16 Fun & Best Things to Do in Santa Maria, California

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Santa Maria Landscape Scenery

Nestled near the Central Coast of California lies Santa Maria, a community known for wine and mouthwatering Santa Maria-style barbecue, a regional culinary tradition.

The community is part of the nation’s largest wine-producing region – Santa Barbara Wine Country – and home to many famous wineries. 

Santa Maria offers locals and visitors access to many cultural venues, including the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, where many notable actors, including Robin Williams, Kathy Bates, and Zac Effron, started their careers. 

Outdoor enthusiasts will love the extensive network of outdoor recreation venues, including large parks. Parks, such as Waller Park and Preisker Park, offer plenty of outdoor space for hiking, biking, picnicking, exploring, and relaxing outside. 

TL;DR 

  • Most significant landmark – Santa Maria Inn
  • Park to visit – Waller Park
  • Free activity – Hiking at Los Flores Ranch
  • Activity for kids – Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum
  • Activity for adults – Wine Tasting at Bien Nacido Vineyards
  • Place to eat – Santa Maria BBQ at The Far West Tavern
  • Nightlife – Chido Bar
  • Place to stay Santa Maria Inn

Things to Do in Santa Maria, California

If you are exploring California, check out Santa Maria, where many fun and exciting things exist. 

1. Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts

Play at Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts
Management / Tripadvsior

Address: 800 S College Dr, Santa Maria, CA 93454, United States

The Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) offers a diverse schedule of unique live performances. The PCPA offers exciting live shows, helps train students in the art of performance through a fully accredited vocational training program, and has an excellent alum list, including Robin Williams, Kathy Bates, and Zac Effron.

PCPA has two show seasons – winter/spring and summer. During the winter/spring performance season, PCPA uses two theaters in the community, the Marian Theatre (440 seats) and Severson Theatre (204 seats).

In the summer, PCPA also performs at the Solvang Festival Theatre (700 seats). Previous shows have included Julius Caesar, Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Little Mermaid, The Addams Family, and Mamma Mia.  A visit to the Pacific Conservatory Theatre is the perfect way to enjoy an evening experiencing the culture of Santa Maria and nearby Solvang.

After spending the day exploring, go out to dinner, watch a performance at one of the PCPA theaters, and then visit a winery to enjoy some wine. Plan your visit today to see an upcoming show at the Pacific Conservatory Theatre. Visit PCPA’s website to see upcoming performances and to book your tickets. 

See Related: Things to Do in California

2. Waller County Park

Lake in Waller Park
image by johnmodesto/Tripdvisor

Address: 3107 Orcutt Rd, Orcutt, CA 93455, United States

Santa Maria is home to Waller County Park, where outdoor enthusiasts have plenty of wooded areas, a pond full of ducts, a fountain, a dog park, playgrounds, and many places to explore. The park has many hiking and biking trails and fun things to do.

Playing at the Frisbee golf course is one of the most popular fun things at Waller County Park, and many visitors enjoy bird watching.

One of the park’s gestures is Ross’ Goose, the resident Cackling Goose, and many Western Bluebirds, Warblers, and White Crowned Sparrows fly around the park and along hiking trails.

This picture-perfect park offers beautiful places to enjoy a picnic, stroll, watch the clouds pass by, and more. Don’t forget to bring your camera because Waller Park is a great place to take family photos, capture images of native birds, and capture exciting moments. 

This park has it all and is within walking distance of the local airport and neighborhood YMCA, offering easy access to the many family-friendly activities.

Waller County Park is the best park in the area and one of the best free things to do in Santa Maria.

See Related: Things To Do in Ontario, California

3. North Preisker Ranch Park

Address: Boxcar Pl, Santa Maria, CA 93458, United States

Outdoor enthusiasts looking for a quieter location will find precisely what they want at North Preisker Ranch Park. This park is nestled in a residential community offering picnic areas, play areas, railroad-themed children’s play areas, open grassy areas, barbecue pits, and tennis and basketball courts.

Those looking for a friendly competition will enjoy the horseshoe pits, bocce ball court, and disc golf course. One of the best things about this park is that it offers all-inclusive play areas with easy access for children of all mobility levels. Kids love the Santa Maria ship replica, which is available for climbing, exploring, and pretending to be out at sea. 

