Things to do in Santa Barbara with Kids

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Over Presidents’ Week this past February my family and I had the BEST trip to Santa Barbara at the lovely Hotel Oceana. I wrote all about the awesome family friendly hotel HERE. On our getaway we discovered a ton of things to do in Santa Barbara with kids so I wanted to share them with you!

We went for 3 nights, giving us 2 full days to explore. I wished we had a third day, but I would recommend at least 3 nights so you can fit it all in.

Here was our itinerary of things we did…

Day One: We left OC late morning and arrived in SB mid-afternoon. All my girls wanted to do the first day was swim in the beautiful Hotel Oceana heated pools!

Day Two: After enjoying the amazing continental breakfast at Hotel Oceana, we departed for a fun day at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

This quaint zoo is absolutely breathtaking, including peek-a-boo views of the Pacific. In fact it is coined, “The World’s Most Beautiful Zoo.” I have to say, if visiting Santa Barbara with kids, the Santa Barbara Zoo is a must-visit.

Tip: Feed the Giraffees!! You can buy your tickets when purchasing admission ($6/person.) My girls were a little freaked out to do it themselves, but they loved watching my husband feed them.  Pretty spectacular to see these amazings creatures up close.

One of my girls’ favorite parts of the zoo was the Kallman Family Play Area. In it is a hill made of AstroTerf and a ton of cardboard pieces to “sled” on. My girls could have spent the entire day “sledding.” I have to admit, it looked pretty fun, so I took a ride down with them too! Isn’t it funny how sometimes it is the simplest things that can be the most entertaining?

We spent around three hours at the Zoo, then headed back for an afternoon of swimming at Hotel Oceana.

That evening we walked across the street to the beautiful harbor to enjoy dinner at Brophy Bros. Seafood Restaurant, my absolute FAVORITE restaurant dating back to my college years.

If you have little ones bring a jogger or good stroller. It is a lovely walk but a tad long for little legs. The view of the boats in the harbor with the mountains in the background is stunning.

Be prepared for a wait, but it is always worth it. Best clam chowder you will ever have.

Day Three:

Again, after a lovely continental breakfast, we took a little jaunt down Cabrillo Blvd. to check out one of the beachfront playgrounds we spotted on the way in off of Cabrillo Blvd. and Ninos Drive.

From there, we went back to the hotel to get ready for a little sightseeing on State Street, which is the main street that runs through the city and is packed full of restaurants and shops.

From the hotel, we walked to catch this Downtown Waterfront Electric Shuttle  by Stearns Wharf. The shuttle fare is 25 cents one way and children under 5 are free. Can’t beat that price! We did see some local characters on this shuttle but it added to the adventure.

There are also narrated tours available on the Santa Barbara Trolley.

We took the shuttle up State Street to the Historic Courthouse, which is one of the most beautiful structures in the world.  You can take an elevator up to the tower and get the most stunning 360 degree views of the city, mountains and ocean.  It is free and worth it! My girls favorite part was running around on the expansive lawns.

If we had a little more time, we definitely would have gone to visit the Santa Barbara Mission, which is farther up State Street, but we had to get back to the hotel to put little one down for a nap and big one was pining to go to the pool again!

That night we took the jogger and walked down Cabrillo Blvd. to Rusty’s Pizza Parlor. Perfect spot for a casual dinner. I loved that everything we did was walking distance from Hotel Oceana.

Day Four: After breakfast, I borrowed one of the beach cruisers from Hotel Oceana (free), my husband took little one to jog in the jogger and my oldest ride her bike that we brought with us and we hit the oceanfront boardwalk for a bike ride.

There is an amazing park called Chase Palm Park in Santa Barbara on Cabrillo Blvd. across from the ocean, and a short ride from the hotel.

In it there is a beautiful carousel and super fun playground called Shipwreck Playground. We were too early to ride the carousel, so you might want to check the hours (bottom of this page) if you wanted to go when it was operating.

My girls LOVED the Shipwreck Playground.  Very unique structures and sparked a lot of imaginative play.

We ended the trip that afternoon to visit the UCSB campus, which is my alma mater. Of course I had to hit the bookstore and get my girls some Gaucho gear! It was SO weird to be back on campus again. I hadn’t been in a gazillion years.  It was even weirder to be there with my two little girls!

We loved our trip and there were even a ton more things we would have loved to do…things like a visit to the Ty Warner Sea Center, like I mentioned, the Mission, there are a ton of water excursion possibilities, museums, etc. But that just means we will have to plan a trip back!

If you go, can’t more highly recommend staying at the Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara. You can’t get a better location! Here is my post with pictures and details about the property.

Happy travels and happy weekend mamas!

