Your Santa Barbara Itinerary: Weekend in Town with the Kids

Hey, feeling like a fun weekend road trip? Whether it’s 100 miles or fewer than 10, your whole gang will have a great time in Santa Barbara. We’ve even planned your itinerary — from start to finish.

Don’t think of it as a vacation. Think of it as a getaway, a weekend trip. You want to keep things flexible and easy. You can’t have much fun if you’re too preoccupied with sticking to elaborate schedules and strict budgeting.

So, have we a got a weekend for you! Everything we’re recommending is inexpensive or free, and all of it’s right along the coast. No complicated routes or maps required.

First Stop: Marina Beach Motel.

Even if you’re keeping it light, give yourself the gift of unloading first. Carrying backpacks and snacks around not only weighs on your wheels, but on your mind. Stow that laptop in your room early in the day, and no car thief will be the wiser.

Hey, since we’re already practically at Stearns Wharf…

Let’s go to Stearns Wharf! Even if your party’s not too interested in the gorgeous seaside views, there’s a small aquarium, plenty of restaurants and food options, and the best kitschy boutiques you ever saw. Bring home some painted, googly-eyed crabshells and a belly full of chowder.

Head East on Cabrillo. You’re going to Chase Palm Park.

More waterfront than what you’ll know what to do with, and enough space for kids to run around without bumping into your fellow tourists (an all-too-common problem on the Wharf).

Beach-time more your speed? You’re already driving the right direction, so give East Beach a shot.

Arguably the best beach in Santa Barbara, we hope you remembered your bathing suits.

Last stop before dinner: the Santa Barbara Zoo!

Totally walkable and totally fun, ours is consistently ranked among the top smaller-sized zoos in the country. Tickets for admission range $10-17, but if you’re a frequent S.B. visitor, consider membership. It’s a steal for any animal-loving family. Not to mention all the events they’ve got going on.

Circle back West on Cabrillo. Stop by downtown for dinner, or straight to Marina Beach Motel.

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

We’ve got plenty of suggestions for you — whether you’re interested in finer dininglow-key sit-downscasual restaurants, or takeout. And remember: there’s no shame to ordering in while you’re on a trip. Eat up, and hit the sack.

Your Santa Barbara itinerary should always include a room at Marina Beach.

Cozy, friendly, and affordable. We’ve got a bed waiting for you.