Santa Barbara is well-known for its wineries and restaurants, but are you aware of the various nightlife options to choose from: music, theater, dance, concerts, and shows, large and small? To ensure you don’t miss a thing, here is our ultimate guide to entertainment in Santa Barbara.
And what is in the middle of it all, with easy access to all of these fantastic venues in Santa Barbara? The Eagle Inn! We are just blocks from the waterfront, downtown, the Funk Zone, and everything else you may choose to include in your evening.
Where should we start? Let’s take a look at the Historic Theatre District.
Santa Barbara’s Historic Theater District
Santa Barbara’s Historic Theater District is just over a mile from The Eagle Inn. It is located downtown, with many restaurants, shops, galleries, and museums. The area is anchored by three performing arts venues: the Granada Theatre, the Lobero Theater, and the Ensemble Theatre Company at the New Vic.
The Granada Theatre has been part of Santa Barbara’s history for over 90 years. Originally the city’s oldest former movie theater, it is the tallest building in Santa Barbara with eight stories. The Granada is home to:
- Santa Barbara Symphony with concerts seven months out of the year.
- State Street Ballet with at least four performances per year.
- Opera Santa Barbara schedules five productions per year.
- Santa Barbara Choral Society is a semi-professional group of approximately 80 singers.
- CAMA (Community Arts Music Association of Santa Barbara brings in talented musicians from all corners of the world. They have a series at the Granada and another at the Lobero.
The Lobero Theatre is California’s oldest operating theatre. It has continued since its opening in 1873. The theatre was rebuilt in 1924, designated a national historic landmark, and called by Architectural Digest as one of the 11 most beautiful theatres in the world. In terms of acoustics, the Lobero is known as one of the best venues to experience jazz.
The intimate setting at the Lobero is perfect not only for jazz but also for the State Street Ballet, many touring dance companies, and well-known acoustic and blues singers and bands. There are several festivals at the Lobero, like the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the Flamenco Arts Festival.
Ensemble Theatre Company at the New Vic
Santa Barbara’s Victoria Street Theatre (aka the New Vic) is the home of the Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC). The almost 100-year-old building was completely renovated in 2013 to the current state-of-the-art 300-seat theater. The ETC brings new works as well as innovative stagings of classic plays.
The Santa Barbara Bowl
The Santa Barbara Bowl is the setting for large events, seating up to 4500. The amphitheater is outdoors and is generally open seasonally from April through October. The original structure was built in 1935 as part of a WPA project, carving into the hillside. Many updates have occurred since then. A nonprofit has managed the venue since the early ‘90s.
Many classic rock concerts have been filmed and recorded at the Bowl, including Joni Mitchell’s Shadows and Light double album and concert film and Maroon Five’s Friday the 13th concert album.
Nowadays, the Bowl hosts almost 30 concerts per year. Top touring headline acts like Foo Fighters, Kenny Loggins, Van Morrison, and Trombone Shorty have all performed there. Make sure you take some time to gaze at the spectacular sunset and ocean views when visiting the Bowl.
Nothing is better than enjoying music next to the ocean when the weather is fine. If you are looking for free entertainment on Thursdays in July, you can bring a blanket or chair to Chase Palm Park for a fun evening concert.
If you are looking for small, less traditional venues, Santa Barbara has those, as well:
- Center Stage Theater has plays, dance, music, and special events in an intimate environment.
- Arlington Theatre has an authentic Spanish exterior and hosts first-run movies, stand-up comics, and other musical acts.
- Hitchcock Cinema & Public House has entertaining first-run movies and quirky, off-beat films. With a diner counter, bar-style food options, craft beer, cider, and wine, you can enjoy a meal, move, and nightcap all in one stop.
- Riviera is connected to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and specializes in independent and art-house movies throughout the year.
- The Marjorie Luke Theatre is located on the Santa Barbara Junior High School Campus and is dedicated to arts education and youth performances.
- Hatlen Theater, located at UC Santa Barbara, produces forming arts and dance performances by students and professionals.
- The Garvin and Jurkowitz Theatres are part of the Santa Barbara City College Campus. Performances are a combination of professional, community, and student talent.
Sometimes, you simply want to kick back at a smaller venue and see the talent up close. We have those places, too! Here are just a few of the iconic spots:
- SOhO Restaurant and Music Club: You can find a variety of local and touring acts performing here almost any day of the week.
- The Red Piano: They have pianos inside and out, with music every day of the week.
- Whiskey Richards: Try one of their 100 whiskeys and listen to some music!
- The James Joyce: If you are looking for an Irish pub with some local music, give the James Joyce a try.
How Do I Know What’s Going On?
By now, your head is probably spinning with all of the choices available in Santa Barbara! How do you decide how to spend an evening? First, ask us! We live here and know what is going on. We want to help you find an evening and experience that is unique, fun, and personal to you!
As you plan a getaway, review the Santa Barbara Theater Guide, which can give you an idea of which popular acts are coming months in advance.
The Eagle Inn is in the Hub of Santa Barbara
When visiting Santa Barbara, you want to stay where it is convenient, super comfortable, and close to the beach and all the other things you want to do. The Eagle Inn has all of those things, plus an amazing from-scratch fresh breakfast every day! You can choose a private casita or a well-appointed room (perhaps with a jacuzzi).
We love showing off our city, so reserve your next getaway now!