Santa Barbara > Activities > Family Fun > Museums & Attractions

There is so much to see and do in this town.  Here is a brief description of our favorites for families.

The Courthouse
This quintessential icon of Santa Barbara is a great place to start any tour.  Not only is it a beautiful building, but you can see all of Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands, and the Santa Ynez Mountains in a sweeping 360 view. It's lovely and not so high up that it's scary - perfect for kids!

El Presidio
This is a very interesting compound that is a working archeological dig.  Although it would be better for older children, the 'slice of life' is fascinating and the docents share their passion quite well.

Goleta Rail Museum
This is an interesting museum that sheds light onto our early frontier history.  It features a miniature train that you can actually ride and a real antique caboose. The irony is the railway museum depot is more elaborate than the existing railway station by the airport!  This is a good place to take younger children.

Mission Santa Barbara
Right behind the Courthouse, the Mission is the next must see.  The tour is fascinating and the church itself is beautiful.  There is a cemetery in the back that has some wonderful crypts, as well. 

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
This is a wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon.  The views are fabulous, the walk is rather easy and there is an education center. On weekends the docents put together special events.

Santa Barbara Historical Museum
This museum has a nice mixture of indoor and outdoor, education and entertainment.  It's an easy walk from El Presidio and centrally located to downtown.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
This small museum is packed with "real stuff" that kids love.  It is located in the harbor, so you have the added benefit of "real boats" and a great view of the water and the mountains.  It's one of those hidden Santa Barbara treasures that is easy to overlook but it would be a real shame to miss.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
On weekends there are usually special talks and tours for families.  The museum is small enough not to overwhelm youngsters and large enough to keep adults engaged.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
One of the best museums in town for families not just because it's interesting - because it is that - but because they have lots of events such as live animal exhibits, storytellers, and the astronomical unit.  They do a good job of integrating Chumash history into their events, as well.

The Zoological Gardens this is a must see.  This zoo is consistantly ranked as one of the best small zoos in the country.  It has a park setting with a large central lawn for picnics and playing.  The animals are well kept and for the most part have plenty of room to roam.