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Thanks to its location between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, California, is a great weekend getaway destination for folks all up and down the Pacific Coast. Whether you’re looking for a laid-back break from hectic city life or you want some sunshine and moderate temperatures during cold seasons at home, this sunny coastal California town is a great choice for a few days away from it all. With this Santa Barbara trip planner, you can make your weekend one to remember.

Understanding Santa Barbara Seasons

Santa Barbara brands itself as the American Riviera, and in many ways this is an apt comparison. Rocky shores and mountains make Santa Barbara feel a bit more like a Mediterranean hamlet than the typical California beach town. The weather is generally mild, with only a few cloudy or rainy days a year. Summer is usually hot and sunny, and this weather can extend well into fall on a good year. Winter and early spring are usually the coldest and rainiest months, though this is relative to the warm, sunny temperatures that are the norm.

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In general, the slate of activities available in Santa Barbara stays pretty constant year-round. The Pacific is still pretty chilly here, even during the hot summer season, so swimming in the ocean isn’t likely to be comfortable for most people, especially if you don’t have a wetsuit. That all means that Santa Barbara can be a good choice for a last-minute getaway, but if you’re planning ahead and you know you want sunny, warm weather, aim for late summer. If you can thread the needle between peak tourism in July and kids going back to school in August, you may get perfect weather and less crowding from other tourists.

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What to Do in Santa Barbara

The ocean is one of the main attractions in Santa Barbara. From stand-up paddle boarding to whale watching nearly all year round, visitors who want to be near the water have plenty of options for fun in the sun. Thanks to its proximity to the Channel Islands Marine Preserve, Santa Barbara is also one of the top spots on the coast for scuba diving. Fishing, horseback riding, golf and hiking opportunities are also available if you’re more interested in spending time inland rather than on the water.

Santa Barbara is also home to a number of interesting historic attractions, including the Mission Santa Barbara, which dates back to the 1700s and is the perfect representation of California’s Spanish colonial past. The Native American tribes who lived here well before the Spaniards have also established a local tourist foothold with the Chumash Casino Resort, which offers not only gaming but also concerts, comedy and a host of other entertainment options. If you’re planning to be in the area and are looking for some nightlife or evening entertainment, the casino may be the perfect option. You might even want to plan your Santa Barbara weekend around a favorite performer’s show date at the casino. Just make sure your rental home is close enough to the casino that you’ll feel comfortable driving back after the show is over.

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Luxe and Low Key Activity Options

Not everyone who travels to Santa Barbara is going to be eager to head out on a boat or go for a rigorous mountain hike. If you’re more of a spas-and-fancy-dinners type of traveler, you’ll still have plenty of options. In particular, the Santa Barbara wine country offers visitors plenty of chances to taste local wines and stroll through scenic vineyards, many of which are so beautiful that they’re ideal places for proposals. The winery options in this part of California are just as romantic as they are in the state’s more famous wine regions.

The Santa Barbara area is also home to a number of spa facilities where you can get treatments like massages if you want to really unwind. Many of these spas are located within high-end resorts in the area, though you generally don’t need to actually be a hotel guest to book services at these spas. That means you can enjoy the freedom of a rental house while also enjoying some resort amenities on your own terms.

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Santa Barbara Dining

The local beauty and historic significance of Santa Barbara have made this a destination for the rich and famous, which means there’s no shortage of high-end restaurant options available for those who want a fine dining experience. In addition to local wines, many of the restaurants in the area also feature beers from local breweries and tons of farm-to-table ingredients, offering visitors a fantastic way to connect with the local culture through their taste buds.

Eating out isn’t your only option for a good meal, especially if you’re trying to watch your budget. Though Santa Barbara is often more of an expensive travel destination, you can make it more affordable by opting to prepare a picnic in your rental home’s kitchen and eat it in one of the many beautiful outdoor spots in the area, like Butterfly Beach or the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.