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Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara Review

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For those that have been following my blog, you probably know by now my family is a huge fan of the SoCalCation, or family getaways that are easy driving distance from Orange County.  With our two little ones, now 2 1/2 and 5 1/2, it is a dream to load up the car and be at our destination within a few hours.

My oldest daughter had Presidents’ Week off school last week so I thought it would be fun to go somewhere together. When thinking of places, I realized that although I went to UCSB and spent four years there, I had yet to visit with my family! The thought of visiting my old college stomping grounds (and one of my favorite cities in the entire universe) with my family sounded like so much fun.

Once we decided on our destination, next order of business was where to stay? When looking at hotels to stay with the family in Santa Barbara, location was number one priority to me. I wanted a convenient hotel that was walking distance to all the major downtown attractions, which is how I happened upon Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara.

Special thanks to Trekaroo for the awesome review – after reading I was sold. Now that we have experienced our own stay at Hotel Oceana, I am excited to share my own Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara review because we absolutely fell in love with this property!

Situated on Cabrillo Blvd. across the street from the ocean and beautiful expansive beaches, my favorite part about staying at this hotel was the stunning view and amazing convenience.

In our 3 1/2 day stay, we actually only used our car one time to go to the Santa Barbara Zoo. The rest of the time, we walked everywhere! It was so relaxing to not have to load and unload the kids in the car for outings.

From the hotel we were able to walk to the beach, Sterns Wharf, marina, State Street (Santa Barbara’s main strip with tons of shops and restaurants), ocean view playgrounds, you name it! In my opinion, this hotel has the best location in all of downtown Santa Barbara.

I absolutely love bright decor and Spanish style artitecture and this property was delightfully bright and cheery. Bright colored striped rugs decorated the walk ways and colorful foliage hung in Spanish style pots throughout the hotel. Although a fairly large property, the way the buildings were spread out with picturesque courtyards tucked in between, the hotel had a very intimate and quaint feel. It was hard to not be immediately in “vacation mode” when stepping foot into Hotel Oceana.

When staying at a hotel with my kids, to me it is not a true relaxing vacation unless there are separate sleeping quarters for the kiddos, so the Deluxe King Room with sleeper sofa was perfection. Best part? The sleeper sofa was tucked into a separate little alcove with a door that closes off the main room, and my hubby and I got the big comfy King sized bed, TV and access to the bathroom without worrying about waking the kids after putting them down at 8pm.

And the silly girls had such a fun time sleeping in their own little room – felt like a cozy fort to them! They were in heaven!

We got a beautiful room on the second floor with an ocean view, and we found the accommodations to be very comfortable. Although the room was not overflowing with a ton of bells and whistles, we had everything we needed during our stay including a little mini-fridge, iPod docking station and most important to me: a Keurig Coffee Maker and free WI-FI!

Here was the amazing view from our room…

Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara includes a free European Style Continental Breakfast every morning from 7am – 10am weekdays (10:30am weekends) in a charming Bistro with indoor and outdoor seating.

It was so nice to not have to get the kids fully dressed to go out to breakfast. Each morning we all sort of rolled out of bed, threw on our sweats and hit the Bistro for an amazing spread of muffins, bagels, oatmeal, cereal, fruit, ham, cheese, coffee, tea and more.

Having a breakfast included is a huge time and money saver as well!

[Photo credit: Hotel Oceana]

My oldest learned to swim last summer and turned into a little fish. So when we learned there were two separate heated (HEATED! Yes, HEATED!) pools, one of which also had a newly refinished Jacuzzi, I knew where we would be spending a majority of our time.

Lined with poolside cabanas, colorful towels and comfy lounge chairs for relaxation, the pools were great and having them heated was awesome! One day my daughter swam for 5 straight hours. Only in So Cal in February can you do that!

[Photo credit: Hotel Oceana]

The Fitness Center was adjacent to the main pool and they also have a mobile spa service available as well. Sadly to say I did not get to experience either firsthand, but that just means we need to make another trip back!

Hotel Oceana also offers complimentary two hour beach cruiser rentals. One beautiful morning I got one of these bikes and my husband ran my youngest in the jogger and we all cruised along the beachside boardwalk.

One of our favorite stops along the way was Chase Palm Park, but I will save my favorite things to do with kids activities for another post as this one could get quite lengthy! Stay tuned!

If you are looking for a great place to vacation with your family in Santa Barbara, I can’t more highly recommend staying at the very family friendly Hotel Oceana. It was one of the best trips we have ever had, and we will take those memories with us forever! Thank you Hotel Oceana for the most incredible stay!
Follow Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara on Facebook 

Here are a few of my favorites I took on Instagram

[Disclosure: My family received a complimentary stay to help facilitate a review. This is not a compensated post and all my opinions are my 100% honest ones. I am so excited to share this property with you and can’t wait to share all that Santa Barbara has to offer little ones!] 

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