11 Must Dos in Santa Barbara with Kids

Where to go with kids in Santa Barbara
The view of Santa Barbara from its courthouse is not to be missed. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Pack up the family and explore Santa Barbara for your next weekend getaway. The kids would love to hop aboard an Amtrak train for a stress-free way to arrive from Los Angeles. Or make it a longer trip and discover the Danish hamlet, Solvang,just a few miles away. Regardless how much time you spend, here’s where to go with kids in Santa Barbara.

Where to Go with Kids in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Trolley Company City Tour

During my visit, I walked from my hotel, Hotel Santa Barbara, located along State Street to the Santa Barbara Visitors Center. Located at 1 Garden Street at Cabrillo Street, it’s the main trolley stop for the Santa Barbara Trolley Company.

Since the tickets are good for two days, I used it to get around. Or you can just see Santa Barbara’s highlights on the standard 90-minute tour. Best of all, friendly and knowledgeable drivers shared all the local’s places.

Sterns Wharf. Where to go with kids in Santa Barbara.
Since Santa Barbara faces the south, the sun sets behind the mountains. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Stearns Wharf

On a local’s tip, I headed to Stearns Wharf in the late afternoon. In 1929 when it was built, it was the longest deep water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Now home to souvenir shops and ice cream cones, visitors are surprised to see the sun set behind the mountains instead of over the water. Remember Santa Barbara’s beach faces south.

Stearns Wharf is located at the intersection of State St. and Cabrillo Blvd. Free

Old Mission Santa Barbara. Where to go with kids in Santa Barbara.
Set atop a hill the Old Mission Santa Barbara offers ocean views and a lesson in early California history. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Old Mission Santa Barbara

Originally built in 1786 by the Spanish, Old Mission Santa Barbara is commonly called the Queen of the Missions. With views in all directions, including the Pacific Ocean, it’s a must for architecture and history buffs.

The Spanish Mission architecture along with the art are tops. The self-guided tour walks through the courtyard that features a lush garden.

Santa Barbara Mission is located at 2201 Laguna St. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.Admission.

Santa Barbara County courthouse. Where to go with kids in Santa Barbara
Tour the Santa Barbara Courthouse for amazing views along and to see the murals. Credit: Catherine Parker

Santa Barbara County Courthouse and Sunken Gardens

When my trolley driver told me I should check out the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, I thought he was kidding. But to my surprise one of the best views in the city is from its clock tower.

To add to my delight, the Spanish Mission style building offered a richly painted court room as well, a must for architecture nuts like myself. If traveling with kids, head to the top of the clock tower and skip the interiors.

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is located at 1100 Anacapa St. Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free

Credit: Catherine Parker

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

What a surprise when I walked up the steps of the SB Museum of Art. Inside the regal building I found a well-curated collection. It even offered some big city surprises, like Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Located at 1130 State St. it’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission, though Thursdays offer free admission from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Santa Barbara Zoo

Take the kids to the zoo to explore a smaller zoo with 146 species with a total of 500 animals in open naturalistic habitats. Don’t miss the zoo train that circles the perimeter.

Located at 500 Ninos Dr. The zoo is open every day from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Admission and train ticket extra.

Santa Barbara Farmers Market. Where to go with kids in Santa Barbara.
Walk through the Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market to see the bounty of the region. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market

As one of Santa Barbara’s major roads, State Street, offers visitors wide sidewalks shaded in trees and flanked with flower beds. Walking up and down State Street is pleasant year-round.

Though bustling with shops and restaurants, State Street closes to vehicular traffic one day a week for the popular farmer’s market. On State Street vendors sell everything from hand-tied bouquets to organic produce.

The Moxi. Where to go with kids in Santa Barbara.
A visit to the Moxi is a must for families. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Moxi—The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

The Moxi offers a place for families to learn and discover while exploring. Since it’s opening in early 2017, the Moxi is the Santa Barbara destination for families.

Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., admission based on age. The Moxi is located at 125 State St.

