Situated slightly northward of Los Angeles, the city of Santa Barbara, California is a popular tourist destination. With the Santa Ynez Mountains on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west, this city provides beautiful scenery in every direction. There are a variety of Santa Barbara vacation rentals to book a stay at—choose from condos close to the ocean to Spanish-influenced family homes in the downtown area. While spending time in Santa Barbara with your family, you have unlimited choices when it comes to kid-friendly fun and cultural activities. You can soak up the sun on the beach, tour museums, or enjoy nature at outdoor parks. Here’s a look at the top 10 things in Santa Barbara to do with your kids.

1. Santa Barbara Zoo

This small 30-acre zoo is routinely rated as one of the best small zoos in the United States. With 500 animals, this zoo offers a variety of species for your children to learn about. You and your family can arrange to have a behind-the-scenes tour where you learn more about the care of animals and what it takes to run a zoo. At the Animal Kitchen, watch park employees preparing food for the zoo’s animals, or visit the Barnyard to feed the sheep.

2. Mission Santa Barbara

Spanish missions dot the California coastline and many dates back to a time shortly after the founding of the United States, so if you find yourself with a rainy afternoon or just need to cool off, take your family to the Mission Santa Barbara. This Mission dates back to 1820. You and your family will learn more about the area during that time period and see the remaining art and artifacts. After touring the mission, wander through the attached gardens.

3. Stearns Wharf

Gather up your fishing rods before leaving your vacation rental and drive over the Stearns Wharf. Finished in 1872, this pier was the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Today, you and your family can find a souvenir in one of the eclectic shops or enjoy a family meal at one of the locally-owned restaurants. Walk out to the end of the pier, and help your children cast their lines into the ocean.

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4. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Put on your sturdy walking shoes before your visit to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. This botanical garden has more than 5-miles of walking trails to view the stunning trees, plants, and flowers. Inside the gardens, you’ll find a beautiful redwood grove with its lush greenery. When you feel your energy wane, stop at the authentic Japanese tea garden. Check the schedule before leaving your vacation rental to see if there’s a talk or presentation on the day of your visit.

5. Arroyo Burro Beach

With its location along the Pacific Ocean, a Santa Barbara vacation must include at least one trip to the beach. Pack up the sunscreen, beach towels, and cooler for a day at Arroyo Burro Beach. During the summer months, this beach has lifeguards on duty to give you a little peace of mind with younger children. Spend the day playing in the surf, building sandcastles, and flying kites.

6. Lotusland

Explore an exotic landscape at Lotusland with its extensive collection of rare plants. Located a short drive from downtown Santa Barbara, Lotusland sits on the historic estate of Madame Ganna Walska. From the Japanese Garden to the Australian garden, you and your family will wander through unique gardens with plants you don’t get to see every day. Catch your breath when you see the beauty of the orchid area and admire the stark beauty of the cactus garden.

7. Santa Barbara Museum of Art

At the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, you and your family can wander through the galleries and view 20th-century paintings of the wild west. This small art gallery is easy to navigate and entertaining enough to keep your children’s attention for an hour or so. In addition to the modern paintings, this art museum has a lovely collection of Asian ceramics.

8. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

Somewhere between an aquarium and a science center, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center will capture your children’s imagination with its eclectic exhibits. Many of the exhibits have a hands-on component, so your children will learn while having fun. There is a live shark touch tank where your kids can feel the smooth skin of this scary fish. At the 1,500-gallon tide-pool tank, children make their way through the tunnel and get to see sea critters in a new light.

9. Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park

A little east of Santa Barbara, you and your family can take your vacation into the caves at the Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park. Here, you and your family can take a tour to learn more about the cave paintings that date back to the 1600s, long before European settlers made it to the west coast. Painted by native Americans, these cave paintings provide a glimpse into life during this time period.

10. Andree Clark Bird Refuge

Pack your binoculars before leaving your vacation rental to get a great view of the birds and wildlife at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge. The walking trails throughout the park are suitable for walking or biking. This 42-acre salt water marsh park offers your family the chance to see a unique ecosystem.

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