The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is one of the city’s best museums. It spotlights the area’s vast culture and history through exhibits on everything from the Chumash Native Americans and ecology of Santa Barbara to insects and dinosaurs. It is an excellent spot for the whole family and has some of the best diorama-type displays I have seen. Plus, when you pull up in the parking lot, you will see a complete blue whale skeleton as well, which is pretty hard to beat. Here is all the information if you want to check it out.
- Cost: $17 for adults, $11 for kids (as of 2022)
- Hours: Everyday 10 AM – 5 PM, Closed Tuesdays (as of 2022)
- Location: 2559 Puesta Del Sol, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
The museum is located close to the Santa Barbara Mission. If you go past the mission, you will see signs directing you to the museum entrance. There is a large parking area here that you can use for your museum visit.
Santa Barbra Museum of Natural History
After paying your fee to enter the museum, you can browse the six different exhibit halls, each with its own focus. Here is a little about each.
The first exhibit I went to was on Chumash life & culture. It had an extensive collection of Chumash artifacts. It was well done and was a great introduction to the people group that I have heard so much about when in this area of California.
Earth and Marine Sciences
Behind this exhibit, you can see one of the museum’s most popular artifacts, the skeleton of a pygmy mammoth.
What’s crazy about this skeleton is that it was dug up on one of the Channel Islands. It’s wild to think about these creatures on the island.
There was also a lot of information on ocean life here as well. The exhibits were unique in that most museums have actual water tanks and live fish, but this museum had elaborate dioramas of kelp forests and intertidal areas with sea life displayed in them.
It felt much older but was cool to see and one of the museum’s highlights for me (there are many of these dioramas in the mammals and bird halls).
Santa Barbara Gallery
This gallery has lots of information on the Santa Barbara area and its geology and animal life.
There is a bug section in the back with a hundred or so bugs displayed in a large exhibit, ranging from butterflies to beetles.
Moving on, the mammal hall is one medium-sized room with ten or so displays of taxidermied mammals on display in the dioramas mentioned above.
They have everything from bears to deer in here. It is a well done and interesting way to display the animals. It doesn’t compare to the number of birds they have in the next area through.
I was blown away when I entered this exhibit, as it had probably over a hundred taxidermied birds on display in the many glass exhibits.
It was crazy to see how many birds they had here, and it was a great way to learn about them.
There was even a section with just different bird eggs and a bunch more dioramas with varying birds in them.
The many kids I saw in this section were overwhelmed with what to look at, and I can see why, there was just so much to see. It was really cool though.
The last area I visited at the museum was the back garden which had some dinosaurs situated in the shade of the trees.
These dinosaurs were animatronic, and both moved and growled. It was easily one of the most popular areas of the museum, and it was a lot of fun.
The back garden is beautiful with a small creek that runs through it and lots of big trees. I imagine it would be a great area to have a cup of coffee and relax while exploring the museum.
I have visited many museums in Santa Barbara, and this is easily one of the best. It has many unique exhibits and is fun for children and adults. Check it out, and let me know what you think in the comments.