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What to See and Do in Santa Barbara – a guide to notable attractions and landmarks

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Santa Barbara has a wealth of attractions – just ambling around enjoying the Mediterranean architecture is enjoyable in itself, and there are also stimulating museums of art and science. The city is also a popular family vacation spot, and there's plenty of outdoor space for kids to run around in the sunshine. Whether it's a stroll down one of the scenic roads, or a drive in the open countryside, there's always something to keep you engrossed.



Named for the exotic and delicate lotus flower, Lotusland is a vast botanical garden with seemingly endless species of colorful blooms and greenery. Founded by a flamboyant opera singer, this lush attraction will give you the heady scent of hundreds of flowers arranged in themed gardens. In the Butterfly Garden you'll be able to spot the delicate winged insects that live among the plants, or you can wander around the Cactus Garden and see the spiky citizens enjoying the warm sun. Because reservations are required in advance it's a quiet spot, and guided tours can be booked if you want to learn more.


Shoreline Park



Visitors to Santa Barbara often spend a lot of time outdoors, and along the Shoreline Park you'll enjoy a natural, rugged area that's great to explore. Exploring the marshes you'll see waterfowl hiding amongst the long grass, or you can take in the mudflats at low tide and watch the sandpipers from a viewing platform. Shoreline Lake is a popular spot for windsurfers and anyone looking to take to the wide blue ocean, and there's a small sailing school where you can learn the ropes in a calm and beautiful environment.


Santa Barbara Museum of Art



The Santa Barbara Museum of Art has an impeccably white, traditionally Mediterranean-style exterior, with large arched windows that help light up the spacious galleries. Inside you'll find a fascinating selection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and many other art works and artifacts from America, Europe, and Asia. Look out for some of the biggest names in Modernist art, and the museum also boasts a busy calendar of traveling exhibitions, so be sure to check what's on during your trip and you'll enjoy shows from some of the world's most famous artists.


Reagan Ranch Center



Ronald Reagan's presidency was set against a dramatic epoch in history, as the superpowers faced off and re-aligned for the last time. This museum honors not only the man, but also his often controversial achievements during this time. The ranch was both a retreat for Reagan and an important center during the Cold War, and you can enjoy interactive exhibitions that teach you about this period in time, as well as artifacts such as a large section of the Berlin Wall, the president's Jeep, and many of Reagan's personal possessions. Known as the Western White House during his presidency, this is an essential attraction for those who are interested in global politics and history.