Preserving and exhibiting the area’s history and heritage, its arts, sciences, and lifestyle… such are the aims of the myriad museums of Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland, and Goleta. The museums reflect residents’ varying passions, interests, and penchants for collecting. Some were founded decades ago; others are newer additions to the cityscape. But all these vibrant institutions welcome young and old, exciting our curiosity, stimulating our minds, and entertaining our imaginations.

You can begin by exploring the natural history of the region, delving into the way geology and geography have shaped the plants and animals — and, of course, the people — that have lived here from ancient times to the present day.

Fascinating aspects of human history come alive in museums that use art, artifacts, and innovative exhibits to trace the challenges and achievements of successive cultures who have called Santa Barbara home, from the indigenous Chumash to the Spanish, from Mexican rancheros to European newcomers who sought a healthful and gracious place to live. There are museums on private estates that showcase the lifestyles of historical families, as well as institutions devoted to the ocean on our doorstep, and the modes of transportation that brought travelers here.

When it comes to art, Santa Barbara shines with collections that include masterworks of Western civilization, Asian treasures, architectural gems, and paintings and sculpture from the past as well as the creations of living legends. It’s a cornucopia of visual riches.

Featured Museums in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara County Arts Commission

Formed in 1977, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission is a 15 member County Commission appointed by the County Board of Supervisors, with three members from each of the five supervisorial districts who make recommendations to the Board on…

Santa Barbara Zoo

“The Audrey Hepburn of Zoos – petite, charming and beautiful." (The Food Network) Even the lions and the giraffes have sweeping ocean views at this charming sea-side park. The beauty of the animals is matched only by the lush gardens.…

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, one of southern California's finest art museums, features nationally recognized collections and special exhibitions of international importance. Highlights of the Museum's remarkable permanent collection include…