Santa Barbara With Kids

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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!


  • Only By Land

    The images you shared are wonderful and your Milana is a star! I take thousands of images of my daughter when I go anywhere with her. The Garden Tree Hilton looks perfect for kids as does Santa Barbara. I do wish my daughter was as well behaved as yours!

  • kidsandcompass

    That hotel looks perfect for families – I’d definitely stay there with mine. They would love the pool! There looks to be so much to do in Santa Barbara – my kids would love Moxi! Lovely photos of Milana, she seems to have enjoyed herself!

  • Mel Butler

    It is weird I have been to LA loads and every time I go, I always have on my list to visit Santa Barbara but I just don’t make it there. After your post, I am definitely making sure that I go there on my next visit to LA. That Lure Fish House looks like a yummy place to eat too.

  • Claire Summers

    This looks like a great place for families. Your little girl looks like she had a wonderful time! Especially in that play park, and eating the Ice Cream. What a cutie.

  • Forat

    Santa Barbara seems like a great getaway 🙂 I love the snaps of your adorable daughter and that you took her out for all sorts of activities!

  • Ali May

    WOW – Santa Barbara is a fantastic destination for families! I will be keeping this post for future reference. The hotel facilities seem perfect (nice choice on the room by the pool), the children’s museum would definitely be a must. And the food looks awesome!

  • Monika

    Sounds like you had a great family trip, your girl is so cute! The green table restaurant sounds like my kind of place and that mango wow! Never seen mangoes being served like that, so clever. I wold love to visit Santa Barbara one day!

  • Yukti

    Santa Barbara really looks like a family tourist place. I will also try McCollonel ice-cream..looking yummy. Your bedroom is huge with 2 king sized beds and spacious room.

  • Jean

    The Double Tree Hilton always impresses. Though this one certainly look as if they went above and beyond in the luxury department. Seeing these photos makes me think that Santa Barbara is the perfect place for a get away

  • Tania Mukherjee

    Hotels with pool are always way better than those without it. I can understand Milana’s ecstasy. Even though I am an adult I am feeling excited about it! Loved the in-house mini vineyard!

  • TravelingMel

    Looks like you had a great time. I grew up about an hour south of Santa Barbara and loved going there as a teenager. I can see now, how great it is for kids! The pool looks like a lot of fun and I love the breakfast churro! I think I might need to plan a Santa Barbara trip with my boys next time I am in California.

  • Migrating Miss

    This looks like a great place for families to visit. It seems like you had a lovely time! I’ve only really been to LA, but it looks like I need to return and go here!

  • Kim

    Santa Barbara seems like a great place for a family vacation! Despite numerous trips to California, I’ve yet to make it to SB. Your post reminded me about the street vendors I miss so much about California! Dreaming of some elote right now.

  • Iza (@IzaAbao)

    Santa Barbara is definitely a great place to explore for families. I like the varieties of things to do and see here especially the Syrah Vineyard. I love the restaurants that you visited. My favorite one is the Lure Fish House. Milana looks so happy and she already knows how to shop. Cool!

  • The Discoveries Of

    Had no idea that Santa Barbara had so much to do and see. Have visited the Fess Parker vineyard and winery before but not stayed in the resort. Looks great.

  • explorelovetravel

    Milana is so cute! Looks like you had a great time together in Santa Barbara. I’ve never been there but I’d love to go 🙂 all those food photos make me hungry! green table burger! Mmmm!

  • Bhushavali

    Hilton hotels everywhere maintain a high standard and this one is no different! It looks chic! Ocean front property? That sounds very tempting!
    I’m a wine drinker too and to be gifted a bottle by the hotel is just awesome!

  • Deb 'n' Kev

    We have never made it to Santa Barbara but it has been on our short list of places to see. We often rent bikes on our trips, have visited many zoos and seen many piers so this might just be ideal for us (although we might be a little old for the playground.) The hotel looks like an ideal location and place to stay with children.

  • Christie

    I recently went to Santa Barbara for the first time and LOVED it! Such a beautiful place. That havana latte looks delicious – I’ll have to try it next time. Thanks for sharing!

  • Traveltorecovery (@Travel2recovery)

    It looks like Santa Barbara is a great place to visit with kids your little girl looks like she is having lots of fun. She looks so tiny next to that huge guitar and I would definitely like to have some of that mango looks delicious.

  • Diana Chen

    I love heated pools! Milana looks like she had a great time. The food looks delicious and I love how the mango treat is carved. I haven’t been to Santa Barbara in over a decade and believe it’s time for a return trip 🙂

  • Fillia Barden

    Santa Barbara surely is a great place for family holiday. Your girl looks happy. It tells how great was the trip.

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