Explore an 18th-century historic symbol of Santa Barbara—and the many cultures that intersected here—at the site of the last Spanish fortress in California. Operated by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation (SBTHP) for California State Parks, El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park spans four city blocks and offers a diversity of on-site historical attractions, exhibits and dining options.
Be transported back in time by the whitewash adobe buildings that fill the property. Two original buildings remain, including El Cuartel (soldier’s quarters), which is the second-oldest building in California. Others have been reconstructed to give visitors an immersive glimpse of life in Santa Barbara during the Spanish colonial era. The park is a short walk from several other historical museums and cultural sites, as well as hotels, restaurants, shopping and downtown landmarks in Santa Barbara’s vibrant Presidio neighborhood.
History of the Presidio
Built in 1782 using the labor of local Chumash Indians, the Presidio was the cultural, social and military center of Spanish rule in the region until 1830. After the Spanish and Mexican periods, Chinese and Japanese immigrant communities made their home in the Presidio. Exhibits and displays explore their diverse cultures, traditions and contributions to Santa Barbara.
Visiting El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park
Begin your journey at the Visitor Center, located inside the c. 1787 Cañedo Adobe. Inside, you’ll find exhibits, information about the history of the park and a gift shop, La Tienda.
Pick up a tour booklet and embark on a self-guided tour of the 5.75-acre park. Along with the two original buildings, re-created sites include a Chapel, Comandancia, Padre’s Quarters, observation tower, living quarters and heritage gardens. Visitors can also see the archaeological site of the Presidio’s outer defense wall.
Stroll past several more preserved buildings, including the 1920s Santa Barbara School of the Arts, the c. 1830 Buenaventura Pico Adobe and the 1871 Cota-Knox House. Though the buildings were not part of the original fortress, they illustrate different aspects of Santa Barbara’s history.
Tours and Admission
El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park is open daily from 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors (62+) and free for children 16 and under, SBTHP members and SNAP/EBT and CalFresh cardholders.
Entry also includes admission to Casa de la Guerra, a nearby historical museum that is also operated by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.
For more information or to schedule a guided tour, call (805) 965-0093.
Hourly parking is available in the adjacent parking lot at 115 East Canon Perdido Street. Visitors can pay for their parking through the paybyphone.com app.
Food and Drink at El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park
History lovers can make a day of it by visiting several on-site restaurants. Three Pickles offers subs and sandwiches as well as a cocktail bar, The Pickle Room; the businesses inhabit the former Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, a beloved Chinese restaurant and local landmark. Zaytoon serves Lebanese cuisine that is best enjoyed on the flower-filled outdoor patio. La Playa Azul Café’s margaritas and happy hour are popular among locals. And Panino offers gourmet, Italian-inspired sandwiches and salads with or without meat, making it an excellent lunch stop for vegetarians.