Santa Barbara made for a fantastic February getaway from a rainy winter in the Pacific Northwest, and we visited the local Botanic Gardens as part of our visit. You might think, as we did, that February’s not the ideal time for viewing flowers, but we were very pleasantly surprised to discover lots of beautiful landscapes and colors!

The Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens are designed around a 1-mile walking path that makes a circuit around the property. It’s ideally situated to show off a huge variety of scenery, starting from a meadow and then entering a redwood forest, followed by a canyon where you’ll find a freshwater spring and historic aqueduct for transporting water to the Old Mission. The landscaping is very subtle, preferring a more natural appearance instead of a formal garden style.

Botanic Gardens in Santa Barbara

Along the way we discovered huge boulders set into the hillside which must have been a byproduct of spectacular geological events in previous eras. They are truly impressive and a very unique feature of the gardens!

The main path splits off into many side trails, some of which are easier to traverse than others. (Watch out for poison oak!) Our kids enjoyed the hike, and had absolutely no complaints about exploring some of the side trails as well. With so much variety, we never knew what new landscape would meet the eye every time we turned a corner. The kids enjoyed the chance to explore as well, delighting over their own discoveries of many assorted rocks, sticks and pretty flowers. They really had a blast and this made for a great outdoor activity for all members of our family.

Even with California’s recent water shortage, there was still a respectable creek running through the property, with several water features and wildlife scattered about here and there:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Wildlife

In addition to all these, there are also some demonstration gardens showing native plants that thrive in the Santa Barbara climate and are easy to maintain in a more domestic setting. (Not much resembled the native plants in our Oregon backyard, except for the aforementioned poison oak!)

The one thing we would note is that it would have been great to find a family rate for visiting the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, as their regular prices ($10/adult, $8/child) add up quickly for a large family. But, we very much enjoyed our visit and were glad to have experienced a more serene side of Santa Barbara than the main town and marina area.

Other ideas to consider if in Santa Barbara: