With so many great options to chose from, a trip to the museum should definitely be on your Santa Barbara vacation itinerary. From family-friendly exhibits at the Sea Center to a historic look at Santa Barbara social life, you are sure to find what piques your interest. Here’s our guide to the best in town:
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is a stunning gallery located in the heart of Downtown on State Street. Hosting around 27,000 pieces of art and featuring special events and exhibits each month, SBMA is an impressive asset of the city. This year, don’t miss the ‘Highlights of the Permanent Collection’ series in celebration it’s 75th anniversary, nor the ‘Puja and Piety’ exhibition which explores iconography in South Asia. International exhibitions give the museum a worldly atmosphere and visitors have the opportunity to book guided tours, free with admission.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art. 1130 State Street. 805 963 4364.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is a perfect representation of Santa Barbara—charming, quaint and beautiful. Tucked into the corner of a side street behind the Old Mission, the Natural History museum is a great way to spend an afternoon with friends or family. Don’t miss the ‘Butterflies Alive’ exhibit, where guests can wander through a garden with more than 1,000 free-flying butterflies. If you’re bringing the family, check out one of the Planetarium shows designed for kids!
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. 2559 Puesta Del Sol. 805 682 4711.
The Santa Barbara Sea Center, located right on Stearns Wharf, is an excellent and interactive museum that will deepen your appreciation for the city’s beautiful coast and beaches. Plan an afternoon here and get up close and personal with all kinds of sea creatures like rays, crabs, sea anemones and more. The center features a glowing jellyfish exhibit, tide pool touch tanks and the new shark cove touch pool.
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. 211 Stearns Wharf. 805 962 2526.
The Santa Barbara Historical Museum is the place to go to appreciate the history, traditions and culture of Santa Barbara. Founded by the Historical Society of Santa Barbara in 1932, the museum has grown into a treasure that preserves and celebrates the past. The permanent exhibit, ‘The Story of Santa Barbara’ takes visitors from Native American Civilizations to the cowboy days of the West and is a must-see for any history buff.
Santa Barbara Historical Museum. 136 E De La Guerra Street. 805 966 1601.
The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is a great stop for anyone looking for a quick trip into the history of life by the ocean. Featuring a wide range of exhibits, the museum is as diverse as it is whimsical. The very popular ‘Tattoo and Scrimshaw: The Art of the Sailor’ exhibit tracks the history of nautical tattoos using artifacts and photography to describe life as a sailor from the 16th to 19th Century.
Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. 113 Harbor Way. 805 962 8404.