3 Days in Santa Barbara for Family Travelers

Santa Barbara’s manageable size, ease of getting around and diverse lineup of kid-friendly attractions makes our city a premier family travel destination. Visit interactive museums, enjoy epic water adventures, hit the beaches, hang out in parks and wander around State Street. And, of course, make the most of your hotel pool! In this jam-packed three-day itinerary, revel in all things family fun during your next trip to The American Riviera®.

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Morning: Fill your tummies with a hearty breakfast at Chad’s Café along the waterfront and then head over to the Visitors’ Center to catch the Santa Barbara Trolley tour. Get the lay of the land and learn all sorts of interesting local trivia during the 90-minute route through Santa Barbara and Montecito.

Afternoon: Brush up on California history on a self-guided tour of Old Mission Santa Barbara. Enjoy a picnic across the street on the A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Garden lawn and let the kids blow off steam running around as you take in the lush ambiance. Spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring the indoor and outdoor exhibits at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

Evening: Browse the shops of Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center before sitting for dinner at Kyle’s Kitchen, where all the kids’ favorite foods are prepared with quality ingredients and a portion of the proceeds support children with special needs.


Morning: Be the first in line to say good morning to the animals at Santa Barbara Zoo. Set on 30 acres, the “Zoo with a View” is home to more than 146 species including giraffes, kangaroos and leopards. Book ahead if you want to ride the train or partake in one of the behind-the-scenes animal feedings.

Afternoon: See Santa Barbara from a different perspective on a Santa Barbara Parasail outing. The 1,000-foot thrill ride is suitable for ages five and up. If you’ve got young kids in tow, opt for a jaunt on the Lil’ Toot water taxi that runs between Stearns Wharf and the harbor. Lunch with your feet in the sand at Shoreline Beach Café and splash around in the mellow surf at Leadbetter Beach.

Evening: Regroup at your hotel before taking the family to Bowlero Santa Barbara in Goleta for arcade games, a couple competitive rounds of bowling and dinner.


Morning: Throw on jeans and drive up the coast to Circle Bar B Stables for a 1.5-hour guided trail ride filled with exciting wildlife sightings and views of the mountains, Pacific and Channel Islands. If you have kids six and under, opt for the South Coast Railroad Museum and a stroll around Lake Los Carneros.

Afternoon: Back in Santa Barbara, MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Innovation + Exploration awaits. Even grownups will delight in its array of interactive experiences that make learning about science, technology, engineering, arts and math super fun. When you’ve had your fill, cross the street to McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams for a sweet treat.

Evening: Celebrate your final night with a walk up and down State Street admiring the twinkling lights, architecture and public art—perhaps picking up an extra souvenir or two. Dine around the Santa Barbara Public Market, where you’ll find flavors to suit everyone’s fancy like elevated tacos at Corazon Cocina or a warming noodle dish at Empty Bowl Noodle.

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