El Presidio de Santa Barbara#8 in Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara
Take a step back in time with a visit to the El Presidio de Santa Barbara. The nearly 6-acre state historic park consists of restored buildings that make up the last Spanish military settlement built in northern California.
Originally built in 1782, the park is home to 17 buildings and sites built around a quadrangle known as the Plaza de Armas. Visitors can learn about the Chumash Native Americans who settled the land more than 13,500 years ago and the Spanish colonization of the land. The park also includes an exhibit on the history of Asian immigration to the Santa Barbara region.
The grounds include two of the original sections of the presidio, Mexican-period and American-period adobes, and other reconstructed buildings like the chapel and bell tower, as well as the findings from archaeological excavations of the sight.
Recent visitors say the park is a little piece of history right in the middle of the busy downtown area, which sometimes gets overlooked by travelers. Travelers also note their appreciation for the way the park works to preserve the history of California and show how the early Spanish settlers lived hundreds of years ago.
Located just two blocks east of State Street, the park is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors, children younger than 16 are admitted for free. For more information, visit the park's website.
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#1 East Beach
There are three major beaches in Santa Barbara: Leadbetter, West and East. While Leadbetter has the harbor and West Beach is home to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, East Beach is the best stretch to catch some rays without being mobbed by crowds.
The shoreline may still fill up more on the weekends, but East Beach is a bit more removed from State Street and the downtown area than the other beaches, offering more space to stretch out or take a walk along the sandy shores. You may have to protect yourself from the occasional rogue volleyball though, as there are more than a dozen sandy courts here.
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