California is not particularly known for being a bargain! Our guide to 10 free things to do around Santa Barbara shows how you can have some fun without breaking the bank. Enjoy some of these ideas, and then go splurge on an amazing dinner or exceptional bottle of wine!
The staff at The Eagle Inn is always ready with suggestions to help you plan the perfect stay! Don’t hesitate to ask, but here are a few things to add to your list:
Visit the Santa Barbara Courthouse
100 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara
The Santa Barbara Courthouse is a gorgeous Spanish-Colonial-style building built in 1929. It has the iconic red-tiled roof, distinctive four-faced clock tower, elegant arches, and sunken garden. Take a self-guided exterior tour of the gardens and the Hall of Records. Access to the Mural Room and Clock Tower are temporarily closed due to COVID.
Go Whale Watching at Shoreline Park
1299 Shoreline Dr, Santa Barbara
The best spot for viewing whales on land is Shoreline Park. Depending on the season (January – March for Pacific Gray whales and June – August for Humpback and Blue whales) you may get a view of spouting, breaching the water, and smacking their tails.
Visit the Moreton Bay Fig Tree
209 State St, Santa Barbara
This tree is actually a historic landmark, and is the largest known Ficus macrophylla in the United States! Planted in 1876 from a seedling brought from Australia, this Moreton Bay Fig Tree now measures over 176 feet wide!
Visit the Chumash Painted Cave
State Historic Park
CA 154, Santa Barbara
A short walk up some steps will bring you to the opening of a small cave where art created in the 17th century by the Chumash Native Americans is preserved. Although the meaning of the pictures in the Chumash Painted Cave is not known, it is the best-preserved artwork of these peoples.
Go to the Beach
It seems like a simple statement, but there are so many beaches to choose from! You can pick the lesser-known 1000 Steps Beach (which is actually only 150 steps) or explore tide pools in Goleta Beach, Leadbetter Beach, or Arroyo Burro Beach. See more on this map of beaches.
Visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State St, Santa Barbara
Free Admission Thursdays 5pm – 8pm
Museum of Contemporary Art
653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara
Hours: Wednesdays – Saturdays 11am – 5 pm, Sundays noon – 5 pm
Take a Free Walking Tour
There is no better way to learn the “lay of the land” of a place you are visiting than by taking a tour. Walking the tour allows you to really examine things up close. It’s hard to believe that you can get a number of different walking tours for free! You can also make online reservations to explore the Waterfront or the Funk Zone with a guide.
Take a Bike Ride
If you have your bike with you, there are plenty of trails to ride. Choose your preferred bike ride level: easy, intermediate, and advanced. If you don’t have a bike with you, there are plenty of options for rentals, and it is still a very affordable way to spend a day.
Visit the Carriage and Western Arts Museum
129 Castillo St #5725, Santa Barbara
Hours: Mondays – Fridays 9am – 3pm
If you are a fan of Westerns, this is the place for you! The Carriage and Western Arts Museum has over 40 stagecoaches and other horse-drawn carriages, as well as more than 50 saddles, including some from famous figures such as Will Rogers, Clark Gable, and others. And admission is free!
Visit the Andree Clark Bird Refuge
34a Los Patos Way, Santa Barbara
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
The Andree Clark Bird Refuge has 42 acres of space that includes a 29-acre lake. More than 200 species of birds have been observed in the refuge. There are also walking trails and a bike trail to enjoy.
You will certainly need several days for your visit, even if you only pick a couple of the 10 free things to do around Santa Barbara that we have listed. Make sure you reserve your stay at the Eagle Inn and then plan the remainder of your trip!