ParentClick Santa Barbara

Travel the World… Stay in Town


There is still time to take your family on a fabulous vacation that includes: hiking in the coastal redwoods, looking for water in the mojave desert, climbing mountains for ocean views, learning a bit of history, and exploring in wooded valleys. You might even want to add a quick trip to Japan for a Japanese tea ceremony.

You don’t have to travel the world, or even the state to enjoy these adventures, just spend a day at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The Garden is a great place for families who love to explore. Native plants from all over California are arranged into natural plant communities to give you the experience of having traveled from one end of the state to the other.

Convenient and Accessible. While the Garden is just a half mile up from Foothills Rd., you are quickly immersed into the heart of nature. Parking is easy and many paths are accessible by stroller or wheelchair. The 5.5 miles of trails include gentle slopes and more challenging climbs that will take you high enough for views of the Channel Islands. Sixty-one historic benches are tucked away on the Garden grounds providing plenty of spots to rest. This may be a good time to teach your children how much more you can see in nature, if you are just quiet and observe.

Pack for adventure: While the Garden is much more accessible than local trails, you will benefit from packing and dressing for a day of hiking. Wear shoes that allow you to scramble across rocks, negotiate dirt trails with rocks and uneven terrain. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the trail or at one of the many picnic spots in the Garden. If you are not eating near a picnic area with trashcans, remember the camping rule- pack out what you bring in- ie your trash. If you forget a drink or need more chips, stop in the Gift Shop for provisions. The Gift Shop also has a great collection of nature inspired toys for your young explorers, and books and nature guides for explorers of every age.

Tips for young explorers. Before you go, check the Garden website for a little background info to impress your gang with. But you might be surprised at what your kids point out to you! From their vantage point closer to the ground they will see bugs, lizards, interesting rocks, cool bark patterns and maybe even a snake that you might miss. (Do not be alarmed, if you see a snake it is most likely a nonpoisonous king snake). If your adventure supplies got eaten by an alligator on your last trip, ask at the front kiosk if you can borrow a magnifying glass for looking under leaves and logs for tiny critters.

Older kids might enjoy a more structured adventure. The self guided tour on the website points out plants, history and plant uses. Print or download before your visit as it may be difficult to get reception in some areas of the Garden.

Free Tours. Saturdays and Sundays free tours at 11 and 2 are led by well trained docents who bring to life the many aspects of the plants, animals, geology and history of the Garden. Insiders know that you can get the same tour with fewer people on Mondays at 2pm!

Don’t forget your trip to Japan! On the second Saturday of each month the Japanese Tea House opens it’s doors and you can observe members learning the authentic Japanese Tea Ceremony. Your family will enjoy seeing the formal kimono’s and hearing the instructors chat in Japanese. Between lessons, feel free to ask questions, like why is there a Japanese Tea House in a California native plant garden?

Spend an hour, spend a week. Your staycation fun at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden could all be covered in one afternoon with the main loop taking about an hour. But, did you have time to figure out the flight path of the honey bees in the Manzanita section? To see how many different colors of dragon flies there are in the Arroyo? Did you get to notice that all the lizards are not the same? No worries, as your vacation took place right here in town- come back any time!

Membership. Extend that staycation all year long for less than the price of a hotel room. A family membership gets all of you in for free any day, every day, rain or shine (except four holidays, per year). Not to mention discounts on classes, plants and gift shops items!

Summer Exploration Classes. If your staycation could use a little quiet time to yourself, bring your kids to the Garden Explorations workshops on Saturday mornings. While we need you to stay on grounds while your child is here, you can enjoy a light breakfast on the deck, or a quiet meditation in the redwoods while they romp and roam with the class.

See you at the Garden!

July 7, 2015

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