My first few posts have focused on some farther US Destinations we tackled this summer – but with the start of school, I want to share one of my favorite more frequent travel destinations – the home of my parents in the Santa Barbara area of California. While I grew up in the Bay Area, my folks retired here to be closer to us in So Cal. To be able to visit easily and hit the beach within minutes, not to mention a huge number of other local attractions, has been heaven on Earth for us and the kiddos! I wanted to highlight a few of our favorite places..
(1) Santa Barbara Zoo & Botanical Gardens – My parents discovered this gem when I was pregnant with my daughter back in 2013 and generously got memberships for us, and it has proven itself a fun quarterly excursion (at least) ever since she was infant, up through her now 4 year old self. She and my almost 7yo son have a little routine looking at all the animals, know some by name, love sliding down the hill on cardboard boxes, riding the train as a treat, and enjoying the scenic views and walk. We’ve loved watching new animals be born, said sad goodbyes to others, and monitoring all that’s going on at the zoo. This is zoo is truly about conservation and the care of the animals, and the staff is reallyneat. My son also enjoyed a Zoo Camp there in 2016 over Spring Break!
Awesome snake presentation outside the Eeewww! Exhibit
The Elephants here are sisters and have been here for life
(2) Moxi Kids Museum – This is a brand new hands on museum that just opened in the spring of this year. We’ve already been several times and gotten full value of our family membership. The kids love the technology and interaction – they have water play, wind, sound, engineering, lights – just about everything you could want. It’s also in gorgeous downtown Santa Barbara, just a few minutes walk from the Harbor and Beach.
Moxi Museum Main Entrance
Checking out the different telescopes, periscopes and thermoscopes
(3) Santa Barbara Airport – It seems strange to go to an airport and not be getting on a plane while traveling, but my kids love this place! It’s a gorgeous terrace by the coast and you are right there to see the planes take off and land. There’s also a fun Rube Goldberg machine that entertains them forever. We usually get coffee and a treat at the airport cafe and spend some time watching the planes go by! We’d fly from here all the time if we could – sadly rates are usually high, but we have had my husband use it for business trips and it was fun to greet him! So convenient.
Can’t get much closer than that!
Rube Goldberg Machines entertain for hours!
(4) Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach – I’ve gone here since I was a young child and they still called it Hendry’s! It’s not the best breakfast or cocktails/dinner in SB, but they are good and you can’t beat the surroundings! We had a fun breakfast here for my daughter on her birthday and then played in the sand afterwards. It’s So Cal at its best!
Boathouse at Hendry’s
(5) Santa Barbara Natural History Museum – This is a new find thanks to recommendation from our friends! It’s near the Santa Barbara Mission. The kids enjoyed the lab room with lots of touch exhibits and interaction – microscopes, identifying animal poop (such a hit), play camping, crafts and more. There’s also a paleo dig sand pit and some very cool exhibits on mammals, birds, Native Americans and archaeology. They have a rotation exhibit that’s currently on bugs – kids got a kick out of that. They have a Sea location at the Harbor we have to check out as well!
Sketching some “wild life” at the lab!
The “Camp site” at the museum
Blue Whale Skeleton!
(6) Santa Barbara Maritime Museum – This is another fun one on the Santa Barbara harbor. You can virtually “drive”/navigate a boat into the harbor, complete a scavenger hunt while learning tons about the history of the area, and enjoy the kids area with coloring and hands on activities. If you go up to the 4th floor, there’s some incredible views!
There’s also the carousel downtown and plenty of parks and beach playgrounds for the kids throughout the area! Santa Barbara is a must-visit on any California Coastal tour! 🙂