Santa Barbara has a number of sights that are historically and culturally significant. They are appropriate for both families and individuals of all ages. Our city was shaped by its Spanish past and reflects that in its architecture. There has been a strong commitment to keeping Santa Barbara beautiful. It makes this city very easy on the eye!

Santa Barbara Mission

2201 Laguna Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

The official literature calls Mission Santa Barbara "Queen of the Missions for its graceful beauty." Founded on December 4th, 1786, it was the tenth of 21 Franciscan missions in California. It still functions as a church today. Self-guided tours daily 9am-5pm. Docent tours for schools and other groups are arranged by appointment. The tours are $4.00 for adults and begin in the gift shop.

Mission Santa Barbara was the tenth of the California missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. It was established on the Feast of St. Barbara, Dec 4, 1786. Padre Junipero Serra, who founded the first nine missions, had died 2 years earlier. Serra had planned to build this mission, raising the cross at the presidio of Santa Barbara in 1782. It was Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, his successor, who raised the cross here and placed Padre Antonio Paterna, a companion of Serra, in charge. Paterna put up the first buildings and made the first converts.

The original buildings were of adobe and unpretentious. As the years passed, there was progress and development. There were three adobe churches here, each larger than the other, before the present church. The third was destroyed by earthquake in 1812. Thereafter the present church was planned. It was finished and dedicated in 1820. The present friary residence was built gradually, first one story, then a second was added. It was not finished until 1870. The beautiful fountain in front of the Mission was built in 1808. The earthquake of June 29, 1925 damaged the Mission Church and friary considerably. Restoration work was completed in 1927 and the towers reinforced in 1953.

Prior to the Spanish arrival, the Chumash inhabited the area from Malibu to San Luis Obispo. They were hunters and gatherers oriented to the sea. They built plank boats (tomols) which were capable of traveling to the Channel Islands. Their religious practices and ceremonies included the creation of elaborate polychrome rock art located in remote caves and rock outcroppings. Chumash villages were autonomous, headed by the hereditary leader. Houses were dome shaped with tules covering a willow frame. Basketry was a major art form as were stone bowls and tools. Chumash manufactures were noted by early explorers as being high in quality. Their skilled handiwork greatly contributed to the Mission's success.

Chumash leaders such as Chief Yanonali became Christians, leading many villagers to join them. Native customs did not die out all together in arts or belief, however. In the 1880's Rafael Solares (pictured in museum room #1 in spiritual leader's garb) was the last Antap (Native spiritual leader) and also the sacristan of Mission Santa Ines and an active Christian leader. Many Chumash descendants still live in the Santa Barbara area today. A number of Indian community groups keep culture alive and provide social, cultural, medical, and preservation programs that benefit the Indian community.

The Franciscans introduced agriculture to the Indians. The principal products of the field were wheat, barley, corn, beans, and peas. Orange and olive trees were planted and vines were cultivated. Water was brought from the mountain creeks to irrigate the fields and for domestic use. To impound these waters the Indian Dam was built in 1807, about two miles upstream. The water was led to the Mission by an aqueduct, the water flowing by gravity. The ruins of these, together with a mill, tanning vats, a storage reservoir, and a filter may be seen near the Mission today.

Mission Santa Barbara had cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, mules and horses in great number. In 1809, there were 5,200 head of cattle, and in 1803, 11,221 head of sheep. At the Mission, the Indians made adobes, tiles, shoes, and woolen garments, learned the trades of carpenter and mason, and became herdsmen and farmers. They also leaned to sing and play European instrumental music. Church services were accompanied by an Indian choir and instrumental ensemble of violins, cellos, woodwinds, and brasses rather than an organ.

The original purpose of the Mission was the christianazation of the Chumash Indians. This was considered accomplished by the 1930's. With no new converts, the Mission's Indian population started to go down. Spain had lost California to Mexico in 1822, and in 1834 the Mission was secularized. Indians were placed under civil jurisdiction not church authority. Civil administration resulted in a deterioration of lifestyle and buildings. Fr. Duran was then appointed administrator in 1839, and in 1843 the Missions were returned to the Franciscans. Two years later the Governor confiscated the lands and in 1846 the Mission was sold. The missionaries were allowed to conduct services in the church (unlike many California Missions which were abandoned or turned into barns). In 1865 the Mission was returned to the Catholic Church by Abraham Lincoln (California having become part of the U.S. in 1848).

