onto the Stearns Wharf. We had a blast visiting this quaint downtown!


Stearns Wharf



This was our first time ever driving up into the wooden pier and park there! And there were plenty of parking spaces but maybe because it was a weekday, there were not many people visiting the wharf as compared to a weekend.

 Both self-parking and valet parking are complimentary, but attendants will appreciate the tips.


The view from the Stearns Wharf of the Sta Ynez Mountains


Stearns Wharf is the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco and it was built and completed in 1872 by the local lumberman John P. Stearns.

It is in the Santa Barbara Harbor where fishermen deliver their daily catches and that means fresh tasting seafood in restaurants in the area!


The Stearns Wharf!


There are plenty of activities at the wharf.  We saw kids and adults fishing at the end of the pier and fishing gear is available at Stearns Wharf Bait & Tackle to rent.

Adults can also go wine tasting at Deep Sea Wine Tasting Room featuring the Conway Family Wines or have your fortune told with palm readings with the licensed consultant and spiritual advisor Madame Rosinka.


Troy’s close encounter with a Pelican!


You can all head over to the Natural History Sea Center to learn about the region’s wildlife too.

And when you are hungry, there are 5 restaurants on the wharf you can choose from. At the end of the pier, go to the walk-up window of the  Santa Barbara Shellfish Company for delicious fresh seafood like lobster, crab or abalone and find a seat on the pier and enjoy a true waterfront dining experience.



If you prefer fine dining, Harbor Restaurant offers succulent steak and fine wine and the most beautiful view of Santa Barbara.

Other more casual restaurants are Moby Dick Restaurant for breakfast, enjoy the Longboard’s Grill’s lively atmosphere with a variety of menu items from burgers, and seafood and tacos and tropical drinks and beers, and Char West offer the tastiest fish and chips.

  All restaurants offer wonderful views of the sunset and Santa Ynez mountains.

For souvenirs and pretty nautical gifts head over to Old Wharf Trading Co., or at  Nature’s Own Gallery for a wide collection of beautiful jewelry and rocks, shells and minerals.

And to satisfy your sweet cravings, you may want to try one or two of the 32 handmade ice cream flavors and sherbets at Great Pacific Ice Cream Company or the Mother Stearns Candy Company for candies and gummy bear yummies!



You and your family can just walk the full length of the pier and enjoy the view, the sea breeze and bask in the calming and liberating feeling of being out into the water albeit on the pier.


Old Mission Santa Barbara



Tyreen wanted to visit the Old Mission of Santa Barbara awhile back for a school project but I never heard of it and I did not welcome the idea of a long drive to Santa Barbara and that left her with building a mission replica to submit for school.

And she did not miss the opportunity to remind me that she did want to come and visit this place for the said school project!

As you drive up to the building, you will be in awe of its olden and breathtaking beauty. The magnificent mission is more than 200 years old and the 10th of the twenty-one Franciscan missions in California.



It sits on a 13-acre well-maintained grounds with beautiful gardens and mission era plants and trees. There are a cemetery and mausoleum that holds the remains of Franciscan Friars and early citizens that were part of the mission.



There is a nine-room museum that shows off colonial arts and artifacts, and the beautiful Mission Church that has a large and active parish, holding historic arts and sculptors.

Peruse the gift shop for religious items like rosaries and statues, souvenirs and gifts.



We did not do any tours because we did not have the time and the line was long but we did explore the grounds and took photos.



The majestic and grandiose beauty of the Old Mission Santa Barbara earned her the title the Queen of the Missions!



The parking lot is big and is only a short walk to the building and parking is free. You can leisurely explore the area for 2 hrs but we only stayed for an hour without the tour.

We were in Santa Barbara 3 days and two nights and we explored the attractions, relaxed at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort where we stayed at and enjoyed morning walks at the beach as well.



There are many more attractions and activities to do for families in this beautiful city but it was time to leave and move on to our next adventure.


When are you going to visit the American Riviera?


Click this link to learn more about our stay at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort.



If you have any questions please feel free to ask me or leave a comment or feedback at the bottom of this page.

You can also email me at

To receive exciting and informative new posts, please subscribe to this website. Thank you


No Comments

Leave a Comment