Rides, Stops, Eats, & Drinks: A Guide to Discovering Santa Barbara, CA by Bike
Santa Barbara is known as The American Riviera: filed with parks, courtyards, fountains, red tile and a European flare that centers in a downtown strip of shops, farm-to-table restaurants and wineries and continues down to the harbor. What better way to explore the sights, sounds and tastes of this laid-back city with a beachy vibe then aboard Liv’s classic beach cruiser: The Simple? Liv USA’s Marketing Manager, Jen Audia takes us on her perfect day in Santa Barbara. Whether you are dreaming about a romantic getaway, planning a weekend with the girls or happen to have a long layover, this full-day cruise around Santa Barbara by bike is packed with plenty of adventure and indulgence.
GRAB YOUR RIDE
If your Liv Simple cruiser bike did not fit in your suitcase, start your day by heading over to see our friends at Open Air Bicycles to rent or demo a bike for the day. Even if you brought your bike with you, Open Air is a Liv Certified Retailer so they are super knowledgeable about what you will need for your day on the bike and will even come to you if you have a road-side emergency!
Open Air Bicycles: Downtown: 1303 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA OR Uptown: 3516 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA
PLAN YOUR DAY
Even if you have read this guide and have a pretty good idea of what you would like to see and do while in Santa Barbara, it is a good idea to begin by getting a map. Most of the hotels that you will be staying at, including the gorgeous Canary Hotel pictured below, offer complementary maps. Take a minute to stock your bike basket with all the essentials. Have a seat to load directions and notes into your phone—everywhere you turn in Santa Barbara, there is a nook or alcove with a chair and maybe some art, inviting you to take a seat.
You cannot start a long day of bike riding and adventures in Santa Barbara without a good meal. Finch and Fork is conveniently attached to the Canary Hotel and you can see the beautiful blue tile, high ceilings and cozy leather furnishings continued throughout the building—even on your way down the grand winding staircase to the bathroom. The restaurant specializes in “clean, simple, California cuisine that showcases the bounty of Santa Barbara County and the effortless, relaxed elegance of the Best Coast.”
We dined for brunch, since it was around 10 am on a Saturday, and enjoyed a spread of fresh berries, huevos rancheros and a roasted pork belly and egg dish—complete with California smashed avocado and a chipotle hollandaise. The coffee was served hot and topped off frequently and notes of cinnamon wafted over from Jen’s house-made chai. Finch and Fork is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.
Santa Barbara is known for its many beautiful gardens, parks, architecture and historic mission buildings. Chances are if you already mapped out your route to shops, food, wine and the beach, you will cross paths with one of these amazing locations. The Sunken Gardens at the Santa Barbara Courthouse is just one of the many places where beautiful landscaping and architecture meet. The current courthouse building was constructed between 1926 and 1929, but the location has housed local government since California was admitted as the 31st state of the United States in 1850. This is a popular place for weddings and even locals looking for a quite spot to read a book. The sight also hosts events, like the Park Foundation’s Great American Movie Musicals screened in the park on Wednesday and Friday nights during the summer.
If you are an art buff, plan to ride by and visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. There you can find 27,000 works of art that span more than 5,000 years of human creativity. The museum has a distinguished collection of Latin American art, classical antiques and masterpieces of French Impressionism. Just $10 admission for adults.
There are not many things that go together better than leisurely bike rides and coffee; and when there is a bike-themed coffee shop, well, you have to stop! Handle Bar Coffee Roasters is a staple in Santa Barbara. In fact, the coffee shop hosts more bike parking that car parking as rows of bikes stretch out in front of the store. Inside, the hip bike décor is accompanied by the rich smell of roasted coffee beans and freshly baked goodies. Have a seat outside, across the street you have a view of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park—a 5 ½ -acre park that preserves the site of the last Spanish fortress founded in 1782.
Because Santa Barbara County is thriving with produce from local farmers, flowers from area growers, small-town butchers and California artisans, there is a farmer’s market somewhere near town almost every day of the week. Click here for a schedule and locations. We visited on a Saturday, so we hit up the Saturday Farmer’s Market located conveniently uptown, a quick bike ride away from Handle Bar, our caffeine stop.
Don’t just stop to smell the flowers, buy some! These Teddy Bear Sunflowers made a beautiful addition to Jen’s basket.
This farmer’s market is a must-do while you are in Santa Barbara, but if you want to keep the adventures going after you visit (the market closes at 1 pm), leave a cooler in your car and stop back by before you continue your ride. The images below are just a small selection of the local products you can bring home with you (#NoFilter, it really looks that good).
State Street, the main drag in Santa Barbara, ends to the South at the harbor. Here you can watch sail boats, grab some ice cream or a beer, and even rent a SUP (or Stand Up Paddleboard). Ride your bike down the boardwalk, lock it up and change into your bathing suit for a fun time in the Pacific Ocean. If you have never “SUPed” before, you may opt for a private guided tour. A professional SUP guide will help you explore the Santa Barbara coastline for two hours ($50 per person). If you feel confident in your abilities, you can rent a paddleboard for $15 per hour.
If going in the ocean is not your thing, stay on boardwalk that meanders its way around the harbor and keep riding! Santa Barbara is home to one of the best beach-side bike paths in California. Ride your bike along the shore, stop to watch surfers at Rincon Point, one of the most popular surfing spots in the world or find a quiet spot to soak up some sun.
After cruising on the bike all day and a paddleboarding session, you will really need to unWINEd. Santa Barbara is famous for its 26 urban wineries, scattered throughout downtown. Each winery has its own specialty and ambiance and all offer a tasting menu! The average price is $12 for a taste of what each winery has to offer. I would suggest bringing a note book and writing down which ones you like, because after trying so many, you are not likely to remember. For a Urban Wine Trail map, a list of wineries and frequently asked questions visit the website. Below are two of Jen’s favorites.
While you are on the Urban Wine Trail, you will probably cruise in and out of Santa Barbara’s Famous Funk Zone! This area in SB is described as “the last little nook of Santa Barbara where the ocean meets the streets.” It is a mix of artsy shops, cafes, local cuisine, wineries, beautiful murals and funky people.
Red’s Bin 211 is a nice spot for a quick bite to eat between wine tastings, but if you stick around into late night, it becomes a hot spot for live music. Pictured below is the local heirloom tomato bruschetta and veggie tacos.