When you’re in need of a break from the work-from-home, school-from-home routine, simply remember that the school of Santa Barbara is always in session. From outdoor museums to botanic and zoological gardens, spice up your virtual learning lesson plan with an overnight field trip to experience the educational adventures available within the Santa Barbara South Coast. Additionally, area hotels make for a great remote, cozy, and quiet home base after a fun-filled day of absorbing hands-on California history. Not just fun for the kids, smiles and lasting memories are guaranteed for the whole family.
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Take a Walk on the Wild Side
The Santa Barbara Zoo is home to 146 species of mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects, and more than 500 animals are exhibited in open, naturalistic habitats. Say hello to a few new friends in residence, including Twiga, a newborn Massai Giraffe and Kasha, an Amur Leopard.
Families visiting the zoo will enjoy ocean views and the perfect conditions for kids to learn to their heart’s content about the Zoo’s different species in about 90 minutes or less. New COVID-friendly guidelines allow for added social distancing, fewer crowds, and plenty of parking. Families with younger children are pleased to know that tickets are not required for children under two. However, all visitors must make an advanced reservation, as they are open to both visitors and members. Please note that masks are required during your visit and indoor exhibits are temporarily closed.
Members of the Santa Barbara Zoo can participate in Early Explores, a play-based early education program for children ages 3-5, focusing on teaching through experiences. Your little one will get to experience train rides, art, and animal encounters. Kids will also learn an appreciation for the natural world through gardening, outdoor play, exploration, and discovery in the Zoo’s 28-acre outdoor classroom. Learn More
Outdoor Fun at the Natural History Museum
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History welcomes you to explore the Museum Backyard nature play area, nestled in the oak woodland along Mission Creek. This nature-filled wonder includes a play stage, backyard creek, sensory garden, boardwalk, and Eyes in the Sky Aviary. For a bonus educational experience, additional programming is available at the sensory garden to help children of all ages learn more about native plants, insects, butterflies, and the work of natural scientists.
As you prepare for your upcoming visit, don’t forget to include time to admire the museum’s iconic 74-foot long Blue Whale Skeleton located at the museum entrance. Fun fact, this Blue Whale Skeleton is one of only five complete Blue Whale skeletons in the United States. It’s a rare opportunity for children and adults to gain first-hand exposure to, as well as an appreciation of, the world’s largest animal. Learn More
Soak in Sunshine and History
Pair your visit to the Santa Barbara Museum with a stop at Old Mission Santa Barbara, located just down the road (.04 miles away to be exact). Old Mission Santa Barbara is known as “Queen of the California Missions” and tenth of the 21 California Missions founded by the Spanish Franciscans. While the Mission Museum and all tours remain closed until further notice due to COVID-19, you can still admire the architectural design of the Mission’s exterior grounds and the beauty of the stunning A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Garden, home to 1,500 rose plants.
With a little advanced planning, build your own lesson plan with Old Mission Santa Barbara’s website, offering a variety of online resources that include the Mission history, points of interest, games, and activities to keep the kids busy. Before heading home, don’t forget to stop by the Museum Gift Shop, currently open 7 days a week from 10:00 AM to 5:00 p.m., and stocked with plenty of souvenirs to commemorate the experience. Learn More
Nature Exploration at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is just the place to escape for a beautiful and breathtaking exploratory open-air adventure. This 78-acre living museum designed entirely with California-native plants provides 5.5 miles of easy walking trails. Along the way, you’ll discover wild-crafted gardens, an authentic Japanese Teahouse and Tea Garden, a coastal redwood forest, a cacti-filled desert, and spectacular views along the Porter Trail. This magical outdoor paradise houses 1,000 plants, trees, and flowers that exemplify the diverse botanical beauty of the region, and is a wonderful way to explore nature in its most beautiful form. Learn More
From September 21 through December 18, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is offering a school-time outdoor camp to supplement virtual school. Children ages 7-12 are invited to find respite and strength in the Garden’s grounds through outdoor play, exploration, and connection. Campers will receive time and support for individual virtual school classes and will also have allotted time each day for homework or reading, as well as structured activities encouraging campers to move, create, and explore in nature. While maintaining physical distance, the camp will highlight how the outdoors can provide social connection, while encouraging kids to learn more about nature. Learn More
Learn How to Spot a Whale Tale
Set sail on the Santa Barbara seas for an unforgettable nautical adventure. Best viewed from late November through April, thousands of Pacific gray whales migrate through the Santa Barbara Channel as they head south to Baja, California. Kids will squeal with delight as they spot dolphins, a variety of marine life, and larger-than-life migrating whales in one of the best locations for whale watching on the West Coast. As you plan your on-the-water adventure, select from several outdoor outfitters that provide a variety of different whale watching adventures, including private charters for families to see these majestic creatures up close. Learn More
Step into History With Santa Barbara Walking Tours
Downtown Santa Barbara is brimming with history and culture. Get in your daily steps and fresh air fix as you and the family learn about the storied history of our beautiful destination along The Red Tile Walking Tour, which includes 17 historical stops that embody the best of Santa Barbara’s Spanish-style architecture. Or, if whimsical architecture is more your passion, the Jeff Shelton Walking Tour highlights the extraordinary work of this visionary architect. Stops on this fantastical journey include the famous Ablitt Tower, which looks like a magical building straight out of a Dr. Suess book, The Pistachio House, El Andaluz, and Vera Cruz.
Pet and Feed a Shark at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center
Give your kids an extra special, hands-on thrill at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. Beginning September 20, and continuing every Friday-Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., Swell Sharks will be on display for you and your little ones to have an extraordinary experience to assist in feeding and petting this chill Shark species. On top of that, you’ll also learn about shark biology from the experts themselves as they ensure the animals at the Shark Cove remain healthy and satisfied.
