Nowhere is the rich cultural history of the area more alive than in Santa Barbara museums. From the thought-provoking works of the Museum of Contemporary Art to the educational programs at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center, you’ll discover science, history, art and more within the walls of these exciting institutions. Here are a few interesting local museums to consider when planning a visit.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

With more than 3.5 million artifacts and specimens in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, vertebrate and invertebrate biology, geology and paleontology, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History provides access to one of the largest collections in the state. Located a mile from downtown, the museum maintains a diverse set of educational programs for all age levels through the involvement of the museum’s scientists and the power of hands-on nature experiences.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

Located at Stearns Warf, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center offers visitors of all ages the opportunity to get their hands wet while discovering the beautiful, weird and fascinating life of the Santa Barbara Channel. A 1,500-gallon tidepool tank and live shark touch pool offer kids up-close interactions with ocean life and a chance to learn about all the wonders of the area’s underwater world.

MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

Santa Barbara’s newest Science Museum, MOXI, will bring an added level of innovation, imagination and fun to downtown Santa Barbara. Located on lower State Street, MOXI’s not just for kids. That’s right; all ages will be awe-struck with each of the three engaging floors, filled with hands-on exhibits focused on science and technology. As an added bonus, MOXI’s stunning rooftop Sky Garden will give guests a birds-eye view of Stearns Wharf, Cabrillo Boulevard and downtown Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

At the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, artifacts and stories illustrate the adventurous history of man’s discovery and exploration of the Santa Barbara Channel. From the superstitious world of nautical tattoos to firsthand accounts of the more than 300 women who once served as lighthouse keepers, the museum offers visitors, young and old, a unique insight into some of the lesser-known stories of the sea. The museum is located off Shorline Drive, within walking distance of Santa Barbara Harbor.


Over the course of four decades, the late Madame Ganna Walska created a 37-acre botanical nirvana known as Lotusland. The 25 gardens, each distinctive in design, are home to several extraordinary collections including rare cycads, cacti, palms and euphorbias. Additional gardens feature ferns, aloes, lotuses, water lilies, bromeliads and the newest additions, the palmetum and insectary garden. Located in a private, residential neighborhood, Lotusland’s unpublished address (available with reservations) makes the garden wonderland even more mysterious and alluring.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

With more than 25,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years of human creativity, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is dedicated to integrating art into our lives. Conveniently located on State Street in Santa Barbara’s historic downtown, the museum is home to examples of some of the most important art ever created – including the largest collection of works by legendary French Impressionist Monet on the West Coast to “Portrait of Mexico Today, 1932,” the only intact mural in the United States by David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Old Mission Santa Barbara

Founded by Spanish Franciscans in 1786, Old Mission is an extraordinary cultural and historic landmark, a museum located on the site of an active community of Franciscan friars. Only a mile from downtown (walking distance from the Museum of Natural History), Old Mission sits on 12 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and houses an archive and library with thousands of historical documents pertaining to the study of Franciscan Missions and Native Peoples of the Americas.

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Located in Santa Barbara’s historic El Pueblo Viejo district, within walking distance of downtown, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum walks visitors through more than 500 years of history with collections from the Chumash, Mexican, Spanish and American periods. Here you’ll find some 80,000 artifacts and objects, including fine art from the late Renaissance, Spanish Colonial, Mexican, and Early California periods. The museum maintains the largest institutional collection of works by artists such as Ludmilla Welch, Clarence Mattei, John Edward Borein and the old west artwork of John Edward Borein.

Museums in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

Discover the wonders of ocean life at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. Located on historic Stearns Wharf, this highly interactive regional aquarium offers you close encounters with marine animals from the Santa Barbara…

California Nature Art Museum

California Nature Art Museum, where art and nature meet, offers visitors a unique perspective on the importance of preserving our natural heritage. The California Nature Art Museum’s mission is to inspire our community and visitors to enjoy,…

MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

Ignite your mind at MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, Santa Barbara’s one-of-a-kind destination for hands-on scientific and creative experiences. Located in the flourishing Funk Zone neighborhood, MOXI invites kids, families…

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

The Santa Barbara Channel is a pillar of the city’s history and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM) is the perfect place to learn about it. Located in the picturesque Santa Barbara Harbor, the Maritime Museum provides exhibits and…

Carriage and Western Arts Museum of Santa Barbara

Carriage and Western Art Museum situated in Pursing Park within minutes of downtown and the Beach. Established in 1972, The Carriage Museum is historic with an old west town charm features a 5,000 square foot event venue for 2 to 200 guests

El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park

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…

Ganna Walska Lotusland

Lotusland is a stunning 37-acre botanical garden in the hills of Montecito and is home to more than 3,000 species of plants, many of them rare or endangered. The Garden is the former estate of well-known opera singer and socialite,…

Additional Experiences

10 Not So Secret Parks & Gardens
Flora and fauna have a long beautiful history in Santa Barbara. These 10 not so secret parks and gardens are breathtaking sights to behold.
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