When the Mission period was over, the buildings were used for a number of purposes. From 1868 until 1877 the Franciscans conducted a high school and junior college for boys, both for boarders and local students. In 1896, a seminary was opened at the Mission for candidates studying for the priesthood. Until the summer of 1968 the School of Theology for the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara was located in the Mission buildings. The Friars work in various apostolates in the western states. They continue to serve the Indians of Arizona and New Mexico as well as the foreign missions. The Mission church today is used by the Parish of St. Barbara. When Santa Barbara's Presidio was founded in 1782, in expectation of founding a Mission here, the Spanish soldiers were of varied ethnic backgrounds. Indian tribes of Mexico, Sephardic Jews, and Africans as well as Spaniards were all represented in the ancestry of California's early settlers. Some of those settlers soon intermarried with native Chumash people. There are numerous Santa Barbarans today who trace their ancestry to the Chumash and a Presidio soldier or early settler. When the Americans arrived in 1848, further intermarriage occurred resulting in the diversity of Santa Barbara's heritage reflected in the names and backgrounds of those buried in the Mission cemetery. Early Manila galleons and China clippers brought Asian cultural influence to California as well. Some visible examples of this cultural infusion are the Philippine crucifix and the Chinese silk vestments in the museum Chapel room and the variety of Chinese porcelain alongside the English China, Mexican Majolica and California Indian basketry seen in the kitchen display. The obvious Moorish (African) cultural influences are clearly visible in the architecture of the Mission itself, while the art works that decorate the Mission are primarily from Mexico's rich cultural traditions. Santa Barbara Mission today is a monument to the cultural diversity of California's heritage.

Art and Architecture

The colonial art collection of this mission is rich and varied. Most of the pieces are of the baroque or neoclassical eras, and nearly all were imported from Mexico and South America. Some notable exceptions include the three stone statues in the museum depicting S. Barbara, along with the virtues of faith and charity. These three were carved by a mission Indian using pictures in books as a guide, from which he carved three-dimensional images. The figure of charity has very pronounced Indian features. These are the only existing large sculptures done by California Indians.

The paintings and statues in the church and museum depict angels, saints and Bible stories. Some of the more notable works include the large crucifix portraying the suffering of Jesus on the cross. The straining body and streaming blood from wounds are meant to emotionally involve the worshipper in the passion of Christ. The small statues of St. Dominic and St. Francis are especially fine sculptures whose faces display a sense of emotional intensity typical of baroque art.

The church building is similar to those built in the countryside of Mexico in the early 1800's. It is primarily neoclassical in style, utilizing decorative devices and features from the time of the Roman Empire. The iconic capitals on top of the pilasters echo the ones on the facade of the building, and were considered appropriate by the Romans for a temple dedicated to a goddess. Since this church is dedicated St. Barbara, the designers utilized these "female" architectural attributes. The church was probably constructed under the direction of a master mason, Jose Antonio Ramirez. It represents the greatest engineering achievement of the combine efforts of the Indian, Spanish and Mexican artisans here in Santa Barbara.

The Waterfront

The Waterfront ranges from Leadbetter Beach , past the Harbor, West Beach , Stearns Wharf , Chase Palm Park , the Zoological Gardens and to East Beach . Along this stretch of incredible coastline you will find restaurants, shops, artists, and a bike trail. The waterfront is an important meeting place for locals during the Forth of July and First Night celebrations.

Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf is the center of all this activity. The structure is over 130 years old and has been the home of much of Santa Barbara's early history when immigrants and supplies had to come primarily from the sea. A popular attraction is the Ty Warner Sea Center - a fun, engaging, interactive marine education facility located on Stearns Wharf. Owned and operated by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the Ty Warner Sea Center fulfills the mission of the Museum to inspire a passion for the natural world.

The Harbor

The Harbor began almost a hundred years ago when a wealthy Santa Barbara resident wanted to keep his yacht closer to home - or so the story goes. He created the breakwater and harbor that keeps the considerable fishing and pleasure boat population of Santa Barbara safe and moored. The Harbor and Stearns Wharf are connected by the Waterfront Shuttle "Lil Toot".

Today, the Harbor features the Maritime Museum and one of Santa Barbara's landmark restaurants, Brophy Bros. The breakwater is paved and you can take a stroll out to the end.

Chase Palm Park

You will find a wonderful park to the east of the Wharf, Chase Palm Park , that features the weekly Arts & Crafts Show . Each Sunday local artisans gather to share their latest wares.

Chase Palm Park is also a mecca for the younger crowd as they try their skill at Skater's Point , Santa Barbara's gift to skateboarders and inline skaters.

Directions: Take the 101 to Cabrillo or Garden. Turn away from the mountains. Cabrillo Blvd. Will bring you to the East Beach edge of the Waterfront. Garden will bring you closer to the Wharf. The parking is along the south side of Cabrillo, in the lot near East Beach, on one of the side streets off State Street, in the parking lot near the harbor and in the lot near Leadbetter Beach. If there is a major event going on, park in one of the main city lots up State Street and take the Waterfront Shuttle.

Santa Barbara Zoo

500 Ninos Dr.
Admissions Information: 805 - 963-5695
Birthday information hotline: 805 - 962-5339 ext. 54
General Visitor Information: 805 - 962-6310
(with recorded information)

Open daily 10am-5pm. Tickets sold until 4pm.
Adults (13 - 59): $ 10 .00
Children (2 - 12): $ 8 .00
Seniors (60+): $ 8 .00
Children under 2: FREE
Parking: $3.00

Consistently ranked as one of America's best small zoos, the Zoological Gardens are wonderful. One of my favorite things to do is get in right around 4 p.m. when the animals are getting fed. If you're lucky you can actually see (and hear) the sea lions eat - a treat in and of itself!