Chase Palm Carousel. Where to go with kids in Santa Barbara.
Take a ride around the Chase Palm Carousel with views of the beach. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Chase Palm Park Carousel

Located across from the Santa Barbara’s Visitor Center, I found the Chase Palm Park Carousel. As a lover of carousels, I hopped on a hand-carved horse. Built by the Allan Herschell Company in 1916, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places and operated in Santa Barbara since 1999.

The carousel is located at 323 E Cabrillo Blvd. in the Chase Palm Park. Admission charged.


Santa Barbara Beaches

California beaches offers some of the U.S. top beaches though notoriously don’t offer much parking. I recommend West Beach or East Beach since both are on either side of Stearn’s Wharf along Cabrillo St.

Funk Zone

Steps from the beach, Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone offers visitors a chunk of the Urban Wine Trail. A self-guided tasting room tourfeatures wine from across the region. Shop vintage shops along with art galleries in Maker’s Mecca of Santa Barbara.

Where to Stay

Hotel Santa Barbara
Centrally located the Hotel Santa Barbara is steps away from all the sites. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit I stayed at the Hotel Santa Barbara. A historic property with cozy rooms and I loved the mix of traditional interiors with modern touches.

Built after the devastating earthquake, Hotel Santa Barbara opened its doors in 1926. Almost immediately, Hollywood’s stars, like Clark Gable, walked through the lobby doors. To this day, Hotel Santa Barbara hosts stars and movie makers as the official hospitality hub for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

After an extensive renovation, Hotel Santa Barbara offers its guests all the rich details of a historic property. In addition, I found all the modern conveniences that travelers need. As a train traveler, this is where to stay in Santa Barbara without a car.

Where to Eat

Eat at Enterprise Seafood Company. Where to go with kids in Santa Barbara.
For dinner I sampled the best at Enterprise Seafood Company, like the Ahi Tuna and the lobster bisque. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Since it’s located in the center of downtown Santa Barbara, I walked to dinner. Since 1977, Enterprise Fish Company offers a casual nautical-themed dining room serving sustainably sourced seafood.

I recommend the Lobster Bisque. With a combination of heavy cream, butter, lobster and flaky pastry, it’s heaven in a spoon. The Blackened Ahi Sashimi Tuna is another stand-out.

Enterprise Fish Company is located at 225 State St, next to the train station. Open seven days a week from lunch to dinner.

Where to Relax

Float Spa Santa Barbara.
Take a moment to float away from your stress with a spa treatment. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Getting away with a spa treatment tops my list for vacation musts. During my visit to Santa Barbara I enjoyed a massage at Float Luxury Spa, in the heart of Santa Barbara.

Float Luxury Spa features individual treatment rooms and several areas for longing before and after services. I enjoyed the outdoor courtyard with a fountain and loungers during my visit. Additionally, I used the locker room outfitted with a shower and complimentary toiletries.

Located at 18 E. Canon Perdido St. and steps from State Street, Float Luxury Spa is open everyday.

How to Get to Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Car Free

I arrived at the 1902 Santa Barbara Train Station after a spectacular train ride abroad Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. One of the best scenic routes in North America, I rolled through untouched coastal scenery.

The train offers a moment to shine when I got a glimpse of the vintage 1950s parlor car. Featuring wood-grain interiors, the parlor car reminds me of a glamorous hotel bar where women wore gloves and hats while men smoked cigars.

Even the train station offers a destination, as an example of Mission Revival architecture. The Santa Barbara Train Station underwent a complete restoration in 2000. It’s listed on the National Historic List of Historic Places. Walk through the waiting room even if you arrived to Santa Barbara via U.S. 101 or the airport.


Consideration for Brands Mentioned

Explore Santa Barbar, California, along the central coast. With amazing year-round weather, no reason to wait. Got 11 places to explore, perfect for a weekend away and as a bonus you can take the train to get to Santa Barbara. All the details for your next getaway. Where to go in Santa Barbara | Where to stay in Santa Barbara #California #SantaBarbara
credit: Catherine Parker

Explore Santa Barbara with your kids. With amazing year-round weather, no reason to wait. Got 11 places to explore, perfect for families and as a bonus you can take the train to get to Santa Barbara. All the details for your next getaway. #California #SantaBarbara Where to go in Santa Barbara with kids | Where to stay in Santa Barbara

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