Birdwatchers will love this park, known for its Nesting Lawrence’s Goldfinch population. The wide open green spaces allow you to enjoy the sun, and North Preisker Ranch Park will be a location you visit whenever you are in Santa Maria. 

North Preisker Ranch Park is a serene place to visit in Santa Maria and is open late, so you can swing by later in the day after exploring the many other attractions in town. 

Need a place to stay after exploring and playing at North Preisker Park? Try booking a stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites Santa Maria.

See Related: Things to Do in Palm Desert, California

4. Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum

Games in Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 705 S McClelland St, Santa Maria, CA 93454, United States

One of the best things to do with kids in Santa Maria is to spend the day at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum. This Santa Maria museum strives to boost the imagination of its young visitors, and with so many unique, inspiring, and interactive exhibits, they have accomplished that and more.

The best thing about this museum is that there is no chasing the kids around, telling them to keep their hands to themselves, and risking running out of energy to keep chasing them. Instead, let the kids go, play, and be kids in this “please touch” atmosphere. 

Since 1996, the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum has provided unique exhibits perfect for imagination and learning. The museum has over 25 exhibit areas, featuring displays such as Discovery Reading Tree, Catching Air, Moxie Cafe, and Recycling is Fun. Other popular exhibits at this location include Maker Lab, Creation Station, Vandenberg Launch Experience, Discovery Farms Produce Truck, and Sunken Ships. 

The Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum hosts theme days like Fit Friday, Science Saturday, and Sunday Funday. Plus, some fun programs are offered most days of the week that will add to the experience for your little ones. Looking for a side trip? See the beauty of San Francisco nightlife on a Big Bus San Francisco Night Tour.

See Related: Where to Stay in Santa Barbara

5. Los Flores Ranch 

Los Flores Ranch Overview
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 6245 Dominion Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93454, United States

Los Flores Ranch Park is nestled on the rolling hills south of Santa Maria, offering acres for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. This park is perfect for those looking to spread out and escape from the traditional touristy-type attractions of the area.

This park is an outdoor oasis, perfect for anyone who loves being one with nature, and offers many opportunities to lose track of time. 

The best thing about this park is the diverse wildlife scampering and wandering around the park. It is common to see grosbeaks, warblers, and kingbirds flying around. Additionally, there are opportunities to take photos with the park’s resident donkeys and goats. 

If you love the great outdoors and will be visiting Santa Maria, find time to stop by Los Flores Ranch Park for a day of exploration. 

See Related: Family-Friendly Spring Break Ideas

6. Riverbench Vineyards

Riverbench Vineyards Interior
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 6020 Foxen Canyon Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93454, United States

Established in 1973, Riverbench Vineyard has become a part of Santa Maria’s history and a must for anyone who loves old-fashioned wine tasting. For decades, the winery has become known for its exclusive wines, including many with limited quantities. 

Nestled on the banks of the Sisquoc River along the southeastern edge of Santa Maria Valley, Riverbench Vineyard has 115 acres of Pinot Noir and 15 acres of Chardonnay.

With decades of experience, this vineyard knows how to excel in the winery business. Their vibrant wines are delicately crafted to be flavorful and a must-try for any wine enthusiast visiting the area.

With many other wineries in the area, no one winery matches the quality of wine and service as Riverbench Vineyard has mastered. Riverbench Vineyard is one of the top five California vineyards in Santa Barbara County.

The friendly tasting room offers award-winning vineyard wines to taste and purchase to bring home. Do you want more than just stopping at one vineyard while visiting Santa Maria? Then, check out the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, which includes the Riverbench Vineyard. 

The vineyard tasting room is a great addition to your getaway, offering delicious wines. Do not miss out on a fantastic wine-tasting experience by making reservations at Riverbench Winery today.

See Related: NorCal vs SoCal

7. Far Western Tavern

Far Western Tavern Building
image by Rumples/TripAdvisor

Address: 300 E Clark Ave, Orcutt, CA 93455, United States

Voted the Best Steakhouse and one of the best places in Santa Maria to go for authentic, mouthwatering Santa Maria-style BBQ, the Far Western Tavern offers California ranch cuisine inspired by local traditions. Far Western Tavern has become a recognized landmark in Santa Maria and a beloved part of the community. 

