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Santa Barbara is one of our favorite cities in CA and around 3 hours away from where we live. In June 2017, we went for a quick weekend getaway and had a blast! Milana has been here several times before as a baby/toddler and mainly passing through to go up or down he coast, but this time she was really able to enjoy all the city has to offer.
We stayed at the Fess Parker-a DoubleTree Resort by Hilton. The hotel is phenomenal, 24 acres of ocean front property. We chose a room closest to the pool so that Milana can swim whenever she wanted, which turned out to be a great choice. We had the ground floor with a patio that overlooked the pool. The room had 2 beds and was much larger than most standard hotel rooms.
The pool is heated and large, it was a hit with Milana and many other families during our stay. It was the perfect way to relax and break up the day in between sightseeing.
Right near the pool, you can rent bikes and go ride across the street by the ocean. Most bike rental places offer only adult bikes. Here, you can rent several different types of bikes including ones with child seats attached to them and surreys, big enough for even the largest of families.
The hotel grounds are perfect for exploring, so if you have kids who are getting antsy sitting in a hotel room, you can just wander around the massive property.
There’s also this cute mini vineyard near the lobby. Syrah is my favorite wine ever, and I was excited when we came back to our room and found a bottle of it on the desk!
The hotel has a breakfast buffet ($25/person and kids under 5 are free) but as gold members, we received vouchers for a free breakfast which was great! The selection of food is great and they even had an omelet station. Milana loves buffets so this was perfect for her.
The hotel is walking distance to many attractions, including the famous Stearns Wharf. Milana and I walked around there and explored the different shops they have to offer. Great way to spend a couple of hours!
The famous Santa Barbara Zoo is less than a 15 minute walk away and a must visit with kids! There is lots to do besides just see animals. They had a grassy hill with flattened cardboard for the kids to slide down on. And on weekends in the summer, there are different craft stations set out. The day we went, the kids were making pet rocks and Milana chose the monkey.
Right next door to the hotel, is a fun little playground, Chase Palm Park aka Shipwreck Playground. I highly recommend walking over here, your kids will have a blast! There’s also a little indoor carousel, but it was closed during the times we went.
Another really fun playground, though a little farther away, is Alameda Park. The play structure here is awesome and will entertain your kids for hours!
There are also street vendors here selling everything from ice cream to elote and Milana’s favorite, mango!
One of the things we love to do when we travel is visit children’s museum. I was happy to hear that Santa Barbara’s newest one opened just a few months ago, so of course we had to go! Moxi has 3 levels of interactive exhibits, which is sure to keep your kids occupied. The best part? Our entrance was free. If you are a member of an institution that participates in the ASTC Travel Passport Program, you are eligible for benefits such as free or discounted admission to hundreds of children’s and science museum in the US and all over the world. We are members of our local science center, and as a result have received free admission to many others on our frequent travels. The membership has paid for itself and then some!
After the museum, we headed downtown for some pancakes since Milana was in the mood for some. We stumbled upon Jeannines, which was packed (always a good sign!) and Milana got the pancakes she’s been wanting. They have some great coffee drinks too, try the Havana latte if you go!
Right next door to the cafe is one of my favorite stores in the area, Peanuts. It’s part consignment part toy store and they also sell new items as well. We’ve been coming here for years and will continue to do so on every trip. The staff is wonderful and they have some super cute products.
We explored the downtown area for a little bit before heading back to the hotel.
Aside from the pancake cafe and hotel breakfast, we tried a few different places and all were really good! One of our favorite restaurants in SB is Green Table, a vegan/gluten free restaurant. They have one of the largest matcha selections anywhere (my favorite!) and use lots of local, organic ingredients in their food. I would eat here every day if we had something like this! I had the green table burger, which is a quinoa patty lots of veggies on cauliflower bread. So good! Milana loved their drinks (she had something with almond milk/strawberries/chia seeds) and their gf muffins. You must visit this place, even if you aren’t vegan.
Another place we really liked is Lure Fish House. The fish here is really fresh and the kids menu is really good too, offering smaller portions of any fish. Milana had the sea bass and I had the halibut with organic rainbow carrots/brussel sprouts as a side.
And dessert-we loved McConnell’s Ice Cream so much, that we went back two days in a row! It’s always packed, but the line moves quickly. Flavors seem to change daily and I’m certain you won’t be disappointed with anything there!
As you can see, there is plenty to do in Santa Barbara with kids. We only had two days, but managed to squeeze a lot into those days!