There are a lot of ways to find things to do at vacation destinations. You can simply Google “things to do in _________”. You can look at specific travel blogs, like Travel Babbo! You can pick up the local visitor’s guide or go by the tourism office when you arrive and talk with someone. And you can ask the concierge at your hotel. I do all of these. But one of the best ways to get a complete picture of activities is to head to TripAdvisor.
Three years ago I wrote an article for wendyperrin.com on using TripAdvisor to find great things to do. But TripAdvisor has gotten even better over the years. The search feature is easier, there are more things included, and you can now purchase attraction tickets directly on the site. And when I say that the search feature is easier, it’s really easy! Just head to a search like “Santa Barbara TripAdvisor“, click on “Things to do” at the top, enter your destination and click Find Things to Do. From there you can look through different categories and quickly narrow your search, finding parks, cooking classes, landmarks and virtually anything else that previous visitors have enjoyed.
But while I always use TripAdvisor when traveling, I rarely think to use it at home. So TripAdvisor issued me a challenge: book a family-friendly activity locally that I wouldn’t have thought to do myself. Accepted!
Santa Barbara TripAdvisor Booking
My kids and I, using the TripAdvisor app, clicked on Things to Do and selected Santa Barbara – same as on the desktop version. Then under Top Things to Do, we chose See All. After scanning the list, we clicked on Filter and chose to only see Outdoor Activities ranked five stars. Two of the top three option had bookable tours. The top choice had mostly wine tours (not very kid-friendly) and ocean activities, which we do enough of on vacation.
The next bookable option, Cal Coast Adventures, had a beginner mountain bike tour that looked perfect. My 11-year-old had been talking about wanting to try mountain biking, and my 9-year-old and I had just had a great time cycling in the Maldives. Perfect! We were ready for our Santa Barbara TripAdvisor adventure.
A few minutes after exploring Santa Barbara TripAdvisor options we had booked, paid, and even entered our heights and weights so that they could have the correct bikes waiting for us. TripAdvisor emailed me a voucher afterward and we were set.
And if you’re worried about pricing, don’t be. TripAdvisor offers a low price guarantee. The rates you see on the app should always be the same, or less, than booking elsewhere.
Mountain Biking in Santa Barbara
A week later, we drove over to Cal Coast Adventures at 9am and met up with Dino, our guide for our mountain biking in Santa Barbara adventure. He selected bikes for us, got us helmets, packed water and snacks, and we loaded up a car and drove 15 minutes north to Ellwood Mesa. Ellwood is a fairly small area, but it overlooks a gorgeous section of the coast and has excellent trails for people who are learning to mountain bike – some hills, but nothing too severe. Ellwood also has a grove that apparently is teeming with butterflies between November and February.
We rode through and around Ellwood Mesa for a full hour and a half, stopping a few times for water and photos. It was a great morning. My 11-year-old loved the ride and wants to start mountain biking in Santa Barbara (and beyond) regularly. My 9-year-old says he prefers flatter riding (easy in Southern California) and will maybe try mountain biking again in a few years. Fair enough – I’m really glad he tried it though. Next steps: get my daughter a mountain bike, pump up my tires and research places to ride near us. Looks like we’ll be heading out frequently!
I’d highly recommend Cal Coast Adventures. In addition to the mountain bike tours, they offer paddle board and surf lessons, and rent bikes, kayaks and surfboards.
And thank you to TripAdvisor for sponsoring our mountain bike tour. It’s funny – I always tell people that one of the primary reasons we travel is so that our kids can discover their passions. But with a little searching, kids can discover their passions at home too!
Now a challenge for you. Click over to TripAdvisor and look for Things to Do in your town. You don’t need to book anything (although you’re welcome to), but I’ll bet you find something fun and kid-friendly that you weren’t aware of before. And if you are in southern California, I highly recommend using the search terms Santa Barbara TripAdvisor to find family-friendly excursions and activities your kids will love.