If you want to try out some authentic Santa Maria-style BBQ, this is the best place in town, and no one should drive through the area without stopping here. The restaurant uses traditional recipes, local wines, and locally sourced ingredients, contributing to the fresh taste and authentic menu. 

Dining at Far Western Tavern is a lifestyle experience provided by local ranchers helping support the local ranching community. Do not miss the opportunity to enjoy the signature flavors of the valley area. 

Serving up some of the area’s finest Santa Maria Style BBQ, you do not want to miss out on dining at Far Western Tavern. Call today to make your reservations!

See Related: Most Beautiful Vacations in the US

8. Chido Bar

Chido Bar Drinks
image by Chido Bar/Facebook

Address: 221 N Broadway, Santa Maria, CA 93454, United States

Cido Bar is set in the heart of Santa Maria and features one of the most extensive selections of signature cocktails and beers. Founded in 2016, this friendly bar is one of the best late-night hotspots for drinks and gathering with friends.

If you are looking for a place to leave your cares behind, dance music will take your mind off everything that worries you. 

Though the bar gets busy, it is a cozy atmosphere, with fabulous service and a spectacular, professional staff. Plus, if it gets too hot inside, there is a patio out back where food is served on the weekend with live music.

Chido Bar has a unique Day of the Dead theme that is a must-experience for anyone who loves going out for an evening of carefree fun and excitement.

Since there are a handful of bars in the area, if you plan to visit Chido Bar, arrive early because it can get busy on the weekends. If you’re still thirsty, you should not miss experiencing the Craft Beer Walking Tour in San Francisco.

9. Santa Maria Historical Society Museum

Santa Maria Historical Society Museum Exhibit
image by Bridgetpianos/TripAdvisor

Address: 616 S Broadway, Santa Maria, CA 93454, United States

Opened to the public on January 20, 1974, the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum opened and was dedicated to the Pioneers of the Valley. This museum preserves and displays the history and nostalgia of Santa Maria, including displays featuring artifacts, pictures, and other memorabilia.

Exhibits showcase the chronological progress of the region, beginning with the Chumash Indian culture and progressing through the Mission, Rancho, and Pioneer Periods. Popular exhibits on display preserving history for present and future generations at the museum include Four Men, Old Maude and the Oil Boom, Ranchos, and Capt. G. Allan Hancock. 

Visiting the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society Museum is the perfect break from a busy day. Explore the area while learning more about the community and its history.

See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in California to Visit

10. Santa Maria Inn

Room in Santa Maria Inn
image by Hotels.com

Address: 801 S Broadway, Santa Maria, CA 93454, United States

The Santa Maria Inn has been a central coast landmark hotel since 1917 and one of the best places to stay when visiting Santa Maria, California. From the moment you step into the Inn, you are surrounded by an oasis of luxury, tranquility, palm trees, and refreshing fountains.

A place to visit while on an audio tour drive between LA and Santa Maria. The Inn offers various guest rooms and luxury suites, offering plenty of space to spread out and enjoy your stay. 

The on-site restaurant, the Century Room, offers a romantic setting with a crackling fire, perfect for a date night or a relaxing meal. Nestled in wine country, the Wine Cellar and Martini Bar serve local wines everyone loves. 

The best thing about Santa Maria Inn is the fragrant, lush rose gardens and unique places to explore and relax. Plus, the Inn is only a few blocks from Buena Vista Park, with many beautiful open spaces and plenty of places to relax. In addition, the Inn is pet-friendly and one of the many unique places to visit in Santa Maria.

Complete your visit to Santa Maria by booking your stay at Santa Maria Inn! If you’re looking for cheap hotels to book, use Booking.com or VRBO for rentals.

11. Reuben Hart Residence

Reuben Hart Residence
image by Bridgetpianos/TripAdvisor

Address: 616 S. Broadway; Santa MariaCA 93454-5111

Built-in 1877, the Reuben Hart Home is a historic landmark in Santa Maria and is believed to be the oldest existing home in the area.

The house has been moved twice since it was initially situated on the corner of Broadway and Church Street. Reuben Hart owned the town’s hotel; many call him the Father of Santa Maria. 

