From the aquarium on Stearns Wharf to the child-friendly Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara will entertain your baby or toddler while you both enjoy your day on some great sandy beaches. Shop on State Street or walk the palm tree-lined pathways to Shoreline Park and the Santa Barbara Harbor.
Atmosphere: Amenities like wine tasting and surrey rentals within walking distance of the beach make Santa Barbara popular among families looking for a relaxing and fun trip. State Street gets busy, especially during events, but the picturesque hillside city and temperate climate make the crowds worthwhile.
Parking and Entrance: For easy beach access, park along Cabrillo Boulevard; look for parking near the pier. You’ll cross a grass area and walkway to get to the beach. You can board the trolley at Stearns Wharf and take it all the way up State Street for shopping and dining.
Nice Walks and Views: Walk for awhile along the Santa Barbara city beaches with a variety of interesting stops on the way: giraffes poking their heads out from trees in the zoo, beautiful flowers, boats launching and thought-provoking displays on the north side of the pier.
Activities for Toddlers: Shoreline Park (north of the pier) has a playground, grass area and a bird’s eye beach view. Parking is free here, so if you’re not up for doing the sandy toddler thing, bring your picnic here. Also, Santa Barbara Zoo was practically built for kids with its low, transparent or open enclosures (yet still safe) and big grass areas for picnicking.
Bathrooms: Bathrooms are at the foot of the pier (these ones have a diaper changer), on the pier and in several other locations.
Perks for Parents: Santa Barbara has a few wine tasting rooms within blocks of the beach – Giessinger, Oreana and Santa Barbara Winery. Pick up a bottle to bring back to your hotel for after baby’s bedtime.
Where to Stay with Kids: It can be difficult to find an inexpensive hotel in Santa Barbara,
and even some of the moderately priced lodging isn’t really worth the cost. Motel 6 (Santa Barbara Beach) is within close walking distance to the beach and to Santa Barbara Zoo. The rooms have been recently remodeled with modern décor and wood-style floors, so it’s nice for a Motel 6. Make sure your room has a fridge and microwave, which is sometimes additional.
Baby-friendly Restaurants: Eat at the oceanfront, family-owned Rusty’s Pizza for a semi-local experience. Rusty’s has big rooms for large and loud family gatherings.
What Else to Do: Santa Barbara Zoo – This lush tropical zoo is small enough for your toddler’s short attention span and even has a train.