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Exploring Art and History: The Best Museums Near Santa Barbara, California

Exploring Art and History: The Best Museums Near Santa Barbara, California

Discover the best museums near Santa Barbara, California, from the contemporary art at MCASB to the interactive exhibits at MOXI. Team


2 min read

March 31, 2023

Santa Barbara is a beautiful coastal city in Southern California that offers visitors a perfect blend of culture, history, and art. There are many museums in the area that are worth exploring, each with its unique collection of artifacts and exhibits. In this article, we will explore the best museums near Santa Barbara, their geo-locations, specific exhibit highlights, parking, and accessibility.

Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara

Located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB) is dedicated to showcasing the best contemporary art from around the world. The museum's mission is to promote critical thinking and artistic exploration, making it a must-visit destination for art lovers. Specific highlights include the exhibition "Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies, i through vii," which features seven life-size sculptures of the artist performing his signature pose. There is plenty of street parking in the area, but visitors are advised to arrive early to secure a spot.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) is a must-see for art enthusiasts. With a collection spanning over 5,000 years of art history, the museum boasts an impressive array of European, American, and Asian art. Highlights include the Rodin bronze sculpture "The Thinker" and the museum's vast collection of Asian art. The SBMA is located downtown and offers a parking lot on Anacapa Street. Admission is free on Sundays.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Located on the waterfront in the heart of the Santa Barbara Harbor, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM) offers visitors a unique glimpse into the city's rich maritime history. Exhibits include artifacts from the Chumash people, the Age of Exploration, and the modern-day oil industry. Specific highlights include the interactive "Whale Tail Wall" exhibit and the working model of the Santa Barbara Channel. There is a parking lot on-site, and the museum is fully accessible.

Santa Barbara Historical Museum

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum (SBHM) is located in a beautiful historic adobe building downtown and is dedicated to preserving and sharing the city's rich cultural heritage. Exhibits include a collection of Chumash baskets, historic photographs, and a replica of a 19th-century stagecoach. Specific highlights include the museum's courtyard, which features a beautiful garden and a statue of Saint Barbara. Street parking is available in the area.

MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

The MOXI museum is located in downtown Santa Barbara and offers visitors a hands-on, interactive experience that explores science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) concepts. Exhibits include a giant guitar that visitors can play, a wind tunnel, and an augmented reality sandbox. Specific highlights include the "Fantastic Forces" exhibit, which explores the science of motion and the "Light Patterns" exhibit, which uses lasers to create beautiful patterns. There is a parking lot on-site, and the museum is fully accessible.

In conclusion, Santa Barbara is a treasure trove of museums and cultural attractions. Each museum offers visitors a unique experience, and the city's beautiful location on the coast makes it a perfect destination for a weekend getaway. Whether you're an art lover or a history buff, there's something for everyone in Santa Barbara's museums. So, plan your visit today and experience the best that Santa Barbara has to offer!

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