Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Creek Walks

I have fond memories from my childhood of exploring creeks in Santa Barbara: the Botanic Gardens, Rocky Nook Park, Tucker's Grove and Oak Park were all places we would poke around, look at bugs, find the best walking stick and get occasionally get wet. I know I have lost some of you and others are freaking out about poison oak (which I have never had), but I am a firm believer in nature play for kids. (This probably  fueled my love for nature as well as my pre-kids job as a science teacher.)  Disclaimer: only you know the conditions of any creek you may walk in. Beware of high water levels and excessive poison oak. 

My own kids love to take a creek walk or play in a park that let's them pick up rocks, sticks and examine bugs. They love the water when it is there, but they still love the dry creeks. My 7 year old especially would walk in the creek at least once a week. It isn't a power walk, but that is hardly the point. 

Why it is a favorite: I could write a thesis about this, but in short, kids need unstructured play and need the calming time in nature

Location: Many places listed in Best Parks with Outdoorsy Play Areas (Botanic GardensStevens ParkRocky Nook ParkTucker's Grove and Oak Park as well as a creek in your neighborhood. If you pay attention as you stroll near your creek, you can find access points. 

Directions: See posts above for the park directions 

Time Spent: an hour or more

Cost: Free 

Hours: Daylight

Parking: See posts above for the parking information

Nearby: Botanic GardensRocky Nook ParkStevens ParkTucker's Grove and Oak Park

More info: Creeks of SB County, Map of Major Creeks, Comprehensive Map

Kid Quotes: "Mama, when can we go on a creek walk?" 7 year old (at least once a week!)

Related Posts: 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Ice in Paradise

Ice in Paradise out only area ice rink opened in 2015 and recently reopened after the long COVID closure.  Hockey leagues recently resumed and the ice was reservable until recently. While the skating lessons have not resumed, the public skate hours are back!!  

Why it is a favorite: Kids feel like the graceful Olympic ice skaters. 

Location: Storke Road at Santa Felicia Dr next to Girsh Park

Directions: Take the 101 to the Glen Annie/Storke Rd exit. Turn toward the ocean (and Costco) onto Glen Annie which quickly becomes Storke Rd. After crossing Hollister Ave, pass the Camino Real Marketplace and turn right onto Santa Felicia Dr. Ice in Paradise will be on your left.   

Time Spent: up to 2 hours (or more if your kids don't tire out)

Cost: $15 on the Studio Rink, $10 on the NHL Rink

NHL Rink (Main)

Hours: Weekdays
8-11, 1:30-4:30, NHL Rink $20 for the session
7:30-9:30 Studio Rink $15 for the session

Saturday and Sunday 
1:30-4:30, NHL Rink $20 for the session
7-9 NHL Rink $20 for the session (Saturday Only) 

Studio Rink 

Parking: There is a large onsite lot for free parking. 

Nearby: Girsh Park, Ellwood Butterfly Preserve, and Sands Beach

More info: Ice in Paradise Website, Ice in Paradise on Instagram and Ice in Paradise FB page  

Kid Quotes: "I don't remember how to do this!" 11 year old (said with joy)

The connected Rinkside Cafe is open 3:30pm on weekdays and 8am on weekends. Current closing times below: 

Related Posts: 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Harbor Walk

The Santa Barbara Harbor has many attractions! One quick one is the walk out to Sandspit Beach with the Breakwater Flag project along the way. The flags represent and honor many of our town's non-profit organizations. When I told my kids this tidbit on our last visit, they tried to spot ones they knew (more than I expected). Some they spotted the logo and some they guessed from the letters. There are about 27 flags that each organization pays about $350 to fly and replace each year. 

The Harbor from the Visitor's Center

Why it is a favorite: Getting outside and down by the water 

Location: Santa Barbara Harbor

Entrance to the Harbor Walk

Directions: To the harbor, take the 101 to Castillo St and turn towards the water. Turn left at the end onto Cabrillo Blvd/Shoreline Dr. Turn left onto Harbor Way. 

