El Presidio de Santa Barbara

#8 in Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara
El Presidio de Santa Barbara picture
Courtesy Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

Key Info

123 East Canon Perdido Street

Details

Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.0scorecard
  • 4.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

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 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors, children younger than 16 are admitted for free. 

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Santa Barbara County Courthouse
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#1 State Street

Santa Barbara's most famous avenue, State Street cuts through downtown and leads right onto Stearns Wharf. It's nearly impossible to miss with its shops, art galleries, theaters and museums like the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. You can grab a ride on the electric shuttle for 50 cents, but most travelers and locals recommend you walk to truly appreciate the ambiance.

After a few hours of shopping — with more than 300 shops and stores — visitors usually slide into a chair at one of the 160 local restaurants to refuel.

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