Old Mission Santa Barbara#2 in Best Things To Do in Santa Barbara
Price & Hours
In the northwest part of town just four blocks from State Street, the Santa Barbara Mission offers visitors a glimpse at the city's early origins.
Founded in 1786, this Californian mission was Spain's 10th attempt to colonize the region and convert the native inhabitants to Roman Catholicism. Still a functioning house of worship, the Santa Barbara Mission boasts a museum filled with colonial artifacts and early photographs of the area.
Also known as the "Queen of the Missions," the mission grounds – which span more than 13 acres – also feature La Huerta, a garden that showcases Spain's agricultural influence on the California landscape, housing plants dating back to when the mission was established. While a self-guided tour is a popular way of exploring, several themed tours (which cost extra) offer a deeper dive into topics like "The Franciscans and Mission Santa Barbara: Yesterday and Today" and the "Treasures Tour," which allows visitors to view some of the mission's most precious artifacts in areas not normally open to the public.
Travelers say the mission is a must-see for history buffs and call it a beautiful place to visit. Others were impressed with the outdoor area and say it's a nice spot for a picnic.
The mission is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 4:15 or 5:15 p.m. daily, depending on the season. Admission costs $12 for adults, $7 for kids 5 to 17 and is free for kids 4 and younger. For a little more guidance, consider an hourlong docent-led tour, which costs $16 for adults and $11 for kids 5 to 17. Docent tours are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, visit the official 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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