Must-See Museums in Santa Barbara CA

Santa Barbara’s culture can be found in more than the vineyards and wine-tasting rooms. The city has a healthy dose of science, art, and history museums. Plus, as most California fourth-graders know, it’s home to one of the state’s missions. These outposts were founded by Spanish Franciscans to convert Native Americans into Christian and Spanish citizens, creating an interesting chapter in California and American history. You will find the seafaring and agricultural history is also being preserved and presented throughout the area.

Most Santa Barbara museums are centrally located in the downtown area or on the waterfront, making them easily accessible while you’re staying at The Eagle Inn. Plan your California getaway with us and be sure to carve out time for some Santa Barbara culture.


Historic Goleta railroad station with mustard yellow siding and brown trim

Gcoombs at en.wikipedia

Santa Barbara Historical Museum – Experience 500 years of regional history, including costumes, toys and art, set in historical buildings.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum – Learn the seafaring story of the area through interactive displays and exhibitions.

Rancho La Patera & Stow House – Experience a preserved historic ranch and gardens and learn about historic lemon growing and agricultural irrigation in the Goleta Valley.

South Coast Railroad Museum – This delightful museum sheds light on the history, technology, and adventure of railroading. Tour the Goleta Depot, a country railroad station house built by the Southern Pacific in 1901.

Santa Barbara Carriage and Western Art Museum – near the waterfront
Tour historic horse-drawn vehicles, saddles, Western memorabilia, and Old West art.

Susan Quinlan Doll & Teddy Bear Museum & Library – This is one of the largest doll museums and the largest teddy bear museum in the nation with the most extensive doll and teddy bear library in the world. After the tour, sip a complimentary cup of tea or coffee in the tearoom.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Wander through exhibits about the Reagan’s presidential life, traveling art work, and an actual Air Force One plane.

Old Mission Santa Barbara
Established in 1786, The Santa Barbara Mission, also known as “Queen of the Missions,” continues to be the home of Franciscan friars, a beautiful and active church, a museum and gift shop, and a cemetery and mausoleum, all situation on 12 acres of landscaped gardens.

Science and History

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History – Founded in 1916, this family-friendly museum has grown to include over 3.5 million specimens covering every aspect of natural history. Learn through interactive exhibits inside and outside.

Sea Center – Discover the wonders of ocean life through interactive lessons and close encounters with marine animals.

MOXI Museum – The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, is a high-tech children’s museum that offers awe-inspiring, one-of-a-kind, totally fun indoor and outdoor experiences.


Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Offers 27,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of human creativity, including classical antiquities and masterpieces of French Impressionism. This must-see museum welcomes 150,000 visitors each year.

The Museum of Contemporary Art – Guided tours and rotating exhibitions of non-collecting contemporary world-class and diverse art.

Art, Design & Architecture Museum – Extensive sets of multi-media collections in a permanent and traveling exhibition, including contemporary, fine art, and vintage. This museum is also home to the largest architecture and design archive in North America.

The Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art – Extensive permanent collection including exhibition of Rembrandt etchings, serving Westmont College and the community.


Close-up view of butterfly getting nectar from an orange flower

“Mike” Michael L. Baird

Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens
Discover and enjoy more than 1,000 species of California-indigenous and rare plants throughout 78-acres of native landscapes.

Lotusland – Called one of the 10 best gardens in the world by the London Telegraph, this 37-acre estate and public garden is home to more than 3,000 subtropical and tropical plants from all over the world. Reservations are required.

Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden – This public garden features a koi pond, a large collection of 75 different tree and plant species, a sensory garden, walking paths, picnic areas, and a low water-use demonstration garden.

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