The Ultimate Guide to Navigating Santa Barbara in a Wheelchair
Photo courtesy of Lotusland
Santa Barbara offers something for everyone—and this is just as true for those people traveling in a wheelchair. From the Santa Barbara Zoo, a perennial family favorite, to museums, music venues and our stunning beaches, there are many ways to navigate and enjoy Santa Barbara in a wheelchair.
Following is a guide to some of the city’s top accessible attractions as well as information about beach-wheelchair access and more.
Nestled under shaded oak trees at the base of the Riviera neighborhood, the Santa Barbara Bowl is arguably the most iconic music venue in the city, boasting a stacked lineup of concerts and other performances each year. For concertgoers using a wheelchair, please contact the Bowl Box Office in advance to secure accessible seating and parking options. Upon arrival, a complimentary shuttle takes guests to and from the Lower Plaza and Main Plaza. Once at the Main Plaza, an open-air lift is used to access wheelchair-accessible seating. To secure your spot, visit the BowlBox Office, or sbbowl.com and click the accessible link for the event you plan to attend.
Grand bell towers, pristine gardens and unmatched views of both the San Ynez mountains and Pacific Ocean … it’s no wonder Old Mission Santa Barbara is one of Santa Barbara’s most recognizable landmarks. History truly comes alive as you tour the inner gardens and church sanctuary, which dates back to 1820, as well as the cemetery and museum. Due to the age of Old Mission Santa Barbara, parts of the property are inaccessible to visitors in wheelchairs, but much of the tour areas have paved, stone or cement walkways and stair-free options that are wheelchair friendly. Visit Old Mission Santa Barbara’s website for more detailed information.
Located only two miles from bustling State Street, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s 30-acre park is home to more than 146 animals, including mammals, reptiles, birds and more. Its lush grounds are complemented by sweeping mountain vistas. The zoo has wheelchair-friendly paths throughout as well as electric-convenience vehicles (ECV) available to rent for the day. The vehicles are limited, so we recommend reserving one online in advance of your visit.
Open since 1941, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) houses a renowned 25,000-piece permanent collection, with works ranging from classical antiques to modern installations. A true celebration of human history and creativity, the museum is fully wheelchair accessible, including an elevator to access each floor, dedicated wheelchair seating in the auditorium, and a wheelchair lift. It also offers free admission to one person accompanying a visitor with accessibility needs. Learn more about accessibility at SBMA.
The mainstay of Santa Barbara’s Waterfront district, Stearns Wharf is the perfect place to experience the sights, sounds and salty breezes of the Pacific coastline. Along the Wharf’s famous boardwalk are many local boutiques and other shops, family-friendly restaurants and a wine-tasting room—of course! Accessible parking is available near the boardwalk as are wheelchair rentals and rides. Prior to visiting restaurants on Stearns Wharf, we recommend calling ahead to assess its ability to accommodate your specific needs.
A 78-acre living museum, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s wild-crafted gardens solely feature California-native flora and fauna across 11 distinct ecosystems, including the redwoods, desert and meadow. Welcoming to all nature enthusiasts, the garden is committed to providing engaging and safe experiences for every visitor. While not ADA-compliant, most of its exhibits are wheelchair-accessible by stone-paved pathways and compact earthen trails. Visit its website for more information on accessibility.
NatureTrack, a company that’s rooted in fostering a sense of excitement and passion when it comes to the outdoors, provides K-12 students, wheelchair users and others with physical disabilities with the opportunity to explore the natural wonders of Santa Barbara. Specifically, NatureTrack has partnered with Freedom Trax in offering a motorized, off-road attachments for manual wheelchairs that allows wheelchair users to navigate across terrain such as sand or hiking trails—independently—and free of charge. Visit its website for more information on NatureTrack’s inclusive offerings.
Lotusland, established and garnered by Madame Ganna Walska herself until her passing in 1984, remains a lush retreat in a residential neighborhood in Montecito that attracts visitors and locals time and time again. A slightly modified, wheelchair- and walker-accessible tour is available and wheelchairs are available for loan at no additional charge. When navigating the garden, paths marked with a blue dotted line are the most accessible, while the orange dotted line indicates a more difficult pathway. A red hash line indicates that the path is not wheelchair accessible. Visit Lotusland’s official website for more detailed information.
MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, located in the Funk Zone, is a place where creativity comes to life. This unique museum provides visitors with a fun and interactive approach to science, technology and the arts for the entire family. The museum offers accessible parking, an accessible entrance and the building is entirely wheelchair accessible, as it’s equipped with accessible restrooms on each floor and elevators. There also is a wheelchair on site that is available at no additional cost on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information on accessibility, visit MOXI’s website.
As California’s oldest continually operating theater, Lobero Theatre (est. 1873) is a venue that upholds the integrity of the storied past of Santa Barbara’s performing art scene while maintaining an annual lineup of the most current international musical and artistic talent. Accessible parking spaces and an elevator are available on both levels of the nearby city parking structure (accessible via Anacapa Street) in addition to street parking. The theater offers a wheelchair-accessible ramp at the entrance and eight wheelchair-accessible seats once you get inside. Learn more about accessibility at Lobero Theatre.
Ensemble Theatre Company at The New Vic produces theatrical productions year-round, featuring both well-known classics and thought-provoking new plays. The theater has a patron drop-off curb at the Victoria Street entrance, a wheelchair ramp, a wheelchair-friendly box office ticket window and accessible restrooms. Additionally, the theater’s accessible seating allows for a comfortable view of the show. Visit Ensemble Theatre Company The New Vic’s website for more information on accessibility.
There are four beaches in Santa Barbara that have free beach-wheelchairs rentals available, including both manual and motorized options. Some beaches offer rentals for two-hour windows while others allow visitors to rent a wheelchair for the entire day.
Listed below is the contact information for the four beaches that have wheelchair rentals:
We recommend reserving yours in advance, as availability is limited.
Additional Resources & Important Information
The City of Santa Barbara has taken dedicated measures to ensure that the destination is inclusive for all, especially those visitors with mobility and physical disabilities. Throughout the city, you’ll find an ample amount of accessible parking both downtown and near the coastline. All accessible parking options, including those for oversized vehicles, can be found in this printable guide. For more detailed information and resources, please visit the City of Santa Barbara website.