Explore California’s unique natural landscape at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, a magnificent, 78-acre living museum designed completely with California-native plants. Five miles of easy walking trails crisscross the wild-crafted gardens, so you can venture from a towering coastal redwood forest to an inland cacti-filled desert in just one hike. Take in sweeping views of the San Ynez Mountains and Santa Barbara’s Channel Islands and wander among more than 1,000 plants, trees and flowers that exemplify the diverse botanical beauty of the region.
Along with an incomparable array of native plant life, the Garden is also home to several interesting historical sites. Situated on Mission Creek is the Mission Dam, a dam and aqueduct system built in 1807 to supply fresh water to the Santa Barbara Mission. Another highlight is the authentic Japanese Teahouse nestled among coastal live oaks, moss and ferns in the peaceful Tea Garden. Visit in springtime to see the renowned Meadow display in its full glory as it blooms with gorgeous California poppies and wildflowers against the dramatic backdrop of Cathedral Peak.
Garden Hours, Admissions and Tours
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is open every day, rain or shine, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and some special events. From March through October, the hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. From November to February, the Garden is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (60+), $8 for children age 13–17, college students and active military with ID and $6 for children age two–12. Admission is free for children under two, active military personnel in uniform, Garden members and dogs on leash. Parking is free.
Guided tours of the Garden are included in the price of admission, and depart on Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Mondays at 2 pm. These tours are led by knowledgeable docents and generally last about one hour.
Tips for Your Visit
Many of the trails throughout the Garden are not paved, but the trail around the Meadow is paved and suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. (Note that no wheelchairs or strollers are available to rent.) You’ll also find plenty of benches near the Meadow to rest and enjoy the view. Dirt trails from the paved path lead up to fabulous ocean views or down to Mission Creek.
Kids will especially love exploring the Redwood Forest, spotting turtles in the Bessie Bullard Pond and Brook in the Meadow Section and running through the Children’s Maze in the Canyon Section. The Discovery Garden, another fun family-friendly spot, is currently being redesigned.
You can see the preserved structure of the Mission Dam from both above and below on the Canyon and Aqueduct trails. Although the original dam is no longer functioning, during summer visitors can view a reproduction of the elevated flume used to funnel water from the dam into the aqueduct.
The Japanese Teahouse is open to visitors every second Saturday of the month from 11:00 a.m. -1 p.m., when trained Teahouse volunteers are available to share their skills and answer questions about the traditions of the Japanese tea ceremony.
Find a memento from your visit at The Garden Shop, featuring nature-inspired gifts and crafts, including local jams and honey, sage chocolates, jewelry, children’s toys, field guides and artwork. The Garden Pantry in the Garden Shop offers a variety of cold drinks and snacks.