Santa Barbara Highlights

Individuals, families and groups find a diversity of things to do in Santa Barbara. From miles of pristine beach to explore, Channel Island National Park, nightlife, quality restaurants, as well as museums and other historical sites.

Santa Barbara has a little bit of everything for everyone. Some of the highlights include:

Santa Barbara Mission

$5/$5/$1/free for adults/senior/youth/and under 5
“The Queen of Missions”, Santa Barbara Mission is a beautifully preserved, functioning church located up Mission Street about 20 min drive from Santa Barbara. It has a museum that features the history of the mission and the native Americans involvement in the origin and the building of the mission, a cemetery, and a rose garden. The interior of the church is barely changed since its rebuilding in 1800′s. A must-see for its art pieces and architecture.

Carriage and Western Art Museum of Santa Barbara

FREE, donations accepted
The history of horseback and horse-drawn travel is made real here, down to the rustic scent of saddle leather. The museum has amassed one of the country’s widest varieties of vintage wheeled vehicles: carriages, an Army wagon, a circus wagon, a mud wagon and more. Its collection of saddles includes those once ridden by Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Will Rogers and TV’s “Cisco Kid.” A special emphasis is on western studies for children.

Casa De La Guerra, Santa Barbara, CA

Casa de la Guerra

$5 adults, $4 seniors; free for children 16 and under — weekends only
Locals originally called it the “casa grande” (“big house”). The 13-room Casa de la Guerra, completed in 1827, for 30 years was the home of the commandant of the Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara, a Spanish military installation. Now a house museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is a significant landmark of the region’s Spanish-Mexican period. Since 1857, when it was badly damaged in an earthquake, it has undergone periodic renovations. It presently is being restored to its mid-19th-Century appearance.

Santa Barbara County Historic Courthouse

Those interested in the history of Santa Barbara County will be absorbed at the 1929 courthouse. Visitors regularly include guests from other states and foreign countries. The four-building complex features an historic Jail Wing (no longer used for incarceration). The courthouse, a popular wedding location, is noted for its architecture, mural room, garden and grounds. Visitors may enter at no cost; docent-led tours, Monday-Saturday at 2 p.m., also are free.

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Admission is free; donations are accepted
The Santa Barbara Historical Society oversees this museum, known for its research and educational importance. A permanent exhibit, “The Story of Santa Barbara,” chronicles the area from modern times to the era of the Chumash, a prosperous pre-Spanish coastal people. The museum also displays changing exhibits and houses an extensive library. Its oral history project has recorded more than 500 interviews.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

$9 for adults; $6 for seniors, students with IDs and children 6-17; free for children under 6
Housed originally in an historic Post Office building, the museum since 1941 has acquired a collection of 27,000 art works and a library of 50,000 books. Besides a schedule of internationally renowned revolving exhibits, it showcases permanent paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, sculptures, glass and gem works, and textile art. International treasures include Asian, European and American works spanning two centuries.

santa barbara museum of natural history

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

$8 for adults, $7 for seniors and teens 13-17, $5 for children 2-12; free for children under 2
The Museum of Natural History maintains exhibit halls dedicated to mammals, marine life, birds, insects, fossils and Native American culture. A planetarium and nature trail are on the premises. The Maximus Art Gallery links nature and history through the arts. A natural history library contains special resources for children. The museum also operates the Ty Warner Sea Center, devoted to southern California ocean life.

santa barbara zoo

Santa Barbara Zoo

$10-12, according to age; children under 2 free; $5 to park.
More than 700 exotic and domestic animals reside here. Visitors enjoy feeding sheep in the Barnyard; giraffe feeding may be available, depending on the animals’ behavior and feeding schedules. Children thrill to ride hand-carved animals on the Carousel and romp about an animal-themed play area. A “must” activity is a ride around the perimeter on one of the C.P. Huntington Zoo Trains (additional fee). The complex encompasses the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens.

Go wine tasting

Santa Barbara and the surrounding area produce some of the best wines in the country. There are a lot of vineyards in Lompoc, Santa Ynez and Foxex Canyon that you can visit that offer tasting rooms. Some actually have tasting rooms right in downtown Santa Barbara itself. See the following article for a list of tasting rooms in Santa Barbara.

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