Santa Barbara is a fun little town filled with activities and adventures for the whole family!
It is the perfect place for those who are looking for beaches, mountains, parks, blue skies, and a small-town feel, with a bit of California history.
10 Things to Do with Kids in Santa Barbara, CA
1. Go to the beach! – If you’re in Santa Barbara you MUST go to the beach! There are miles and miles of beaches ranging from large and popular to small and peaceful. Favorites include the beach along Stearns Wharf (stunning views of the Pacific Ocean nestled under the mountains), Leadbetter Beach (enjoy a meal at the restaurant while digging your toes in the sand), Arroyo Burro Beach (known by the locals as “Hendry’s Beach”, with a designated Dog Beach area), and Butterfly Beach (which is small but stunning). You and your kids can run and dig in the sand, take a nap, surf, rent kayaks, or try out some stand-up paddleboarding.
2. Visit Stearns Wharf – The most interesting thing about Stearns Wharf is the painted compass you’ll find at the end of it — it shows that you’re not facing West even though you’re facing the Pacific Ocean. What?! The Wharf is also home to family-friendly eateries, an ice cream shop, souvenir shops, free movie nights, and the Ty Warner Sea Center (kid-friendly hands-on exhibits and close encounters with all sorts of sea creatures).
3. Go to Shoreline Park – Perched atop a hill while presenting panoramic views of the ocean and mountains, Shoreline Park is the perfect place for the whole family. The kids’ playground has probably the best views out of any playground EVER, and the expansive grassy areas and walking paths are perfect for picnics, pets, parties, stroller walks, and games of tag or frisbee. And the best thing of all: parking is free!
4. Hang out at the Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens – If you are looking for a peaceful atmosphere surrounded by lush beauty and warm sunshine, Alice Keck is your place. Explore the duck and turtle pond with your kids, relax on the grass with a blanket and a picnic, or walk among the beautiful plants on the dirt paths with your stroller or older kids. You won’t be disappointed.
5. Play at one of the other many parks – There are 21 playgrounds in Santa Barbara! Some favorites include splashing, swinging, climbing, and eating at one of the many festivals held at Oak Park; riding the carousel and playing in Shipwreck Park at Chase Palm Park; playing on the largest playground in Santa Barbara at Alameda Park; or picnicing, hiking, and taking in Panoramic ocean views at Elings Park.
6. Go for a hike – The combination of mountains and ocean views means Santa Barbara has some of the best hiking you could ask for. Strap on your baby hiking backpack for your baby or toddler, get your older kids to put on their hiking shoes, and head out for a hike in nature that suits your family’s needs. Try out the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail (the most popular trail in Santa Barbara and, no, there aren’t any snakes!) or portions of the Cold Spring Trail.
7. Visit the Santa Barbara Mission – There is more to the Santa Barbara Mission than simply a history lesson. The walking tour inside the Mission is interesting and educational (especially if your child is working on their fourth-grade Missions project), while the views and outdoor space are simply spectacular. Take advantage of the giant grassy space and rose garden area as you picnic, run, play, or relax, all while accompanied by a view of the great Pacific Ocean.
8. Visit the Santa Barbara Zoo – Talk about a zoo with a view. The Santa Barbara Zoo is an ideal size for kids (not too big) and provides views of all the childhood favorites while reserving views of the ocean for the grown-ups to enjoy. Keep your eyes open from birthday party opportunities and seasonal/special events throughout the year!
9. Eat REAL ice cream at McConnell’s – Ohhhh, McConnell’s. This tiny ice creamery has been around for over 60 yaers and is a Santa Barbara classic, boasting REAL ice cream that even U.S. Presidents have come to sample. There are only a few parking spots in the lot, so don’t get frustrated and just try to find street parking instead.
10. Hang out on State Street – Head down State Street with your stroller or older kids and enjoy a seemingly endless variety of dining and shopping opportunities for the whole family, including a ridiculous number of frozen yogurt shops. Find parking in one of the many parking garages in the area; your first 90 minutes are free!
Santa Barbara is a small town that has it all: beaches, mountains, parks, hiking, surfing, shopping, history, traditions, and more! You could not possibly fit everything there is to do with kids in Santa Barbara into a short Top Ten post. I sincerely hope that, someday, you will have the opportunity to enjoy some family fun in this beautiful, friendly coastal town.