El Capitan Canyon
11560 Calle Real, El Capitan Canyon
Made up of cabins and tents (for those who are looking to "glamp" in large decked out tents with a double bed and electric lighting), El Capitan offers a rustic but luxurious way to experience the El Capitan Canyon and beach near Santa Barbara. Perfect for a family trip with kids, choose between doing your own cooking (each cabin has it's own "outdoor kitchen" with a grill/fire pit) and opting for super healthy meals at the Canyon Market and Deli.
Belmond El Encanto
800 Alvarado Place, Mission Canyon
Perched on an olive tree-studded hillside overlooking the Pacific ocean, the Belmond El Encanto is more than deserving of its Forbes five-star accolades. The ninety-two room hotel (consisting of Craftsman-style suites and freestanding bungalows) re-opened in 2013 after undergoing a comprehensive renovation, which added a pool and tricked-out fitness studio to the grounds. Thankfully, the historic property’s architectural integrity and immaculate gardens were kept intact. Complete relaxation is the name of the game at the full-service spa where guests and day-trippers are pampered by way of water therapies, steam rooms, and local ingredient-inspired, seasonal treatments. When planning his California-coastal menu, Executive Chef Leo Andres Ayala takes full advantage of Santa Barbara’s bountiful produce offerings—including herbs from Ayala’s on-site herb garden and cheese made from the milk of the Belmond’s resident dairy cow, Ellie.
Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara
1260 Channel Dr., Montecito
There's not a lot to hate about this Four Seasons hotel: It's sited along Montecito's best beach, and it occupies a rambling set of Spanish Colonial bungalows and buildings that are lushly landscaped in a way that makes every room feel a bit like a hideaway. Though the on-site pool is lovely, hotel guests can pay a bit extra for access to the members-only Coral Casino Club right across the street, which boasts an Olympic-size swimming pool that's great for kids.
Santa Barbara Rock Gym
322 State St., Lower State
"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.
119 Harbor Way, Harborside
Located on the waterfront, this is an always packed, lively and fun place to come for great, fresh fish dishes with the family. The clam chowder and fish & chips are especially popular.
Padaro Beach Grill
3765 Santa Claus Lane, Carpinteria
A favorite spot for family dinners in Carpinteria (just a few miles from Santa Barbara), Padaro serves up casual food like burgers, quesadillas, nachos, and fish tacos in a beautiful setting. Order your food on arrival and then find seating on their expansive lawn outside and take in the ocean views. This is a super kid-friendly place with a big outdoor area and a sandpit.
600 Olive St., Lower State
A friend with kids said this old school (i.e., it was established in '37) Italian joint is a huge hit: You get to dig into Spaghetti Alle Vongole, grilled salmon, and a pages-long wine list on the lovely patio out back, while they can spend any downtime playing Bocce on one of the two adjacent courts.
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