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9 Museums In Santa Barbara To Check Out Now
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9 Museums In Santa Barbara To Check Out Now

If you want to experience the county firsthand, these museums are one of the top reasons that encourage people to visit Santa Barbara.

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6 min read

August 20, 2021

There’s no denying that Santa Barbara is one of the most coveted and luxurious cities in California. The colorful history of the American Riviera is so rich and diverse that no visit to the city is complete without checking out the museums in the area—its history is alive and preserved in the many Santa Barbara museums. And if you want to experience the county firsthand, these museums are one of the top reasons that encourage people to visit the American Riviera

Wondering which ones to visit? We got you covered.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has ten indoor exhibit halls focusing on regional natural history including astronomy, geology, and more.

1. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History 

Location: 2559, Puesta Del Sol, Santa Barbara
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Pricing: $15 for seniors
$17 for adults
$15 for teenagers between 13–17
$11 for children between 2–12

Sitting on 17-acres of oak woodland, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History showcases more than 3.5 million artifacts and specimens across its indoor and outdoor exhibits. Needless to say, this unique natural history museum in Santa Barbara is one of the busiest ones in the county. The Santa Barbara gem was first built in 1916; it was only renovated into its current state in 2018. Here, you’ll find everything from mammals, birds, and marine life to geology, paleontology, astronomy, and anthropology. And if you’re visiting in the summer, Butterflies Alive is a yearly exhibition the museum runs during the warmer months, where visitors get to walk freely among thousands of butterflies.

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2. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

Location: 211 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara
Hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Pricing: $10 for seniors
$12 for adults
$10 for teenagers between 13–17
$9 for children between 2–12

Get your hands wet and discover fascinating marine life at the highly interactive and educational Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. Located on the Stearns Wharf, the sea center is owned and operated by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. The out-of-this-world California gem exhibits marine animals from the Santa Barbara Channel; it also hosts fun events and educational programs for people of all ages. Appease your curiosity and learn how professionals use oceanographic tools to examine marine life.

MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation is devoted to science, technology, and arts, with a focus on interactive exhibits.

3. MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

Location: 125 State Street, Santa Barbara
Hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Pricing: $12 for children ages 3–12
$16 for adults

MOXI, the Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation opened its doors to the public in February 2017 and has been a family-friendly attraction ever since. This unique museum is any parent's first choice, because, unlike other museums, it has a “look and touch” policy. At Moxi Santa Barbara, families can learn more about the world in a creative and innovative manner. From testing flights to experimenting with your favorite melodies on giant guitar, this Santa Barbara children’s museum is where curious minds are at home. But, the fun doesn’t stop within the walls of the museum. Visitors are encouraged to head to the Sky Garden, where they can create wind-and-sun powered symphonies and enjoy magnificent views of Santa Barbara.

4. Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara

Location: 653 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Pricing: Free of charge

Built in 1976, the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB) encourages creativity and inspires critical thinking through displaying modern works of art. Located in the heart of Downtown Santa Barbara, this museum is the premier locale for getting a contemporary art fix between L.A. and S.F.; and did we mention it’s free of charge? In addition to displaying some of the most thought-provoking works of art, the museum organizes over 30 super fun events annually—you got to keep an eye open for future events.

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum preserves and celebrates Santa Barbara’s regional history. Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

5. Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Location: 136 East De La Guerra Street, Santa Barbara
Hours: Wednesday–Friday–Saturday 12 p.m.–5 p.m.
Thursday 12 p.m.–7 p.m.
Pricing: $5 for seniors
$7 for adults
Free of charge for visitors under 18

The history, heritage, and traditions of any city need to be well-preserved, and that’s the role of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. The museum walks its guests through 500 years of Chumash, Mexican, Spanish, and American history. Over 80,000 artifacts tell the story of the American Riviera from the late Renaissance to the early California periods. The museum’s signature exhibition is called “The Story of Santa Barbara,” where you can learn about everything from the 1920s film era to the famous Old Spanish Days Fiesta. This exhibit is also where the artworks Ludmilla Welch and John Edward Borein are on display.

There’s no better way to experience the history and grandeur of Old Mission Santa Barbara than with a self-guided tour.

6. Old Mission Santa Barbara

Location: 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara
Hours: 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m.
Pricing: $13 for seniors
$15 for adults
$13 for active military members
$13 for seniors
$1 for youth between 5–17
Free of charge for children under 4

Old Mission Santa Barbara, nicknamed “Queen of Missions,” is one of the most famous ones in SoCal. The tenth out of the 21 California missions was first established in 1786 during the Feast of Santa Barbara by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen. With its enormous bell towers, disaster-defying history, and beautiful gardens, the mission belongs on every Santa Barbara itinerary. A visit to the mission’s museum exposes guests to 17th-century art, artifacts, and the mission’s living quarters. 

Discover 13,000 years of human interaction with the Santa Barbara Channel inside the doors of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.

7. Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Location: 113 Harbor Way Suite 190, Santa Barbara
Hours: Monday–Tuesday–Thursday–Saturday–Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Pricing: $5 for seniors
$8 for adults
$5 for students
$5 for visitors between 6–17
Free of charge for children under 5 and active military members 

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum was founded in 2000 by a group of fishermen, divers, and sailors to exhibit the rich and diverse history of the Santa Barbara Channel. Located in the Santa Barbara Harbor, the museum teaches visitors how to fish, dive, sail—the HD Multimedia Munger Theater here features films that take viewers on dives underwater. Visitors can also see stunning views of the harbor while standing on a spectacular mosaic-tiled floor on the fourth floor.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is one of the leading art museums on the West Coast. Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

8. Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Location: 1130 State Street, Santa Barbara
Hours: Tuesday–Wednesday–Friday–Saturday–Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Thursday 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
Pricing: $5 for adults
$3 for kids between 6–17
Free of charge for children under 5

Inside the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is a history of almost 5,000 years—artistic creations like paintings, sculptures, and photographs uncover untold stories. Opened in 1941, the museum now features around 27,000 exhibits ranging between classical and contemporary, which aren’t limited to any place or time. You’ll find artworks from Britain, France, Latin America, and Asia. But when it comes to the highlights of the museum, it goes without saying that the main events are the biggest collection of works by French Impressionist Monet and the only intact mural of David Alfaro Siqueiros in the U.S. 

9. Elverhøj Museum of History and Art

Location: 1624 Elverhoy Way, Solvang
Hours: Thursday–Monday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Pricing: Free of charge, donations encouraged

Elverhøj Museum of History and Art is a must-see on any trip to Solvang. The museum was once the residence of one of the most artistic Danish families in Solvang—The Brandt-Erichsen. Now, it’s where the history, heritage, and spirit of Danish American pioneers come to life. The architectural style of the museum was inspired by Danish farmhouses; it features many elements of Scandinavian architecture. The Brandt-Erichsen began building their house in 1950; it’s been open to the public since 1988.

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