10 Unique Things to Do Near Santa Barbara CA

Santa Barbara is well known for beaches, sunshine, and fabulous food, but there is so much more to discover! If you are a connoisseur of all things different and unique, make sure you peruse our list of 10 unique things to do near Santa Barbara, CA. You will find ancient Spanish buildings, gardens of eclectic Polish opera stars, salt caves, and dolls and teddy bears to name just a few.

Since there are SO many things to see, make sure you have planned enough time! Take a few days for a getaway and book the perfect private casita at the Eagle Inn, so you have a place to return to in the evening as you review your adventures of the day.


El Presidio

123 E Canon Perdido, Santa Barbara
(805) 965- 0093
Hours: Thursdays – Sundays 11 am – 4 pm

In the middle of the city of Santa Barbara stands El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, which preserves the site of the last four military outposts built by the Spaniards in the area. They were built in 1782 — two of the original buildings have been restored, others have been reconstructed, and archeological digs continue to search for more. There is a small admission fee and guided tours can be arranged in advance.


Casa del Herrero

1387 E Valley Rd, Montecito CA
(805) 565-5653
Hours: Wednesdays & Saturdays 10 am and 2 pm, advance reservation required

Travel back to the 1920s when you visit the Casa del Herrero (House of the Blacksmith), a stunning example of Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture. The 11-acre estate was designed by architect George Washington Smith for the Steedman family and is renowned for not only the grand house but also the extensive Moorish-style gardens and stunning collection of 15th and 16th-century Spanish art objects.


Old Mission Santa Barbara

2201 Laguna St, Santa Barbara CA
(805) 682-4149
Tour Hours: Mondays – Saturdays 9:30 am – 4 pm, Sundays 11 am – 4 pm

The Old Mission Santa Barbara was founded in 1786 by Franciscan friars and continues as the oldest liturgical singing tradition of any California mission. The site remains a church community, but the gorgeous 15 acres overlooking the Pacific also include a museum, historic cemetery and mausoleum, the Mission Church, and many lush gardens.


Ganna Walska’s Lotusland

Cold Spring Rd, Montecito CA
(805) 969-9990
Hours: Reservation-only tours Wednesdays – Saturdays starting at 9:15 am

A must-see for garden enthusiasts, this 37-acre garden is full of gorgeous and exotic plants collected by an equally exotic and entertaining Polish opera singer. Madame Ganna Walska, as she chose to be called, was married six times, and spent the last decades of her life collecting and improving the grounds of what is now called Lotusland.


Lil’ Toot

113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara CA
Hours: Tours depart on the hour and half hour

237 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara
Hours: Tours depart on the quarter and three-quarter hour

One of the fun things to do as a visitor is to take a ride on “Lil’ Toot.” Lil’ Toot is Santa Barbara’s original waterfront taxi that travels between the Santa Barbara Harbor and Stearns Wharf every half hour. You will be entertained on your ride with history and fascinating tidbits about celebrity yachts and local wildlife.


Santa Barbara Trolley

1 Garden St, Santa Barbara CA
(805) 965-0353
Hours: Thursdays – Mondays at 10 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm

What better way to get around the city than in a renovated trolley! Hop on the Santa Barbara Trolley for a narrated 90-minute tour of the most renowned sites including Stearns Wharf and the Dolphin Fountain, East Beach, Andrea Clark Bird Refuge, the Santa Barbara Zoo, the Harbor, and the Old Santa Barbara Mission.


Santa Barbara Orchid Estate

1250 Orchid Dr, Santa Barbara CA
(800) 553-3387
Hours: Currently varying day by day; check online for details

Established in 1957, the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate is a must-visit for orchid lovers. Located near the ocean on five acres of land, you will find yourself in a tropical paradise. There are many orchids for sale, please check to see what is currently in bloom.


Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation (MOXI)

125 State St, Santa Barbara CA
(805) 770-5000
Hours: Daily 10 am – 5 pm

MOXI, an incredibly fun and unique museum was only opened in 2017. Prepare to become a kid once again with three floors of interactive exhibits focusing on seven themes that relate to science, technology, engineering, art, and math. The exhibits change all the time so you can visit the museum multiple times.



740 State St, Santa Barbara CA
(805) 963-7258
Hours: Tuesdays- Thursdays 11 am – 6 pm, Fridays – Sundays 10 am – 6 pm

Visit the largest man-made underground salt cave in the United States! You may stop in or reserve a spot to ensure that you can escape, heal your body, and refresh your mind. There are also retail Himalayan salt products for sale, as well as spa services.


Susan Quinlan Doll and Teddy Bear Museum and Library

122 W Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara CA
(805) 683-4623
Hours: Fridays & Saturdays 11 am – 4 pm or by appointment

This museum was founded in 2005 and contains one of the largest displays of dolls and teddy bears that you will find in the U.S. With a 10,000 square foot site, it is filled with more than 4,000 doll and teddy bear displays. The founder had a particular interest in California history, and figures that are related to literary history. Come and spark memories of your childhood.


Your curiosity must certainly be aroused with our list of 10 unique things to do near Santa Barbara, CA! Let us know what your favorites are. See our list of rainy-day activities if you find yourself in Santa Barbara while it’s drizzling. If you need restaurant recommendations, be sure to ask us! We want your getaway to be perfect.


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