Los Angeles Activities: Explore Santa Barbara

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Dubbed the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is a gorgeous and serene beach town getaway which offers Angelenos plenty of laid back respite from Los Angeles life. Whether you want to shop til’ you drop, laze about at the beach, go sightseeing, or try to spot humpback whales, this pristine, charming and relaxing locale is chock-full of opportunities for kids activities and family fun.

Approximate Travel Time: Santa Barbara is located about 95 miles north of Los Angeles. Just two hours by car and you’re there!

Go: Year-round.

What to see: Don’t miss the Santa Barbara Zoo. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, participate in the Family Zoo Snooze June 25th-26th, wherein your entire brood may spend the night at the zoo and enjoy up-close animal encounters. Named one of the “20 great American beaches” by Travel and Leisure, take a trip to Butterfly Beach — a favorite beach of Santa Barbara locals. Whether you want to spend the day there or just stop by to snap scenic photos, the breathtaking views are what Santa Barbara is all about. Enjoy strolling, shopping and people-watching in downtown Santa Barbara on the main drag, State Street or spend the day whale watching at sea or getting hands-on experience with ocean life at Ty Warner Sea Center on Stearns Wharf. The Santa Barbara Mission is an educational must-see destination, and you may take a self-guided tour of the immaculately maintained grounds.

How to dress: Casual beachwear. Pack a sweater to stay warm on breezy evenings.

Possible lunch spots: Enjoy the fresh seafood and clam bar as well as views of the harbor at the always bustling Brophy Brothers restaurant. Grab coffee or tea at raved about local caffeine-fix hotspot The French Press on State Street. Indulge everyone’s sweet tooth at Chocolate Maya which offers chocolates from all over the world.

Where to Stay: Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort is perfectly situated in the heart of town, directly across from the ocean on East Cabrillo Boulevard. This family-friendly hotel offers an extensive list of activities for kids and features a lovely swimming pool and offers bike rentals. Or set up camp twelve miles north of Santa Barbara at Carpinteria State Beach, which was voted one of the best campgrounds in the country. Ocean and mountain views will keep kids immersed in the wonders of nature under the stars.

Need to know: If the kiddos are up for a fun, open-air trolley ride, take a narrated tour aboard a Santa Barbara Trolley. This is a great way to learn the history of the town and hit all of the famous local tourist spots. Passes are valid all day and passengers may reboard at any of the 14 stops.

Bonus: If you happen to have a babysitter while in town, Stella Mare is an exquisite restaurant where you and your significant other may enjoy sophisticated French country cuisine in a historic landmark house turned eatery located on the Bird Refuge.

Cost of trip: Moderate to expensive.

Online: http://www.santabarbaraca.gov/

—Beth Shea