Taking your kids to Santa Barbara is an awesome idea! With it being such a beautiful spot with great weather, there is an abundance of fun things to do with your kids. From picnicking at Hendry’s Beach, to playing at the massive Kids World playground, to getting creative at the Moxi museum. If you have very young kids, there are plenty of amazing parks and the Santa Barbara Zoo to relax at. If you have older kids, then the beach or water activities could be a great idea.
We highly recommend Santa Barbara as a great destination for day trips, weekends, or even longer trips with your kids – there are just so many great outdoor activities. And, since the weather can be warm and sunny in most all months of the year, you can even find great beach weather in the Fall and Winter months, so get prepared for some Santa Barbara fun! Check out our more complete list of things to do in Santa Barbara here.
1. Stearns Wharf
Stearns wharf is a classic spot to check out in Santa Barbara because it is a pier that also has restaurants and shops you can visit. Where else can you eat and shop above the Pacific ocean? It’s one of the top things to do in Santa barbara for a good reason – It’s right where the main shopping street in Santa Barbara (State Street) meets the ocean and you can look back from the wharf and see epic views of the mountains that surround you. If you have kids, then you can take them to the Ty Warner Sea Center that has touch tanks and other activities that immerse kids in the world of sea life.
2. Kids World Park
This park is the ultimate playground for your active kids. With a sprawling wooden play structure, swings, and large concrete animals, this is a great option to get some serious energy out. This Kidsworld play structure is so large in fact and there can be so many kids, that it’s quite easy to lose track of where you kid is, so make sure to find a good seat where you can keep an eye on the action. This is a great spot to break up your other Santa Barabara kid activities – make it a picnic lunch by picking up some sandwiches to go and spend your lunch hour at Santa Babara’s favorite kid park!
3. Santa Barbara Harbor
The Santa Barbara harbor and waterfront district is a must if you’re just visiting Santa Barbara for the day. Here, you can watch boats come and leave the harbor, and even a kayak tour or a romantic sunset cruise on a sailboat. If you’re hungry and like seafood, this is the place to be, as there are a handful of the seafood restaurants lining the harbor. You know the seafood is fresh because you can watch the fisherman haul in their days catch right in front of your eyes. This man-made harbor is bordered by a long break wall that’s surrounded on all sides by water. Watch out though, you might get wet as waves regularly crash against the wall and soak the inattentive tourist.
4. East Beach
East Beach in Santa Barbara is one of those quintessential California views – palm trees lining the streets, volleyball courts in the sand, and beach-goers nearly at all times of the year. If you want a larger beach to spread out on and maybe play some volleyball, then East Beach is a great option. The water here is fairly calm and protected as it is close to the harbor and break wall, which cuts down the waves and makes a great beach for swimming at.
5. Santa Barbara Mission
To really get in touch with Santa Barbara’s past, visit the Old Santa Barbara Mission, which sits on a hill overlooking most of the downtown area. The mission lawn is a popular place to picnic with family and friends, and you often see people playing lawn games like frisbee, or corn-hole on this large grassy area in front of the mission. You can take a tour of the restored mission and get a glimpse into the rich past of Santa Barbara.
6. Hendry’s Beach
Hendry’s Beach, also known as Arroyo Burro Beach is a local favorite and also a dog-owners favorite as this is one of the few beaches that encourages leash-free dogs of all sizes. If the tide is right, you can wander for literally miles up or down the coast and find all sorts of sea life on your journey. This a great beach to take a jog, or enjoy a sunset and should definitely be on your fun things to do in Santa Barbara list if you have dogs or kids along for the ride.
7. Santa Barbara Zoo
While the Santa Barbara zoo isn’t the largest, it makes up for its lack of size with a breathtaking location. Situated on a small hill, it’s surrounded on one side by a lake and on the other, the Pacific ocean. This zoo is perfect for taking your kids to, with plenty of animals to keep them occupied, and many grassy areas for picnics and resting. The zoo even has a miniature train that you can ride all the way around the property for a “back lot” tour.
8. Moxi Museum
The Moxi Museum should definitely be your fun things to do with kids in Santa Barbara list. This beautifully designed museum is full of interactive exhibits and workstations that kids will love. The Moxi is on main street in town and very close to the harbor, so you can easily get here on foot if you are parked anywhere around the downtown area.
9. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
With amazing exhibits, the Museum of Natural history is a great hidden gem. It’s tucked away behind the Mission area and can be many hours of fun. In addition to having some great exhibits showing dinosaur skeletons and hundreds of taxidermied animals from around the coastal area, the museum has a wide-open nature path and stream that keep kids occupied outdoors for hours. Be sure to have this Santa Barbara Museum on your list if you have curious kids who like to learn and discover new things.
10. The Sunken Gardens
Situated in the very heart of Downtown Santa Barbara, the courthouse and Sunken Gardens is a masterpiece of architectural and landscape design. One of the best things to do here is to take a trip up to the courthouse tower, where you can take in the entirety of Santa Barbara from one spot, from the ocean, to the mountains, and everything between.