This exciting and educational activity is included with the Sea Center admission and takes about 30 minutes. We recommend arriving early, as space is limited. To keep your exploration going, all outdoor spaces at the Sea Center are currently open to guests Friday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Learn More
After School Sailing Program with Santa Barbara Sailing Center
At the end of your remote learning day, make time to get out of the house to enjoy the fresh air and a healthy dose of on-the-water fun. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, the Santa Barbara Sailing Center offers after school youth paddling and sailing programs. Dive into two hours of kayaking/stand-up paddling, two hours of sailing, or, if you prefer, choose both activities. There is no commitment to a set amount of sessions. Capacity is limited to six kids per paddle session and five kids per sailing session. Learn More
Virtual Lessons from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Incorporate art and creativity into your child’s life with help from the experts at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Every Tuesday and Thursday beginning September 15 through October 22, children ages 5 to 12 can attend virtual afterschool art classes to be held via Zoom and instructed by Jason Summers. Each class will teach your children how to create abstract landscapes, portraits, and dreamscapes in gouache, acrylic, watercolor, ink, and graphite, inspired by In the Meanwhile…Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art. Registration costs include all materials needed to create a custom masterpiece. Learn More
At-home Innovative Activities with MOXI
For the creative and curious minds in your family looking for hands-on activities, MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation, offers a variety of exploratory projects and challenges that can be completed from the comforts of home, or even better, your hotel room. While the museum is temporarily closed, they have various free digital offerings, including mosaic projects, printable coloring sheets, STEAM activities, pattern play, DIY challenges, and video activities for toddlers to get their feet and bodies moving.
Make sure to stay up-to-date with MOXI as they frequently release limited time take-home kits, including Backyard Science BBQ Kits and Innovation Maker Kits. Learn More
Hotels with Educational Guest Experiences
Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
After exploring the ocean’s depths and discovering a love for the environment at the ripe age of seven, Jean-Michael Cousteau has since followed in his father, Jean Cousteau’s footsteps, by dedicating his life’s work to educate the world about ocean conservation. Thanks to a special partnership with The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, Jean-Michael Cousteau brings a unique opportunity for guests to participate in an interactive environmental educational program, fittingly named, Ambassadors of the Environment.
Through this hands-on program, resort guests can discover the Gaviota Coast’s natural wonders on land and sea, including kelp forest, a diversity of birds, the intertidal zone, and traditional Chumash culture through memorable adventures and activities. An a la carte menu of activities range from complementary to $60, with options for reserving exclusive family experiences. Please note that reservations are required for all activities. Learn More
Rosewood Miramar Beach’s Remote Classroom
The best part about schooling from home is that it can be held virtually anywhere with access to privacy, high-speed internet, and a cozy chair. Thanks to Rosewood Miramar Beach, your kids can plug into virtual classes in the privacy of a poolside cabana. All the while, parents can enjoy some downtime poolside or work remotely themselves. Now that’s elevated learning at it’s finest.
Rosewood Miramar Beach’s Remote Classroom package comes equipped with a private pool cabana, flat-screen TV, Apple TV, iPad with case and stand, EarPods, and school essentials like pencils, notepad, and more. For lunch, children will delight in a tasty meal from Scoop Shop, delivered straight to their cabana. Once school is out of session, families can spend quality time together at the pool, beach, or over a friendly game of bocce. Please note that bookings for this offer must be made a minimum of ten days in advance of arrival. Learn More
Family-Friendly Stay at Hotel Santa Barbara
For a change of pace this fall, set up your remote office and virtual classroom at Hotel Santa Barbara in Downtown Santa Barbara. Guests staying at the property can utilize one of their 500 square foot, multi-use rooms for only $50 per day, or for reservations 5 nights or more the multi-use room is free. These rooms make a great place to work, perfect for family dining, a morning yoga workout, family game night, or a movie. And thanks to Hotel Santa Barbara’s convenient location, outdoor dining and beach recreation are mere steps away. To book, please call 800-549-9869 and ask about the “family use space” package.
A Coastal Classroom Getaway at Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
School can be more than virtual learning when combined with enrichment outside the classroom, featuring endless outdoor activities, history and culture that is uniquely Santa Barbara. Let Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort be the backdrop for your work-from-home or home-schooling environment. Situated on California’s central coast, between soaring mountains and endless beaches, the property offers a wide variety of outdoor activities on and offsite, including a swimming pool, tennis courts, biking, hiking, and sailing. The Coastal Classroom package offers premium high-speed internet access (30 Mbps) perfect for streaming, free self-parking, and a 10% discount on private sailing lessons with Santa Barbara Sailing Center. Packages can be booked online, while private sailing lessons must be reserved directly through the Santa Barbara Sailing Center by calling (805) 962-2826. Learn More
Schoolcation with the Santa Barbara Hotel Group
Take a break from working and learning from home and experience Santa Barbara–where virtual classes meet coastal discovery. Book your stay at one of the five Santa Barbara Hotel Group properties and revel in the history and natural beauty of Santa Barbara with a getaway that inspires creativity, an appreciation of nature, and family bonding time. Hotel package includes a 3-night stay (stay 2 nights, get the 3rd night free), tickets to the Santa Barbara Zoo with views of the ocean and access to many unique species the Zoo has to offer, a coastal cruise with Santa Barbara Sailing Center where you’ll get a glimpse of California sea lions, dolphins, whales and a variety of coastal birds, a Santa Barbara waterfront treasure hunt, and branded earbuds for the kids. You’ll be able to relax and stretch out as a family since four of the properties have 1 and 2 bedroom suites with kitchens available. And the best part is, you can still stay connected to work and school with free high speed internet. Free parking and no resort fees adds to the great value of this package.