The home looks simple on the outside, but it is a beautifully preserved structure, which is the home of the Natural History Museum. The Natural History Museum is another one of the Santa Maria tourist attractions worth visiting while in town. 

The Reuben Hart Home is a landmark within walking distance of many other landmarks in the area. This home, along with other occasions, such as the Original Masonic Cornerstone of Carnegie Library and The Santa Maria Valley World War II Memorial, is all places to visit in Santa Maria, including in the walking tour available through the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society. 

It may not look like much; however, the Reuben Hart Home is worth the quick visit to see a significant part of Santa Maria’s history.  

See Related: Things to Do in Venice Beach, California

12. Rancho Sisquoc Winery

Rancho Sisquoc Winery Entrance
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 6600 Foxen Canyon Rd, Santa Maria, CA 93454, United States

Rancho Sisquoc Winery is the perfect place for a serene atmosphere with rolling hills, lush pastures, and picturesque views of the area. The friendly staff loves to chat about wine and share their knowledge with everyone visiting. 

Make plans to visit Rancho Sisquoc Winery for lunch. You can bring your picnic or enjoy one of the gourmet snack baskets available. Picnicking is the perfect way to experience everything this vineyard has to offer, including several tastings of wine.

When enjoying wine at Rancho Sisquoc Winery, add some great food from 805 Charcuterie, including gourmet cheeses.

Wine-tasting participants can enjoy samples of wines available at the winery, which come with a commemorative wine glass. The vineyard’s wines are also available to purchase and take home with you at the end of your visit to the Santa Maria area.

If you want to experience some of the best wine in the area, do not drive past Rancho Sisquoc Winery. This vineyard is a must-experience for wine lovers and travelers looking for a tranquil place to relax.

Book your table wine-tasting experience at Rancho Sisquoc Winery today. Private events and tasting rooms are available. Rancho Sisquoc Winery is part of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, offering annual wine-tasting passport adventures. It is always best to buy two annual wine passports and bring a friend with you for the experience.

See Related: Things to Do in Napa Valley

13. Santa Maria Museum of Flight

Plane in Santa Maria Museum of Flight
Management / TripAdvisor

Address: 3015 Airpark Dr, Santa Maria, CA 93455, United States

The Santa Maria Museum of Flight is a unique museum dedicated to preserving and displaying documents, artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia on the area’s aerospace and aeronautical industry. The museum is perfect for all ages and a popular attraction for families visiting the area. 

The Santa Maria Museum of Flight hosts events throughout the year, including the Thunder Over the Valley Air Show, a must-experience event dedicated to supporting Santa Maria area veterans and honoring fallen warriors. 

Since 1984, The Santa Maria Museum of Flight has welcomed visitors to explore and experience this popular attraction in person. This is a must for anyone wanting something unique to experience during their visit to the area. 

This Santa Maria museum also offers private rooms for parties and events and lots of fun things to do with the rental of an entire room. Call the museum today to learn more about visiting and how to host your next event.

See Related: Tropical Vacation Ideas

14. Paul Nelson Aquatics Center

Large pool at Paul Nelson Aquatics Center
Paul Nelson Aquatics Center / cityofsantamaria.org

Address: 600 S McClelland St, Santa Maria, CA 93454, United States

Are you looking for a place to cool off when visiting the Santa Maria Valley area? Or do you want a place to continue your swimming workout routine? Check out the Paul Nelson Aquatic Center during your visit.

This aquatic center has an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a zero-depth entry recreational pool. The Paul Nelson Aquatic Center has something to offer everyone of all swimming skill levels. Those who love swimming will want to experience everything this aquatic center has to offer.

15. Central Coast Sports Arena

Players in Central Coast Sports Arena
image by Central Coast Sports Arena/Facebook

Address: 937 S Thornburg St, Santa Maria, CA 93458, United States

Visiting the Santa Maria Valley area does not have to go to waste when it is raining, or the weather is less than perfect. The Central Coast Sports Arena is the perfect place to visit when it is raining in the area, offering public ice skating, hockey, and roller derby events.

The best thing about the Central Coast Sports Arena is that it may offer ice skating opportunities, but you do not need a scarf or mittens to enjoy.

Though this venue is great for rainy days, you can plan early for your ice skating experience by booking your time.

Travel to Santa Maria with protection to ensure your safety. VisitorsCoverage travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, with coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more.

