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24 Hours in Santa Barbara via Amtrak


My best friend and I recently got to sneak away for 24 hours in Santa Barbara and we had THE BEST TIME! If you’re looking for a quick trip, you must visit Santa Barbara.

A quick girlfriend's trip to Santa Barbara.

There were several companies involved in making this trip happen. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner provided round-trip tickets which was awesome so we didn’t have to drive. Hotel Santa Barbara provided us with a room (and the best location in town!) and Visit Santa Barbara provided some media passes for things like wine tasting and the salt room. I paid for everything else on the trip. 

Palm Springs used to be my favorite place. But I think Santa Barbara might have taken over the #1 spot for a quick getaway!

You can keep yourself super busy or just sit back and enjoy the view. All I know is that I can’t wait to go back and explore some more! 24 hours in Santa Barbara just wasn’t enough!

This darling little town has as much or as little to do as you want.

Taking the train to Santa Barbara was the BEST! We got to skip all the traffic through Los Angeles and just hang out and enjoy the ride!

It’s so easy to bring on luggage and is such a great way to start your vacation immediately instead of having to worry about traffic or how long it will take you to get there.

We got into Santa Barbara just before lunchtime and had the rest of the day to explore!


24 Hours in Santa Barbara

Plan an intinerary for a 24 hour trip to Santa Barbara, California.

Santa Barbara is a resort town that feels super small and intimate (especially because we were there mid-week).

It’s located 90 miles north of Los Angeles making it an awesome location for a girl’s getaway or a romantic trip with your husband.

Yes, there are tons of things for the kids to do here too (Moxi kids museum, the skatepark), but I think it’s extra adult friendly.

How to Get Around

Santa Barbara is easy to navigate without a car. The train station was just a few blocks from our hotel and even with luggage, it was an easy walk.

Everything we did was totally walkable and not as spread out as I expected.

I had been to Santa Barbara in college but totally didn’t remember the logistical things. (I do remember paying what seemed like way too much money on my first tattoo there…).

SantaBarbaraCarFree.org has partnerships with a lot of local attractions, restaurants, and hotels that save you money when you show them your train ticket!

Plus they have tons of info on how to get around town without a car.

Bus Service is available throughout the city although we didn’t use it on this trip. There is an app that you can download to have all the info right at your fingertips.

Santa Barbara Trolley Company is a super cool way to get around. You can take a tour of the town or you can use it to get to and from the points of interest along the way.

While this doesn’t stop everywhere, it is a great way to get out to some of the big tourist attractions.

Uber is always an option and we used it a few times when we were being lazy.


Where to Stay

The front of the Hotel Santa Barbara.

Hotel Santa Barbara is the perfect place to stay while you’re in Santa Barbara, especially if you are only there for 24 hours. It’s located downtown at State and Cota St. and you can easily walk to most places from this location.

There are tons of dining and shopping options within steps of the front doors and it was a great place to have as a home base on our quick trip. And it has one of those old-timey elevators with the sliding gate which is super awesome. 

The hotel was built after the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake and was once a getaway for Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. 

A bedroom inside the Hotel Santa Barbara.

The rooms were super comfortable and had everything we needed. They’ve been renovated relatively recently so everything seemed fresh and nice.

We knew we wouldn’t be spending too much time in our room since our trip was so short (we packed a LOT in!) but we absolutely looked forward to ending up in those comfortable beds at the end of the night!

Hotel Santa Barbara
533 State St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101


What to do in Santa Barbara

Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara has so many things to keep you busy on your trip.

We didn’t have the time to stop in and check out all the museums and cultural attractions but there is a wide variety to choose from. I would have loved to stop by and check out the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

For being such a small town, there are so many amazing things to do here!

I remember visiting the Mission when I was in elementary school but we didn’t have time to stop in on this trip. And you know I love my presidents, and def want to visit the Reagan Ranch Center next time I’m in town.

We also didn’t get a chance to rent a surrey bike, from Wheel Fun Rentals, which we had really wanted to do. They are available for rent in the Funk Zone area and are a great way to explore down by the water!

Deep Sea wines in Santa Barbara.

I’m not going to lie, my main priority was wine tasting. You KNOW I like wine.

I’ve heard lots about the Urban Wine Trail and the Funk Zone and wanted to check it out for myself.

Since I wanted to make sure that we spent a little bit of time near the water, we killed two birds with one stone by doing some wine tasting on the pier at Deep Sea, owned by Conway Family Wines.

The tasting room has 360-degree views and the tasting deck is right on the water. The staff was super friendly and I fell in love with the Sauvignon Blanc.

I also loved the labels on the bottles with the gorgeous ocean photography.

