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Family-Fun Activities in Santa Barbara:

Although many people think of Santa Barbara as the ultimate college town, its unique and quaint attractions make it the ideal location for a family setting as well. On my most recent trip, my family stayed at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, which is situated in the heart of Santa Barbara and within walking distance of many very special activities. We especially enjoyed each of the following:

Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens:

1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara,CA 93105

My family first visited the fabulous botanical gardens in 2015. When I initially stepped into the botanical gardens, I was amazed by its beauty. Flowers created a visual effect of being painted onto the field in all different colors and hues. Birds and insects darted across the sky. Towering trees stood on either side of our trail and a small pond trickled with life. Yes, it was truly a wonderful place. My family walked down a trail with redwood trees. It felt as though we were in a forest and it was a wonderful way to be in nature with my family. We even walked on the dam that had been there for several centuries. We soon headed down another beautiful path to a tea house, where early inhabitants had performed tea rituals. On their way back, my husband and daughter found an old historic house that was built through a Sears catalogue. We ended our journey at their sweet gift shop.

After revisiting the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in summer of 2017, we gained new insight on what we had seen before; we explored different parts of the gardens as well. All the plants of the garden, such as the desert section’s resilient cacti and the meadow’s beautiful wildflowers, are native to California. Past the meadow is a grove of majestic redwood trees. Adjacent to this is the historic Mission Dam and Aqueduct, built back in 1807 for Mission Santa Barbara. We walked on the dam to the canyon, where we noticed many plant species as well as a child-friendly hedge maze. We then crossed Mission Creek and came across an authentic Japanese teahouse, ShinKanAn, which is used for traditional tea ceremonies every second Saturday of the month. We passed by the arroyo’s streamside plants before leaving the garden, although the garden has never left our hearts. This is a family attraction that can be visited and then re-visited, as it is difficult to take it all in within just one visit!

Santa Barbara Zoo:

500 Ninos Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

We were able to walk to the zoo from The Fess Parker Resort. This charming, well-maintained 30-acre zoo is blessed with many exotic animals, including flamingos, penguins, and elephants. One memorable aspect of this zoo is that kids and adults have the opportunity to feed the giraffes. The giraffes are located near a side of the zoo with an ocean view. Next to each exhibit were notes on the specific animal species. This included a tip on how one can help save the animals and their natural habitats. We also took the cute little train ride that whisked us around the perimeter of the zoo while the conductor told us interesting facts about the animals we passed. The adorable little gift shop and outdoor plaza area create a very warm and inviting feeling to visitors as they enter the zoo.

Santa Barbara Mission:

The chalk art lining the mission was stunning. This beautiful historical mission contains the Serra gift shop and allows for self-guided tours. Founded in 1786, it is known as the Queen of the Missions.


When my family went to see the new science museum, MOXI, in downtown Santa Barbara, we found an upbeat, multi-level interactive play venue, suitable for all ages. Its star-feature is its rooftop level actvity area, replete with beautiful mountain and Santa Barbara city views.

We were greeted by a white building with playful curves and large, inviting windows. A big, colorful circle resembling a movie reel, the Color Mixing Machine, is displayed at the entrance, it itself an exhibit that is spun to teach about colors and light.

Inside, there are different sections of exhibits that educate on technology, sound, forces, speed, light, and digital media. The museum features many hands-on exhibits, including the Handprint Globe with thermal images, a makerspace, a giant guitar, the Foley Studios for making sound effects for movie scenes, and a race track for miniature cars. Many exhibits are outdoors in the Fantastic Forces Courtyard or the Sky Garden on the roof, such as air rockets, a water feature with an Archimedes pump, and observation scopes in the Lookout Tower. Overall, MOXI is an interesting, interactive museum for any child or child at heart. It is worth visiting on your next family venture to Santa Barbara.

State Street:

State Street has modernized substantially since my college days, and is now replete with trendy chain stores. We enjoyed a Farmer’s Market with very delicious food on Tuesday night, with produce from nearby farms in Lompoc, Camarillo, and Santa Maria. We bought some of the sweetest strawberries and plums we ever tasted. Our favorite place to eat was the Natural Café that has plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. We also liked Silvergreens, which also offered several vegan options and is a nice place for those who cannot eat certain foods. They also offered several smoothies and juices, and everything was delicious.

Stearns Wharf:

Located in the harbor in Santa Barbara, this wharf was completed in 1872. From the wharf, visitors can catch a water taxi. There are also several souvenir shops and many restaurants with ideal views.