  • Hotels near the Zoo
  • Map of the Santa Barbara Zoo

Among the 5 00 animals you'll find elephants, giraffes, lions, tigers, gibbons, sea lions, exotic birds and farm animals. There is a m iniature train ride, children's playground, snack bar and spacious picnic area.

The zoo is constantly in the process of making changes so there's always something new each visit.

Note: If the animals and the park don't amaze you, think of the amazing piece of land this zoo sits on. You're right next to the ocean and the giraffe's have the equivalent of a multi-million dollar condo!

El Presidio de Santa Barbara

123 East Canon Perdido St
Open daily 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
$4 donation is requested
Guided tours can be arranged by contacting the Trust at 805 - 965-0093

As far as landmarks go, this is one of the most interesting and significant in Santa Barbara. It rivals the Mission in complexity and beauty. It is also the site of an active archeological dig. Most of the buildings are thoroughly researched reconstructions using the real foundation of the original Presidio. Only El Cuertal, the family quarters of the guard assigned to the western gate, and the Canedo Adobe, which was deeded to a soldier after the Presidio was no longer active, survive from the original buildings.

Founded in 1782, the Santa Barbara Royal Presidio was the last of four military fortresses built by the Spanish along the wilderness frontier. The original fort was a fully enclosed quadrangle that surrounded an open parade ground. It was surrounded by an outer defense wall that boasted two canon bastions. The chapel was the first in Santa Barbara for the local towns people, as the Mission was used primarily by the Christianized native population.

A series of earthquakes over 100 years and then the development of the downtown area destroyed most of the original buildings. In 1963 the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation formed with the restoration of the Presidio as its primary objective. The Trust has donated the park to the state and continues to manage it. The State Park is always under some sort of construction.

There are three major structures. El Presidio is across the street from the Post Office. The living quarters, which are the newest addition, are on the other side of Santa Barbara St. El Cuartel is on the other side of Canon Perdido next to the Post Office and is the oldest surviving Presidio structure. A fourth structure is under construction next to the main Presidio. Many of the artifacts in the displays come from the archeological digs you can see surrounding the park.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

113 Harbor Way, Suite 190
Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Going to the Maritime museum is a wonderful treat for anyone. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is a must stop if you are close to the Waterfront Center. Just looking through the periscope is worth admission.

Located at the Harbor's Waterfront Center, formerly known as the Naval Reserve Center, The Maritime Museum features a balance of highly interactive exhibits, such as the periscope. The periscope extends from the roof for anyone to view. Just like an actual periscope from a submarine, it gives you a 365 degree viewing radius. It is absolutely the best exhibit at the museum.

This museum is dedicated to preserving and presenting to the public the maritime heritage and on-going educational platform to study human interaction with the marine environment.

Railroad Museum

300 North Los Carneros Road, Goleta
805 - 964-3540
Wed.-Sun. 1-4 p.m.

Goleta Depot was built by the Southern Pacific Railroad Co. in 1901 and closed in 1973. It was boarded up for a long time before local efforts to save it succeeded. Extensive restoration work was necessary, but Goleta Depot reopened Oct. 10, 1982, during which the building also was officially recognized as Santa Barbara County Historical Landmark No. 22.

The railroad museum with its miniature train is well-done and a treat for the whole family. Antique railroad artifacts, photographs and hands-on exhibits are shown in the agency office and the passenger waiting room.

Directions: From the 101 exit on Los Carneros, which is about 10 miles west of Santa Barbara. At the top of the ramp, turn towards the mountains. If you continue past Calle Real, you will find the parking lot to your right.

Stow House & Railroad Museum

Los Carneros and Calle Real, Goleta

This wonderful park is a unique combination of history and rustic charm. Ideal for children who might learn history the fun way and for many busy professionals who take their lunch breaks here.

Built by a prominent ranching family in 1873, Stow House is a rambling two story house and is the oldest frame house in the Goleta Valley.

The Stow House has been restored and outfitted with beautiful period furnishings, clothing, toys, and memorabilia by the Goleta Historical Society.

Check out the Rail Museum

Directions: From the 101 exit on Los Carneros, which is about 10 miles west of Santa Barbara. At the top of the ramp, turn towards the mountains. If you continue past Calle Real, you will find the parking lot to your right.

Facilities: Stow House, South coast Railroad Museum housed in the restored rail depot, a 25-acre lake with walkways all around it. Creature comforts are scarce, restrooms and picnic areas available.


Rose Garden Inn Santa Barbara
  • (805) 687-6461
  • 3643 State St
  • Santa Barbara, CA 93105

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