With it’s beautiful coastline, perfect mediterranean climate and gleaming white mission style buildings Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, coast city in California. When you throw in great shopping, its many fascinating sights, including the Mission, botanic gardens, a renowned natural history museum and an adorable zoo with ocean views, you’ve pretty much found the perfect place for a relaxing family weekend.
Having visited Santa Barbara many times it wasn’t until our most recent visit that we decided to really explore, previously we’d been more than satisfied with the occasional visit to the zoo, but spent most of our time wandering along the beach paths, playing at the many playgrounds and shopping and eating along State Street.
Santa Barbara is relatively compact and many activities are within easy walking distance of one another, including the zoo! However, the Mission, Natural History Museum and Botanical Gardens are bit further out and require transportation.
Beach Paths and Playgrounds
As I’ve mentioned before I’m a runner and I really enjoy a morning run or walk along the ocean. You never know what you might see… Checkout this amazing sand sculpture I discovered on my run one morning!
My boys really love Santa Barbara’s playgrounds. Many of them have fun statues, like the spouting whale in my photo below, great climbing trees and there is even a beachside carousel!
The Lucky Penny
Of course there are many great places to eat in town, but we really like the Lucky Penny! Not only is the pizza good, but Its fun, casual atmosphere really works for our family, not to mention It also looks really cool! The entire building is covered in US pennies and the effect is pretty neat!
The Lucky Penny is located in the Funk Zone, a very unique area with an eclectic mix of art, dining and industrial all rolled into one. There is shopping, galleries, wine tasting and more! The Zone is located one block off the ocean just south of State Street.
Old Mission Santa Barbara
The Santa Barbara Mission is located within acres of beautiful gardens overlooking the city of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean. The views are spectacular! One of twenty-one California Missions founded by Spanish Franciscans, the Mission is over 200 years old and is still active today. Though guided tours are available we enjoyed exploring the grounds on our own.
There are many things to see, but I was most excited about visiting the final resting place of the heroine from one of my favorite childhood books, the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Her name was Juana Maria, and is known as the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island. She is buried behind the church tower at the Mission.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
A cute little museum that packs a lot of punch! The Santa Barbara Natural History Museum is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year and while it’s not exactly big, it has a lot to offer. I was surprised to learn that 150,000 people visit the Museum every year. We really enjoyed our afternoon here and high recommend a visit if you have time.
Santa Barbara Botanical Garden
We visited the Botanical Gardens on an incredibly hot afternoon, and while we might have been better served by a day at the beach we all really enjoyed our time wandering through the gardens. We came across some wildlife, took advantage of some of the gardens trails and poked around the garden shop.
The Santa Barbara Zoo
Having visited upwards of 25 different zoos over the course of our travels, I feel safe to say that the Santa Barbara Zoo is a pretty darn good one and one of my favorites. It’s an absolutely lovely little zoo with a fabulous ocean view! The gardens are beautiful and finding your way around is relatively easy. There are many unique animals and if you’re interested you can even feed the giraffe! Unfortunately, I don’t have any recent photos of this zoo, but if you’re at all interested in animals then this is the place for you!
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