A Winter Guide to Santa Barbara

10 reasons to plan a winter getaway today

Winter may be considered the “off-season” in Santa Barbara, but there’s nothing sleepy about it. Sure, you can find peace, quiet, and solitude if that’s what you’re seeking. But there’s also tons of events, activities, and goings on that make it prime time for a visit packed with culinary, outdoor, and cultural adventures. Following are 10 reasons Santa Barbara should be on your winter travel agenda.

  1. The Weather:  Santa Barbara averages more than 300 days of sunshine a year. The Mediterranean climate means we have very moderate weather and it’s not uncommon to have sunbathing, beachgoing weather in January and February. Average temperatures in winter months range from highs in the mid- to upper-60s and lows in the 40s. So, you can still enjoy cozy winter evening vibes bundled up by a fire while also getting your fill of Vitamin D in short sleeves during the day.
  2. Santa Barbara International Film Festival:  Get your cinematic fix when the Santa Barbara International Film Festival takes over the historic theatres and venues in our dynamic downtown cultural district. The fest will take place March 2-12, and we’re thrilled to see their star-studded events and robust schedule of film screenings returning IRL.
  3. Toast the Winemakers:  Santa Barbara County was recently named Wine Enthusiast’s “2021 Wine Region of the Year” for its pioneering role in sustainable winemaking as well as the high concentration of female winemakers—among other factors like the delicious, fine wines. With the busy harvest season complete, come winter many winemakers have the time to be onsite in the tasting room personally sharing the fruits of their labor with guests. So, whether you opt to go to wine country or to taste along Santa Barbara’s urban wine trail, your chances of getting to meet the makers themselves are the highest at this time of year.
  4. Plan a Craft Beer Crawl:  Wine isn’t the only locally made libation making headlines. Santa Barbara’s craft beer scene is thriving. In downtown Santa Barbara alone there are several spots to try local brews. Labels to look for include Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., Topa Topa Brewing Co., Brass Bear Brewing, Rincon Brewing, Pure Order Brewing Co., Third Window Brewing Co., Night Lizard, and Institution Ale.
  5. Catch a Show:  The performing arts calendar really heats up in winter months, offering great opportunities to experience world-class culture in our beautiful historic theatres. The Granada is hosting a Broadway in Santa Barbara series featuring “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” (Jan. 5), “Waitress” (Jan 18 & 19), and “Jersey Boys” (Feb. 22 & 23). You can also catch several compelling performances presented by the Santa Barbara Symphony, Community Arts & Music Association, and UCSB Arts & Lectures at The Granada. Our local Ensemble Theater Company presents “Carmen Jones” (Feb. 3-20) at the New Vic. The Lobero Theatre has a full slate of music ranging from opera and jazz to indie rock and world music—including the likes of KT Tunstall (Jan. 21), Ladysmith Black Mambazo (Feb. 18), and Taj Mahal (Mar. 8). Last but not least, the Arlington Theatre will welcome Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit (Feb. 26).
  6. Savor Winter Flavors:  Santa Barbara is surrounded by organic farms and the Harbor is home to the state’s top producing commercial fishing fleet, so our cuisine scene is excellent all year round. Winter menus feature seasonal ingredients like vibrant citrus, earthy root vegetables, and hearty squash alongside seafood specialties like ridgeback shrimp, spiny lobster, and spot prawns. You can stroll through the Tuesday and Saturday Farmers’ Markets, where the people watching is just as good as the produce picking. We also love sending guests to the Fisherman’s Market held at the Harbor on Saturday mornings.
  7. Blaze Trails:  You’ll find that our hiking trails are less crowded during the winter. There’s no better way to greet a new day than a sunrise stroll through the coastal Douglas Preserve or a morning hike to Inspiration Point. Sunset is earlier in winter, so you can fit a late afternoon sunset hike in and then freshen up for dinner back at the hotel.
  8. Cozy Up in a Café:  There’s something about sipping a warm beverage on a crisp winter’s day—and we do have some of those on occasion! Artisan coffee houses like Dune and Handlebar have multiple locations and feature their own roasts. Cajé Coffee Roasters is another local gem known for their fine coffees and creative coffee and tea concoctions.
  9. Watch Whales:  California Grey Whales pass through the Santa Barbara Channel during their migration that begins in February, and they can typically be spotted in our local waters through April. Our “Whales & Tales” package includes passes for a whale watching tour with our partner, Condor Express, and we promise seeing these massive, majestic creatures is a sight to behold.
  10. Get Your Third Night Free:  All four of our Santa Barbara Hotel Group properties—Best Western Plus Santa Barbara, Lavender Inn by the Sea, Inn by the Harbor, and Brisas Del Mar—are participating in Visit Santa Barbara’s book two nights get the third night free promotion. That means you can get way more bang for your buck and treat yourself to a longer, more leisurely stay.