Santa Barbara Activities
Santa Barbara Rock Gym
322 State St., Lower State
COVID-19 update: Temporarily closed. "Our friends, who have kids with similar ages to ours, took us to this fantastic rock climbing place for an afternoon of fun. That's Moses on the wall..." - GP
West Wind Drive In
907 S. Kellogg Ave., Goleta
Go old school at this drive-in with double feature movies almost every night. Photo: Brian Birzer
Santa Barbara Zoo
500 Niños Dr., Waterfront
Located on 30 acres of botanic gardens overlooking the ocean, this is one of the most beautiful zoos, housing 500 animals in faithfully recreated natural habitats. Programs like “Backstage Pass” and “Behind the Scenes,” give visitors the chance to get even closer to the animals and see the inner workings of the zoo alongside a zookeeper. Photos: Chuck Graham (left); Tony Luna (right)
Old Mission Santa Barbara
2201 Laguna St., Mission Canyon
A true Santa Barbara landmark, this historic building, 10-acre garden, active parish, and mausoleum, is still home to a group of Franciscan friars as it was when it was built by the Spanish in 1786. It’s a great and scenic place to take kids to learn about California’s history.
695 Ashley Rd., Montecito
A truly unique botanical garden founded by singer turned botanical gardener Ganna Walska. She bought the property in 1941 and over the years transformed it with the help of several world-renowned landscape designers. Today, the garden continues her work by preserving her singular designs and continually expanding the stunning collections of exotic plants from all over the world. As it’s located in a private residential neighborhood, book in advance and reserve to join a docent-led tour. Photos: Bill Dewey
If you poll the locals, they always site Butterfly Beach and Hendry's Beach as the two favorites (which means that they're also popular). Butterfly Beach is in Montecito, directly across the road from The Biltmore: Parking spots are hard-won and there aren't a lot of amenities around, so bring a lunch and anything else you might need for the day. Hendry's on the other hand, is next to The Boathouse, which makes it ideal if you don't like to plan ahead (they have kid-friendly food, plus really solid drinks).
Inspiration Point: Tunnel Rd. & Mission Rd. | Lizard's Mouth: West Camino Ciel Rd.
Inspiration Point is a relatively short hike that doesn't require a huge climb, making it a good option for kids—as its name suggests, there's pay-off for making it to the top, which include great views of the city, the ocean, and The Channel Islands. It's also dog friendly. Meanwhile, Lizard's Mouth is up by Goleta, and is less of a hike and more of a place to go climb around on rocks by the ocean and take in the views (kids love it). Click here for directions—it's not well marked, though as they explain, "If drunk high school kids can find it, so can you." (Image courtesy of Santa Barbara Hikes.)
Santa Barbara Botanical Garden
1212 Mission Canyon Rd., Mission Canyon
For nearly a century, these gardens have been preserving and celebrating California's endemic plant life, which spans over 78 acres, thanks to numerous gifts of land over the years. It is a great place to walk and wander, though they offer plenty of more structured, docent-led tours. There's also a Japanese teahouse on-site.