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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