ParentClick Santa Barbara

Top 10 Staycation Ideas with kids in Santa Barbara


Santa Barbara is the ideal locale for a staycation. Creative families can relax, bond and rediscover their own backyard.

  1. Breakfast on the beach. It only feels decadent. Try Shoreline Restaurant, where you can sit out back, dig your toes in the sand, and let the kids play with sand toys while you unwind and watch surf break at Leadbetter. Put your tourist glasses on as you begin your staycation experience. Decide to see your city as if for the first time. Sip coffee. Deep breath. Savor the family time.
  2. ‘Lil Toot and the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. They go together like PB&J. Your little toot will be thrilled to water taxi between the wharf and harbor. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is a gem. Even if you’ve been before, check out the new children’s exhibit on Surf Creatures brought together by legendary surfer and SB local Shaun Thomson.
  3. Take your bikes wine tasting. Follow the Santa Barbara Wine Trail; SB tasting rooms are worth staying in town. If your kids are adventurous, but safe to have near class bottles, hook up the bike trailer and bring them along. Snacks, toys, and, yes, multimedia on your iPhone, will keep them entertained while you swirl and sniff. Bonus: Recreate the feel of a trip to Los Olivos while saving gas: 1) Wine taste. 2) Dine at any one of our three local Panino’s 3) Find a port-a-potty … and hold out for one hour before using (you wanted authentic Los Olivos, right?!)
  4. Hit the beach at off-peak hours. Even during fog-bound summers, the sun blazes by late afternoon when other beach goers are packing it in. Can’t surf? Try stand-up paddle board – ask a friend for a loaner if you must. The surf is small, the water clear. What’s more exhilarating: skimming along near dolphins, taking in the view, or not being able to hear the kids going nuts with one parent left on shore? You decide!
  5. Camp at El Capitan or Refugio. Refugio offers the special pleasure of waking to the sound of surf at campsite level, and for lazy bones like me the ease of flat beach access with kids and gear is especially sweet. Bonus: While making s’mores, debate the proper pronunciation of “Refugio.” Most persuasive debater earns trophy made of driftwood and tar.
  6. See stars at the 80-year old Arlington theater. Magical: sitting “outside” in the plaza of a colonial Spanish town. Sign up for Metropolitan Theatre’s e-newsletter or “like” them on Facebook for discounted tickets and coupons for popcorn.
  7. Duck-feeding “progressive dinner”. Make it a one-day extravaganza or the starting point for daily family adventures. Start at Lake Los Carneros, letting the kids play Tom Sawyer on the rope swing before moving on. Zip to Alice Keck Park, and wander the relaxing footpaths to hear audio about the flora. Finish off tossing crumbs to ducks mingled among feisty seagulls at the Andre Clark Bird Refuge parking lot. The city is full of hungry ducks waiting for your kids to feed them! Bonus activity: From Alice Keck, cross to Kid’s World and see how many times you experience the panicky sensation of “losing” your kids in the wooden jungle. Whichever parent feels the most stressed, may choose the next tasting room (see Staycation idea #3).
  8. See real stars together. Westmont Observatory is open for public viewing every third Friday of the month at 7:30 p.m., weather permitting. The viewings are held in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit. If that starts too late for your little ones, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History offers planetarium shows every day, for every age.
  9. Casitas Water Adventure. For a mini-adventure, take a 40-minute drive toward Ojai for a day of water-play fun. It offers a multi-level jungle gym with waterfalls, bridges and slides in a lagoon with water up to 18 inches deep. A Lazy River offers a cool water ride on inner tubes. (summer only)
  10. Take a tour. Captain Jack’s Tours and Events, for example, facilitate an amazing array of activities. Doesn’t Channel Islands Sea Cave Kayaking sound like something you’ve always meant to try? This author and spouse went horseback riding and wine tasting as part of their tour services, and we live here.

Plan ahead, as you would for any trip. Check the Calendar. Whether it’s holiday events, live concerts, or other special events, Santa Barbara is choc-a-bloc with events. Bring sunscreen and a camera, and set all your e-mail accounts to vacation. Welcome to your staycation!

March 2, 2015

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  1. sbmom says:

    One of our favorite activities is a picnic at the rose gardens where you have great views of the ocean and the Mission.