Pacific Coast Highway Travel's guide to the best museums in Santa Barbara, which include art, history, natural history, and science museums.
The best museums in Santa Barbara can rival any along the California coast, maybe with the exception of some museums in San Francisco and Los Angeles. There are some excellent art and natural history museums, historical museums, and one of the best Spanish Colonial Revival-style buildings in the whole USA.
This is the largest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in
the USA, and a popular place for families. There are old stagecoaches, police
vehicles, farm buggies, military vehicles – an amazing array, and there's a
collection of saddles once owned by people including Clark Gable, Jimmy
Stewart, Will Rogers, the Cisco Kid, and many more.
129 Castillo St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
This large museum with its outdoor nature trails too is
another major Santa Barbara attraction, especially good for families. It ranges
from displays on the local Native American culture, through the wildlife and
minerals of the region right up to the modern day with a planetarium and a
space lab. Allow
plenty of time here.
2559 Puesta Del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
This offshoot of the main Museum of Natural History focuses
on showcasing the natural history of the Santa Barbara Channel and the
surrounding ocean. You'll find it on Stearns Wharf and it has a range of
exhibits and interactive displays that highlight the area's marine life,
oceanography, and environmental conservation efforts. You get to see a variety
of marine creatures up close, including sharks, rays, sea stars, and sea
urchins. There are also touch tanks where you can interact with some of the
animals, as well as a tide pool exhibit.
211 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
The Museum of Art is an excellent collection of fine arts
with a lot of historical and more modern objects from China and the rest of
Asia, as well as a good display of paintings from the American West, and Latin
America. Check if there are any visiting exhibitions too.
1130 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
This tells the history of Santa Barbara through historic photos and documents, paintings, furnishings, and
period clothing. It's a fascinating and well-done look at the story of the city. There's a good
gift shop, too. For a more detailed look, see our separate page on the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.
136 E De La Guerra St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
If you're looking for family things to do, this story of
California's maritime history has lots of modern interactive exhibits.
Entertaining for the kids, but informative too, about the fishing, trading, and
warfare that went on off the California Pacific Coast.
113 Harbor Way Ste.190, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
This museum is about 15 minutes west of downtown, near the Santa Barbara Airport. It focuses on the history and significance of railroading on the South Coast of California. It's housed in the historic Goleta Depot, which was built in 1901 and served as a train station for the Southern Pacific Railroad until 1973.
You get to see a variety of exhibits and artifacts,
including vintage rail cars, locomotives, and other equipment. There are also
interactive displays that highlight the mechanics and technology behind
railroading. There are also regular special events so check the website to find
out what's going on.
300 N Los Carneros Rd, Goleta, CA 93117
The museum was founded in 1976 and has since become a leading institution for contemporary art in California. It's housed in a 6,000 square foot space in the heart of downtown and showcases a wide range of contemporary art, including painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation art.
The museum also has a wide range of exhibitions, including
both solo and group shows, featuring emerging and established artists from
around the world. There are also regular talks and workshops.
653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
This interactive science museum is great for families with
kids. The museum has exhibits on science, technology, engineering, arts, and
math. The giant guitar's our favorite thing! There's also a rooftop playground
with great views of Santa Barbara.
125 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
This is technically in Montecito but it's only a 10-minute drive east of downtown Santa Barbara so we've tagged it on at the end. It showcases the historic home and gardens of the Steedman family, who were influential in the development of Santa Barbara.
The property features a Spanish Colonial
Revival-style house, that's considered one of the finest examples in the whole
USA, along with a botanical garden that has fountains, pools, and sculptures.
In 2009 it became Santa Barbara's 4th National Historic Landmark.
1387 E Valley Rd, Montecito, CA 93108
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