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 started their careers, including Robin Williams, Kathy Bates, and Zac Effron.
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.
Visiting the area offers something for everyone, including families who may enjoy spending the day at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum or seeing the donkeys at Los Flores Ranch Park.
With something for all ages, these and many more attractions, parks, venues, and restaurants are listed as some of the best things to do in Santa Maria, California.
Whether you are visiting Santa Maria, California, or live nearby, there is something fun and exciting to experience. Check out some of the best things to do in the area. I am sure you will find something to enjoy for yourself!
- Most significant landmark – Santa Maria Inn
- Best park – Waller Park
- Best free activity – Hiking at Los Flores Ranch
- Best activity for kids – Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum
- Best activity for adults – Wine Tasting at Bien Nacido Vineyards
- Best food – Santa Maria BBQ at The Far West Tavern
- Best nightlife – Chido Bar
- Best all-around accommodation – Santa Maria Inn
Best & Fun Things to do in Santa Maria, California
If you are exploring California, make sure to check out Santa Maria, where there are many fun and exciting things to do.
1. Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts
Address: 870 S. Bradley Santa Maria, CA 93454
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.
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. With such a diverse performance schedule, there is something for everyone to enjoy at PCPA.
Plan your visit today to see an upcoming show at the Pacific Conservatory Theatre. Click here to see upcoming performances and to book your tickets.
See Related: Best Things to Do in California
2. Waller County Park
Address: 300 Goodwin Road Santa Maria, CA 93455
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 to do 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 to 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.
Waller County Park is a must for anyone living or visiting the Santa Maria Valley area.
3. North Preisker Ranch Park
Address: 330 Hidden Pines Way Santa Maria, CA 93458
Outdoor enthusiasts looking for a quieter location to explore will find precisely what they are looking for 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 replica of the Santa Maria ship, available for climbing, exploring, and pretending to be out at sea.
Birdwatchers will fall in love with 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 every time 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.
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4. Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum
Address: 705 S. McClelland Street Santa Maria, CA 93454
One of the best things to do with kids in Santa Maria is to spend the day at 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 after 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 more than 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 also hosts theme days, such as Fit Friday, Science Saturday, and Sunday Funday. Plus, some fun and entertaining 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.
5. Los Flores Ranch
Address: 6245 Dominion Road Santa Maria, CA 93454
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 you will see scampering and wandering around the park. It is not uncommon 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 make sure to find time to stop by Los Flores Ranch Park for a day of exploration.
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6. Riverbench Vineyards
Address: 6020 Foxen Canyon Road Santa Maria, CA 93454
Established in 1973, Riverbench Vineyard has become a part of Santa Maria’s history and a must for anyone who loves an 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 the vineyards award-winning wines to taste and purchase to bring home.
Are you wanting more than just stopping at one vineyard during your visit to Santa Maria? Then, check out the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, which includes the Riverbench Vineyard. The vineyards tasting room is a great addition to your getaway, offering delicious wines.
Do not miss out on a fantastic wine tasting experience by making your reservations at Riverbench Winery today.
7. Far Western Tavern
Address: 300 East Clark Avenue Orcutt, CA 93455
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!
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8. Chido Bar
Address: 221 N. Broadway Santa Maria, CA 93454
Cido Bar is set in the heart of Santa Maria, featuring 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 on the 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 do plan to visit Chido Bar, arrive early because, on the weekends, it can get busy.
If you’re still thirsty, you should not miss experiencing the Craft Beer Walking Tour in San Francisco.
9. Santa Maria Historical Society Museum
Address: 616 S. Broadway Santa Maria, CA 93454
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 exploring the area while learning more about the community and its history.
See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in California to Visit
10. Santa Maria Inn
Address: 801 South Broadway Santa Maria, CA 93454
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 couple of blocks from Buena Vista Park, where 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;e looking for cheap hotels to book, use Booking.com or VRBO for rentals.
11. Reuben Hart Residence
Address: 412 S. McClelland Street Santa Maria, CA 93454
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, and many people 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.
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12. Rancho Sisquoc Winery
Address: A6600 Foxen Canyon Road Santa Maria, CA 93454
Rancho Sisquoc Winery is the perfect place to visit when looking 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 Charcuteri, 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 own 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 room are available.
Additionally, 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 for the experience.
For more wine tasting in California, book a Napa and Sonoma Valley Wine Tour.
13. Santa Maria Museum of Flight
Address: 3015 Airpark Drive Santa Maria, CA 93455
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 and 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.
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14. Paul Nelson Aquatics Center
Address: 600 S McClelland St, Santa Maria, CA 93454
Are you looking for a place to cool off when visiting the Santa Maria Valley area?
Or do you want a place where you can continue your swimming workout routine? Check out the Paul Nelson Aquatic Center during your visit.
This aquatic center is home to an Olympic-sized swimming pool and 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
Address: 937 S. Thornburg Street Santa Maria, CA 93458
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 in raining in the area, offering public ice skating, hockey, and roller derby events.
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 make plans early for your ice skating experience by booking your time in advance.
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16. Santa Maria Fairpark
Address: 937 S. Thornburg Street Santa Maria, CA 93458
Santa Maria Fairpark offers visitors to the area access to many festivals, concerts, and events, including the Santa Maria Valley Fair.
Travelers making their way to the area via an RV, can enjoy RV camping at the Santa Maria Fairpark all year long. Check out the venue’s website to see upcoming events and to book your RV camping stay.
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Getting 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 of the 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 in the town. The walking tour is available online from the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society and is ideal for walkers, bikers, and solo travelers.
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 scattered 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.
There is something for everyone, including solo travelers, families, couples, and business travelers, to do when visiting Santa Maria.
Home to many vineyards, travelers can enjoy wine trail events, tasting 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; however, they 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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