See Related: Things to Do in Los Angeles, California

16. Santa Maria Fairpark

Walking Trail in Santa Maria Fairpark
Image by 2Retires/TripAdvisor

Address: 937 S Thornburg St, Santa Maria, CA 93458, United States

Santa Maria Fairpark offers visitors access to many festivals, concerts, and events, including the Santa Maria Valley Fair.

Travelers going to the area via an RV can enjoy RV camping at the Santa Maria Fairpark all year. Check out the venue’s website to see upcoming events and to book your RV camping stay.

See Related: Best Waterfalls in California

How to Get Around Santa Maria

Santa Maria is set along California’s Central Coast, about three and one-half hours from Los Angeles and four hours south of the Bay Area. By car, you can reach Santa Maria by driving along Highway 101, Highway 1, and Highway 166.

Those wishing to fly into the area can book a flight on Allegiant Airlines, which flies into Santa Maria Airport (SMX). If needed, rental cars are available from Enterprise, Hertz, and Budget, allowing you to travel and explore Santa Maria on your own time without the limits of bus schedules or waiting for alternative transportation. 

Santa Maria offers public transportation, allowing visitors to get around town without needing a rental car. The Santa Maria Regional Transit has stops throughout town, including some must-see landmarks and attractions. Public transportation is the perfect option for large groups and families, with some who cannot do the walking tours. 

The Walking Tour of Downtown Santa Maria is the perfect way to see multiple historic sites and must-see attractions. The walking tour is available online from the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society and is ideal for walkers, bikers, and solo travelers

Places to Stay in Santa Maria

1. Hampton Inn & Suites Santa Maria Top Recommendation

Hampton Inn & Suites Santa Maria is a modern hotel, offering great accommodation at surprisingly affordable rates. Guests are welcomed in the lobby which has a 24-hour reception and check-out service. Those arriving with their own vehicles can leave them in the car park of this air-conditioned establishment.

2. Best Western Plus Big America

Located 32.2 km from Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in Santa Maria, this California hotel offers on-site dining. The comfortably furnished accommodations include free WiFi. A free continental breakfast is also included. All rooms at the Best Western Plus Big America feature a flat-screen TV with extended cable.

3. Radisson Hotel Santa Maria

The Radisson Hotel Santa Maria is conveniently located near the city center and offers a range of modern amenities. Each guestroom features a 37-inch flat-screen TV with cable, tea and coffee making facilities and a fridge. A balcony is featured in all rooms at this California hotel. Guests can relax by the heated outdoor pool or hot tub. Free Wi-Fi access is offered to guests at the Santa Maria Radisson Hotel as well as free parking.

FAQ

What is the best thing to do with kids in Santa Maria?

Santa Maria is home to many beautiful parks, perfect for families to take a picnic and enjoy being outside together and making memories.

However, kids love visiting the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum, where kids can be kids, playing, laughing, and learning. Plus, the Santa Maria Museum of Flight is another family favorite.

What is Santa Maria, California, known for?

Santa Maria, along California’s Central Coast, is best known for its historic vineyards throughout the Valley Region. These vineyards offer wine tastings and tours, showcasing how the local wineries have shaped the city into what it is today. 

Is Santa Maria, California, worth visiting?

Santa Maria may feel like there is not much to do in the area, but the community is home to many historical locations, family-friendly parks, and unique things to do.

Santa Maria is worth the visit, especially for those wanting a quiet getaway in a town with things to do you may be unable to find anywhere else. 

What to do in Santa Maria, California?

Santa Maria offers many opportunities for visitors to explore the great outdoors, enjoy wine tastings, learn about local history, and have fun with the family. Home to many vineyards, travelers can enjoy wine trail events and taste various wines, including dessert wines, world-class wines, spicy merlot, spicy pinot gris, fruity pinot noirs, and more.

Do I have to rent a car when visiting Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County? 

Rental cars are available through Enterprise, Hertz, and Budget but are unnecessary. The Santa Maria Regional Transit offers public transportation throughout the city, and many of the things to do in Santa Maria, California, including attractions, historical sites, landmarks, and must-see attractions are within walking distance of one another. Walking tour information is available at the Visitor Center for the Santa Maria Historical Society.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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