Santa Barbara is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in California, with lovely Spanish style architecture, an inviting waterfront, and a mountainous backdrop. It also has the great advantage of having many of its points of interest within close proximity to each other, making it an easy city to explore. Check out these amazing “must see” places.
1. Mission Santa Barbara
The “Queen of the Mission Stations”, as Santa Barbara is generally called, was the only one to remain with the Franciscans after being secularized. It is also the only one they preserved to present day. The church, completed in 1829 after the original had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1812, is the work of Father Antonio Ripoli. It is the only mission with two towers, and had to be rebuilt with earthquake-proof construction. Today it serves as a parish church.
2. Santa Barbara County Courthouse
The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a Spanish-Moorish building in the style of a palace, completed after the earthquake of 1929. The entrance hall on the first floor has a mixture of styles, including Islamic, Romanesque, and Byzantine. For a great view of the city, make sure to take a trip up to the top of the El Mirador bell tower.
3. Santa Barbara Museum of Art
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is a well-regarded cultural institution notable for its large collection. The museum is particularly well known for its collection of Claude Monet pieces. The museum is spread out over 60,000 square feet and features a museum store, café, a children’s gallery, and an extensive library.
4. Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens
The Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens showcase native California plants and trees. Paths wind their way through lush areas, providing a tranquil environment. The gardens have been in existence since the 1930s and consequently offer a selection of mature trees and plants. A portion of the garden has been labeled a Santa Barbara County Historical Landmark. Visitors can take a tour or stroll the paths on their own. There is also a shop on site selling books and other items, as well as a nursery where you can buy your own California native plants.
5. Santa Barbara Zoo
Located on over 30 acres, this zoo is notable for its beautiful setting that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. The zoo has all kinds of animals, reptiles, and insects. The zoo has the feel of a botanical garden as the property is laid out with formal gardens, open spaces, native plants, trees, and cacti. Programs like the Barnyard, where you can feed domesticated sheep, or the Giraffe Feeding station where you can get up, close and personal, with a giraffe, which draws regular visitors and is really fun for children.