8 Activities for Every Gaucho To Do Before Graduation

By Ector Flores-Garcia & Ryan Sewell

Through writing this article, we have realized that this can be framed as a senior bucket list or something that every Gaucho should do before they graduate. We’re leaning more towards the latter because we don’t recommend students save these activities for their senior year. Unfortunately, we saved most of these activities for our senior year and lost the opportunity to get involved in much of it due to COVID-19. This list is not in any particular order so feel free to tackle anything you read about today!

  1. The “Blue-Green rivalry” game.

The UCSB vs. Cal Poly SLO rivalry game happens in the Fall of every year and is one of the highest attendance games during the pre-season. This is something for people who miss the high school football game environment. You know– the packed bleachers, the chants, the stomps, and the pride of being a Gaucho versus being a Mustang. Although it’s technically not allowed anymore, tortillas are thrown on the field at this event. Don’t miss out on Gaucho tradition. Not encouraging you to sneak tortillas in to throw onto the field but I guarantee you will experience it at this game. Bring a jacket because it gets very cold and the fun doesn’t end there. This game is also a kickoff for weekend festivities in Isla Vista. Experience nightlife in Isla Vista rings locals and out of-towners to the little town that we call IV.

Siavash Ghadiri / The Daily Nexus

  1. Labyrinth Trail

The Labyrinth Trail is a place you go to find a quiet place on campus. Find your inner peace during a six-tenths of a mile walk near the beach. The trail was designed as a place for students to escape the buzz of a busy campus.

Via the UCSB current – UC Santa Barbara

The Labyrinth Trail is free and open to the public. Access to lagoon island is via a path southeast of Manzanita Village, which is located on the southwest portion of the campus.

  1. Campus Point Touch tanks

The touch tanks at Campus Point, otherwise known as “the Research Experience & Education Facility (REEF), is UCSB’s teaching aquarium. Learn about the diversity of marine life then head to the beach for an educational yet fun experience. You’ll gain an appreciation for our local ocean environment after a quick stop.

Via the UCSB current – UC Santa Barbara


Currently closed for in-person visits due to COVID-19.

However, virtual tours are offered via the Live VirtualREEF program. In addition, the REEF has Live Remote Open Door Webinars on Fridays from 4-5pm, and Saturdays from 11am to Noon! Go to VirtualREEF.

The REEF is normally open to the public every Friday/Saturday (except for major holidays) and is always FREE of charge.

  1. Isla Vista Food Runs: Freebirds, Buddha Bowls, Hana Kitchen, etc

Isla Vista is known for being one of a kind, and the food offerings are no different. Some places are important to try once, and others will likely be your Saturday at midnight regular. Coming from out of town, as most students do, it will be refreshing to not see chain restaurants everywhere. Of course, there are a few classics such as Starbucks and the Habit, but good burgers and good coffee make it hard to go wrong. The special part of these restaurants lie in the taste and the experience, rather than the beauty, as most students and alumni will tell you. As we go down the list, we will address the food itself, when to go, and why it is special. Go early on in your college life to get to know what you like! Here are the most essential food runs in Isla Vista:

  1. Freebirds

Coming in first is the ever popular burrito joint, known as Freebirds. Freebirds embodies Isla Vista- different and open all the time. They serve delicious Mexican food that tastes extraordinary and worth the line you will likely have waited in. Students dub Freebirds as the “authentic Chipotle,” because it is customizable and on a line and tastes like more traditional Mexican food. If you are looking to just give it a try, go for lunch. The crowds start lining up around dinner and remain until closing at 2am. When you realize how tasty it is, you will likely end up in the line late at night with some friends anyway.

Best dish: Monster Quesarito (not on the menu, but the employees will know)

  1. Buddha Bowls

Original to only Isla Vista, Buddha Bowls is a spiritual journey through the land of bread bowls, and it is quite the experience. Buddha Bowls offers delicious bread bowls of all kinds. Customers can choose the type of bread they want for their bowl, and have a range of choices for what they want inside. Their hours run on a much more normal hourly basis than Freebirds, with dinner having peak crowds. Any time you go will be great. Most students rate Buddha Bowls as one of the top spots, but it is not frequented as often due to the nature of the food being so heavy. However, becoming a regular has its perks, as they offer stamp cards that give you a free bowl after a few purchases.

Best dish: Macaroni bowl (customized your way)

  1. Hana Kitchen

For health nuts and foodies alike, Hana Kitchen is the place to go. A simple menu offers chicken or beef bowls, with rice and veggies. If you’re feeling adventurous, they also offer boba in slushes or teas. Hana offers generous portions with fair prices. It is definitely one of the healthier meals in Isla Vista, but do not be fooled, the taste is not compromised. Hana Kitchen is busy throughout the day, and any time you go could present a line. Being in the heart of Pardall street in the middle of Isla Vista, Hana Kitchen offers a social scene to go with your meal. Whether it is once in a while or you become a regular, Hana Kitchen will not disappoint.

Best dish: Regular Chicken Bowl (get some spicy mayo on the side)

Honorable mentions: Deja Vu, Blenders, and Rockfire

  1. Downtown Thursday

Thursday nights are the start of the weekend for most of the inhabitants of Isla Vista, as Friday classes are sparse at UC Santa Barbara. For upperclassmen, this means getting on a bus to go downtown and experience the nightlife of State Street. Over time, this has become a tradition for students when they turn 21 and are finally allowed to go to bars. The social scene on the way to downtown and upon arrival is unmatched, and it is an amazing way to meet people the same age. One of the biggest draws to the bus is that it offers a nightlife scene outside of Isla Vista, and is a way to move on to more sophisticated nightlife scenes.

There are a number of places to explore in downtown Santa Barbara, all offering different types of social settings. Some places are geared more towards sit-down, like Baja Sharkeez. Some are more bar-oriented, like EOS. Some offer both, like Sandbar. No matter which one you choose on a Thursday night, you are bound to find some other students. Obviously, this experience is geared for older students so it is one of the few items on this list that can wait until your later years. The downtown experience is one of a kind, and the bus makes it easier for that to happen.

The service is run by a company called Bill’s Bus. They leave Isla Vista at different times and return at different times during the night. As of June 2021, Bill’s Bus is back in operation as the COVID-19 pandemic slowly recedes in severity. It is a reliable service that has been running for almost 30 years. Taking the bus is a much safer alternative to relying on a designated driver or an Uber, and proves to be a much more fun experience. Check out their website for departure times and pick-up locations.

  1. Explore Student Life

Becoming involved in student life at UC Santa Barbara should be a priority upon starting out as a student here. Many students explain that some of their most rewarding experiences over their time at the school have been through student organizations and the friendships they have made in them. Although student organizations are not the only way to an amazing four years, they are definitely one of the most popular ways.

  • Clubs
  • Clubs at UCSB are so abundant that it can actually be quite overwhelming at first. Attending club rush events at the beginning of fall quarter will help you become accustomed to what the school has to offer. There is pretty much something for everyone, meaning clubs are a great place to find like minded people. For a list of all organizations, visit the OSL website. Some of the most interesting clubs include coding, fencing, ultimate frisbee, and the amateur radio club.
  • Greek Life
  • There are many offerings with greek life at UCSB, which is include social and professional opportunities. Socially, UCSB has 9 fraternities and 9 sororities. Many students find their place among greek life, and make lifelong friends. These organizations offer benefits including community service, large alumni networks, study resources, and social life. Professionally, there are many more opportunities. There are 12 professional greek organizations on campus, with most of them being co-ed fraternities. They specialize in the medical field, law, and more.

Via Associated Students

  1. Department of Recreation (insider secrets)

Most people associate the Department of Recreation as the campus gym and pool but it’s much more than that! Ryan and I have worked at the Department of Recreation for a couple of years now so we’ll let you in on some secrets! Occasionally, the Department of Recreation will offer unique experiences like:

  1. BattleShip Canoe at the REC CEN POOL!

When will you ever see a canoe in the campus pool again? Grab your friends, grab your buckets and aboard your very own canoe. Paddles are not distributed to encourage close combat. Teams will fill their bucket with water and toss it towards enemy canoes. Blind your enemy or fill their canoe with water to gain the advantage, but watch out! It’s not as easy as it looks. If you put too much effort into throwing twater, you could tip your canoe and lose the game. Spectators can also participate in this game. Buckets are provided for spectators to ensure their team is the last one standing.

  1. Log rolling

During special occasions, our aquatics department will bring out a log replica made of foam and plastic. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to log roll, this is your chance to practice with your very own lifeguards just in case you wipe out! Once you’re feeling confident in your abilities, ask one of the staff members to record your time and compete for a Department of Recreation record. No prizes given but you do get bragging rights!

  1. Archery tag

Brought to you by Adventure Programs (AP), archery tag is the ultimate test of accuracy. Students will receive a bow and a set of arrows with instructions to eliminate the enemy team. Don’t worry! AP uses foam tipped arrows and facemasks for your protection. If you are having trouble picturing this activity, think paintball and laser tag meets archery! This is a fast paced game that is easy to learn, super fun to play, and is done by all ages. Be warned, it is not as easy as it looks!

  1. A wine-tasting class (if you’re over 21)

Before the pandemic, UCSB offered a wine-tasting class for students, staff, faculty and the community. The class was extremely limited and very popular. In this course, students are exposed to a wide range of wines (dry, medium dry, fruity wines and ports). By the end of the course, students will learn how to taste and enjoy wine.

Be sure to bring your own wine glass to class. Students are encouraged to bring along palette cleansers or pairing such as crackers, bread, cheese, chocolate to make the class more fun!

UCSB Student Price: $70 / Staff & Faculty: $74 / Community: $74

Check out the Department of Recreation website for more information on how to get involved in any of the activities listed above.

  1. Visit the Bren Hall Bathroom

Photo credit: localwiki.org/islavista

Often referred to as “UCSB’s secret bathroom”, this bathroom provides a stunning view of the Santa Barbara coastline. There is truly no other bathroom like it. I will not disclose the specific location of this bathroom but encourage you all to try and locate this hidden gem. Good luck with your search students! Part of the fun is entering multiple bathrooms on multiple floors trying to find a bathroom through pictures. There is an article dedicated to the different bathrooms available at UCSB. For more information, check out: https://www.u-see.org/blog.

Extra Credit:

Disclaimer: The items on the list are based on what seniors had on their bucket list. As you spend more time at UCSB you’ll realize there are more extracurricular activities Santa Barbara has to offer. Here’s two of those said activities that we sought to explain for students.

  1. Landshark

What is a “Land Shark” you may ask? Well to put it modestly, it’s a boat with wheels designed for both land and sea cruising. Experience the historic landmarks and attractions in Santa Barbara for the first portion of the tour. Then for the second portion of the tour, ride into the beautiful waves of Santa Barbara beaches. Head straight into the harbor and ride the Santa Barbara coastline! The Land Shark is available for public tours and private charters. We recommend renting a Land Shark for you and your friends (fits up to 46 passengers!). It is also a unique way to celebrate a birthday or any special event.

Bonus Points! Grab your friends and rent a party bus to pick you up at the UCSB bus loop.

  1. Goleta Beach Pier

Goleta Beach Park has a little bit of everything for everyone! It is the perfect place for a celebration or work event. The beach is packed with amenities: it has your standard BBQ grills, a grass park, horseshoes, picnic tables, restrooms and volleyball courts. The beach is bike friendly and just a short walk from campus (perfect for students who live on campus). It’s a top spot for graduation pictures because of its ability to provide multiple backgrounds, including Henley Gate. It is one of the many beaches located next to the University of California Santa Barbara. So, why is Goleta Beach among one of the top recommendations amongst seniors? Well for starters, it’s the closest beach with access to a pier. Students will jump off the pier to commemorate the completion of their bachelor’s degrees.

Photo via instagram @santiagosgallery

Although it is not common, it’s still an item at the top of many senior’s bucket lists. Only a select few dare attempt this stunt, let alone capture it. I personally do not recommend you go out of your way to jump off the pier because it is illegal and extremely dangerous. Lifeguards and park rangers will leave their post to confront and fine you. Don’t feel pressured to add this to your bucket list. This is by no means a norm. Just be aware that this happens at UCSB and is popular among graduating seniors.

In Conclusion

Every inhabitant of Isla Vista has a story to tell and an experience to share. Experiences over the four years of college are different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to spend your time in Isla Vista. The list is made up of activities that the perceived majority of students know and love. There are probably some great experiences that you will have that will not even show up on this list. Your time in this amazing place is short and sweet, so cherish every moment that you are given. College may be hard at first, and the social scene is much different than the high school years. If you ever find yourself at a loss of what to do, check out this list again. There is surely something on here to get you kickstarted.

Scroll to Top