Wine tasting at Grassini Family Vineyards in Santa Barbara.

We wanted to check out another tasting room and so we decided on Grassini Family Vineyards in the Presidio area.

This one had a super inviting indoor tasting room that reminded me of a comfortable living room, as well as a small outdoor patio in the courtyard of a business center (which sounds super unappealing but the architecture in Santa Barbara is amazing everywhere you go!).

We skipped a traditional tasting in favor of a Sauvignon Blanc tasting which did not disappoint!!! 

The Santa Barbara Courthouse.

I had read about the Santa Barbara Courthouse but didn’t put it on our agenda. An Uber driver we had insisted on taking us there.

I’m so glad he did!

It was stunning. The architecture was amazing and we could have spent hours here. The craziest part is that it is a working courthouse although you can host events there too!

The day we were there, there was a high school graduation happening in the courtyard and a friend later told me that is where she got married.

Not only are the grounds ridiculously awesome, but you can go up to the 4th-floor bell tower which has 360-degree views of the whole area. You can see all the way from the ocean to the mountains and it’s crazy cool!

Do NOT skip this!

Salt, the largest Himalayan salt cave in North America.

You may not have ever heard of a salt cave before but it is a great relaxing thing to do on your trip. I’ve been to one before, as they are supposed to be good for your allergies and anxiety, etc.

Salt has the largest Himalayan salt cave in North America. Your salt cave session lasts 45 minutes and you sit in a zero-gravity lounge chair.

They keep the climate dry and somewhat chilly but provide blankets to keep you warm and cozy. The lights are lowered and relaxing music is played.

The air in the cave is saturated with micro particles of salt that are easily absorbed through the skin and deep into the lungs, which is known to be a natural way to improve respiratory health.

We did this right before heading home and it was a great place to end the trip!

Where to Eat

Pizza at Lucky Penny.

Lucky Penny | We were starving by the time we finished checking in to our hotel and couldn’t wait for lunch!

We walked over to Lucky Penny and shared a delicious mushroom pizza (the Parker 2.0) and homemade potato chips. My strategy when visiting a new place for a short amount of time is to share food so you can eat more often.

The food here is delish and the cute outdoor patio is a comfortable place to enjoy your meal.

Santo Mezcal in Santa Barbara.

Santo Mezcal | A high school friend had recommended this restaurant and when I passed it earlier in the day I knew we’d go back for dinner. The decor and ambiance are fantastic.

And the FOOD! So good! We sat on the small outdoor patio and shared the most delicious Queso Fundido and steak tacos.

Everything on the menu sounded amazing and their craft cocktails were inventive and I wanted to try all of them.

While I like to try new places on my trips, I definitely want to go back and try more things here! 

Ice cream options at McConnell's Ice Cream.

McConnell’s Ice Cream | This right here is the reason we shared dinner. I’m sure you’ve seen McConnell’s ice cream in your local grocery stores, but Santa Barbara is where it all began.

The flavors were innovative and there were about 20 that I wanted to try.

I definitely ordered more salted caramel than I should have…And now I know that this ice cream is legit and it will probably come home with me on every grocery shopping trip.

Breakfast at Helena Ave. Bakery.

Helena Ave. Bakery | We grabbed breakfast from Helena Ave. Bakery and it was crazy good.

This bakery is part of a cluster of buildings that also includes Lucky Penny, a dinner restaurant called Lark, and a brewery.

One side of the bakery actually has an area for wine tasting. It’s a super unique place and I highly recommend it.

We split a Bacon and Egg sandwich (so good!), chocolate croissant, and a morning bun. I wish we had one closer to home! 

Lunch from Helena Ave Bakery.

Helena Ave. Bakery is also a great spot to grab lunch for the road. We went back to pick up a to-go lunch on our way back to the train station for our return trip.

This sandwich was insane (salami and pesto)! And we couldn’t resist the homemade chips and cookie!

You don't need a car to enjoy Santa Barbara, take the train to and from.

With our lunch and luggage, we headed to the train station to wait for our ride home.

24 hours in Santa Barbara was definitely not enough time to do, see or eat everything! I’m so looking forward to going back to explore more!

The weather while we were there was rather gloomy but I can just guess how magical it is on a warm summer day!

These are just the places we could get to in 24 hours but there are so many more amazing things to do in Santa Barbara.

Visit Santa Barbara is a great resource for finding hotels, restaurants, and activities. Their site is comprehensive, with example itineraries, to help you plan your own Santa Barbara adventure!

Thank you to Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, Hotel Santa Barbara, and Visit Santa Barbara for helping me to plan a really fun getaway! 

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This post was originally published on June 26, 2018, and has now been updated.

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