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The bikes positioned front and center in the lobby of Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara remind guests to get out and explore. The art-centric boutique hotel is on State Street a block away from the beach. Many of the best things to do in Santa Barbara happen along the coast within pedaling (or even walking) distance.

While no two Hotel Indigos are exactly alike, one thing they all have in common is the desire to help guests discover the uniqueness of their surrounding neighborhoods. Did you know that those with a yearning to discover and rediscover are drawn to the color indigo? This makes indigo the #ColorOfDiscovery.

So, I grabbed a bike and off I went.

Easy Sightseeing on Two Wheels

A number of Hotel Indigos worldwide have bikes. It’s possible to see a city in a different light when on two wheels. Senses kick into overdrive with the sun at your back and saltwater breezes against your face, at least in Santa Barbara.

Here, bike paths stem for miles along the ocean and also inland to some fun shops and restaurants. You can truly have a very full weekend of sightseeing in this part of town without ever setting foot in a car.

I began my day of discovery in the obvious spot.

The Beach

One of the best things to do in Santa Barbara is ride bikes along the beach. I explored on one of Hotel Indigo's bikes.

I passed volleyball courts that I played on in my youth, restaurants I’ve been to with my parents and Shoreline Park where my daughter likes to play.

With a map, biking down to Montecito’s cafes and shops is also possible. I’ve done it as my parents used to live in Santa Barbara.

Lock the bike in a rack or around the tree and hop into the ocean on a whim.

Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf is Santa Barbara's top attraction.

What’s cooler than driving on to Stearns Wharf? Biking on to Stearns Wharf, of course. Santa Barbara’s most visited attraction is located at the end of State Street. It was the longest deep-water wharf between San Pedro and San Francisco when it was built in 1872. Visitors can:

  • Visit marine life at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center
  • Have a palm reading at Madame Rosinka
  • Eat ice cream at Great Pacific Ice Cream Shop
  • Shop at Madame Stearns Candy Shop or buy trinkets at the Old Wharf Trading Company
  • Eat seafood (we like Santa Barbara Shellfish Company)
  • Taste wine at the Deep Sea Tasting Room

Near the wharf on the beach is a spot for SUP and kayak rentals. Going here is one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara with kids.

Santa Barbara Harbor

A bit less than a scenic mile from Hotel Indigo is Santa Barbara Harbor, another popular spot for water sports and tours in the ocean (whale watching and Channel Islands tours depart from here). Stop into the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum and bring your appetite for some clam chowder and fresh seafood at Brophy Bros.

Discover Nearby Shopping and Dining

Upon checking into the hotel, I wanted a quick to-go sandwich before heading off to meetings. A staff member at the front desk handed me a Funk Zone map and sent me to Metropulos Fine Foods. This cool gourmet deli and market is a must-visit. Thank goodness for the bike’s basket.

The Funk Zone is a hip, revitalized area that starts about a block away from Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara. It’s full of boutique tasting rooms, cafes, galleries, shops, the Urban Wine Trail and bike racks galore.

One of my favorite stores is The Blue Door, which is three floors of mostly Mid-Century Modern decor.

Discoveries Next Door

Santa Mescal

Adjacent to the hotel lobby is Santa Mescal. It’s a delicious contemporary Mexican restaurant that celebrates Santa Barbara’s rich cultural heritage, which is deeply influenced by Mexican, Spanish and American Indian traditions. This is totally in line with Hotel Indigo’s mantra of showcasing the community of every hotel.

Santo Mescal at Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara is a fantastic modern Mexican restaurant.
Order ceviche at Santo Mescal at Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara.

Order the ceviche. And, while I am primarily a wine drinker, I couldn’t help but admire the various cocktails with edible flower garnishes other people had in-hand at happy hour.

Santo Mescal at Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara has great drinks in its gorgeous bar area.

Moxi Children’s Museum

How lucky to have a brand new children’s museum right next door to the hotel? From hands-on exhibits to rooftop views of the city, the MOXI – The Wolf Museum Of Exploration + Innovation is worth a few hours of your day. It must be one of the best things to do in Santa Barbara with kids.

The Moxi Children's Museum on State Street in Santa Barbara.

Green-Conscious Design Near the Beach

Hotel Indigos tend to be in good locations, yes. They also share eco-conscious design and a love of pets. A bowl of dog treats is perpetually full in the lobby. So is a bowl of taffy that I may or may not have tucked into.

Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara is one block from the beach.

I enjoyed a quick browse through the contemporary art library and satellite exhibits from the MCASB (Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara).

The library inside Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara

The hotel is retrofitted into an older building so the 41 rooms are on the very small but chic side. They also have a grab-and-go drink and snack area, a little rooftop terrace and Aveda bath amenities.

The rooms at Hotel Indigo Santa Barbara.

Discover Southern California

I took the train from San Diego to Santa Barbara. I hopped off and rolled my suitcase a few feet to the hotel. This got me thinking about how easy it is to get a taste of Southern California without a car.

There are Hotel Indigos near train stations in San Diego, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara train station make the beach city a good weekend getaway from San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles.

Catch a Padres game or explore San Diego’s best shops and restaurants in the happening Gaslamp Quarter using Hotel Indigo San Diego-Gaslamp as a base.

This part of downtown San Diego is also close to the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park museums, the Coronado ferry, various San Diego Bay tours and more. The Santa Fe Depot train station is about a mile away.

Depart San Diego for the Anaheim train station. Hop in an Uber to Hotel Indigo Anaheim which is just steps away from the main gate of the Disneyland Resort. Need I say more?

A Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown is within a short Uber ride from Union Station. And, as you may know, DTLA is booming. Discover Little Tokyo, Universal Studios, Hollywood and more.

Then, take a beautiful coastal train ride to Santa Barbara.

You can also check online to find other Hotel Indigo locations worldwide.

Do you have a favorite Hotel Indigo?

Find the best things to do in Santa Barbara within a block away from the beach and how to go carless.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

Explore More in California

Explore More in Santa Barbara

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