If you and your family want to have a memorable family vacation, one of the best spots to visit is Santa Barbara, California. This beautiful Southern California coastal community offers a plethora of fun and exciting adventures and activities that kids (of all ages) would love.
Featured in this fun, family-friendly travel guide to Santa Barbara are recommendations on where to stay and play.
The Fun Family-Friendly Travel Guide to Santa Barbara
From recreational sports and outdoor activities, to cultural enrichment and enchanting inns (that are inspired by a children’s storybook), here are a few of the ultimate places to see when visiting Santa Barbara.
Where To Stay in Santa Barbara
If you have well-behaved young children (over the age of 5), then one of your best options for a family-friendly hotel is the Cheshire Cat Inn. This whimsical bed and breakfast is located in a cozy, tree-lined neighborhood, just blocks from downtown Santa Barbara and State Street.
Within walking distance to several great restaurants, shopping, and local attractions, the Cheshire Cat Inn is a magical place to stay. Inspired by the beloved Alice in Wonderland storybook, this charming B&B not only offers a comforting environment to relax in, it also provides guests with a delicious homemade breakfast (including gourmet French Toast, topped with maple syrup, powdered sugar, and orange zest).
The property features two Victorian Queen Ann houses and Craftsman cottages, which have been updated with all modern conveniences. In addition, beautiful gardens, fountains, and covered patios are surrounded by beds of blooming flowers, making it a tranquil setting to spend time quality time with loved ones.
Each quaint and elegantly-appointed guestroom provides contemporary amenities, traditional furnishings and whimsical decorative touches (like Wonderland artwork and statuary). To add to the enchantment, each room is named after references in the book, like The Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts Patio Room, and The Cheshire Cat. If you’ve ever loved this wonderful storybook, then the Cheshire Cat Inn is a must-visit for you and your family.
Where To Play in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is a quintessential beach town, known for breathtaking ocean vistas and picturesque settings. When you want to plan a few unique and fun activities for the family, the first stop on your list should be Butterfly Beach.
This peaceful oasis is an easily accessible place to bring your family for a few hours. Pack a picnic, bring the beach games, and throw on your bathing suit. If your family loves water sports, you can even go surfing or boogie-boarding while you’re at the beach.
Next up on your agenda of family-friendly activities in Santa Barbara is a visit to the renowned Santa Barbara Zoo. Not only does this magnificent zoo feature a number of exotic animal displays (including lions, birds, reptiles, and elephants), they also offer a Giraffe Feeding, which is an exhilarating and joyous experience for everyone, whether you’re a big kid or a little kid.
As a popular wedding and special event venue, this gorgeous zoo is set on 30 acres of lush gardens with majestic ocean views. Not only is it a fun, family-friendly place to explore, it’s also the perfect backdrop for countless family photos. So, make sure to pack your camera!
Being one of the most kid-friendly places in Santa Barbara, the zoo even offers overnight visits for those who want to immerse themselves in the environment and learn more about the wildlife there. They “offer Twilight and Overnight Safaris throughout the year, so enjoy a date night with your loved one, camp out with the family, or bring a Scout troop to experience a Zoo Safari.”
In addition to regular, daily exhibits, the Santa Barbara Zoo offers animal education days, including Giraffe Awareness Day, The Secret Lives of Sharks, and Specialty Camps. Plus, their kid-friendly zones offer a number of exciting activities to keep children occupied and happy for hours.
The mission of the Santa Barbara Zoo is a “dedication to the preservation, conservation, and enhancement of the natural world and its living treasures through education, research, and recreation.” They are proactive in preservation education and helping endangered animals through conservation.
Since opening its doors in 1963, the Santa Barbara Zoo has added a unique and rich dimension to Santa Barbara’s history and culture. If there’s only one spot you visit during your trip to Santa Barbara, this should definitely be added to the top of your list.
When you and the family are ready to grab a bite, head down to Stearns Wharf, which is one of the most visited landmarks in Santa Barbara. An easy stroll from State Street (downtown), the wharf offers a number of sights and places to visit, including touristic shops, affordable eateries, wine tasting rooms, tarot card readings, and unobstructed views of the bay.
One of the most popular places to eat is the renowned Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, located at the end of the wharf. From dungeness crab cocktail and New England style clam chowder to calamari sandwiches and shrimp tacos, this is a great place to take the kids when they’re hungry for a bite of something tasty.
Plus, if you’re hunkering for a little time on the water, book a reservation on one of the sunset cruises or water taxis, which depart daily from the Stearns Wharf.
Finally, if you want to teach your kids about the history and culture of Santa Barbara, a trip to the Old Mission Santa Barbara is a must. Founded in 1976 by Padre Fermín Lasuén, the Old Mission Santa Barbara has been a rich part of California’s history for over 200 years. The mission is home to “a community of Franciscan friars, a beautiful church with a large and active parish; a museum and gift shop; a cemetery and mausoleum; and twelve acres of beautifully landscaped gardens.”
For those special occasions (like a birthday or anniversary), if you want to plan a romantic getaway (and leave the kids at home), check out The Ultimate Luxury Travel Guide to Santa Barbara for ideas on where to stay, play, and eat.
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[Disclosure: Complimentary accommodations provided by Cheshire Cat Inn; complimentary tour provided by Santa Barbara Zoo. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.]