Time Spent: 30  to 45 minutes

Flag Walk

Cost: Free 

Hours: No official hours 

End of the Harbor Walk

Parking: Paid parking is available in the harbor lot with $ per hour (there is a 90 minutes free lot too). 

Sandspit Beach

Kid Quotes: "We guessed a lot of the flags, Mom!" 10 year old

Related Posts: 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Santa Barbara Courthouse

The Santa Barbara Courthouse is a local icon and the view from the top is a great (quick) destination for kids. A couple years back we discovered you can also go inside to see the workings of the clock which is especially impressive when the clock is chiming. We often picnic here on the anniversary of my first date with my husband.  In non-COVID times, there are tours, but with kids it is better to self tour and if they get bored you can skip parts. 

Why it is a favorite: My kids like the history of mom and dad's first date.

Location: 1100 block of Anacapa St across from the Santa Barbara Library

Courthouse View North

Directions: Take 101 to the Mission exit. Turn toward the mountains and then right onto Anacapa St.

Time Spent: 15 minutes to 1/2 hour (more for the picnic) 

Cost: Free 

Courthouse View East

Hours: M-F 8-4 and Weekends 10-4:30 (call or check since times have changed during 2020/2021)

Parking: Parking Lot 7 is across Anacapa and has free parking

Clock Interior

More info: The Courthouse history and tours and the clock 

Kid Quotes: "(The clock) is so complicated." 10 year old  "I love courthouse picnics." 7 year old

Clock Interior 2


Related Posts: 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Airplanes Taking Off and Landing


My kids (especially when they were a bit younger) loved to watch the airplanes take off and land at the Santa Barbara Airport. We eventually found a few locations where we loved to view the planes. Of course our airport isn't really that busy, so you do have to be patient. A picnic is a great way to pass the time while watching the planes. 

Why it is a favorite: Airplanes are cool.  

1. Our favorite location is the parking lot at Deckers. They have interesting chairs that we enjoy after hours and on weekends. It is located at the corner of Los Carneros and Hollister Ave. The cool chairs are by parking lot side of the middle of the 3 buildings.

Deckers Chairs are a hit.

2. Deckers Park has the best bird's eye view of the planes taking off and landing. It also has about one mile in paths around the park. It is located overlooking Deckers on Coromar Dr


View from the park

Deckers Park

3. The next best (and little known spot) for watching the planes is a no name parking lot at the intersection at the end of the 217 exit to Sandspit Road where Moffett Place turns into Sandspit Road. The smaller planes are most visible here. 

No Name Lot

Sign at 217 off ramp

4. WWII Memorial/Cell Phone Lot has a decent view of planes preparing to take off. It is located at the first entrance to the airport with a quick right at the first lot.  

WWII History at SB Airport

Sign for the Cell Lot

WWII Lot View

WWII Memorial

Directions: see above

Time Spent: 20 minutes to 1 hour depending on day and kids

Cost: Free 

Hours: Varies

Parking: parking is available at all these locations. 

Nearby: Goleta Beach, Lake Los Carneros, Deckers Park 

More info: Santa Barbara Airport

Kid Quotes: "I like the spinning chairs." 10 year old  "Planes are cool." 7 year old

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Monday, July 12, 2021

Hope Ranch Volcano

Between Hope Ranch Beach and Arroyo Burro Beach lies an active volcanic area. It isn't steam like the activity in Yellowstone or lava flow like in Hawaii. It is a solfatara, or “fire well” gaps in the rock where gas and steam seep up where is can catch fire. It was first recorded in 1784 and often it is just a smokey smolder. Hope Ranch locals say it smells like someone is tarring their roof on the particularly active days and that the smell carries a mile inland. Fire crews have to put out brush fires it causes on occasion including the day after we were there!  

Why it is a favorite: steam rising up out of the hill spontaneously!

Location: 1.3 miles away from Arroyo Burro Beach (on a map it is adjacent to Alisa Lane) or much shorter with Hope Ranch Beach access. It is a long walk, but we have friends who take bikes to ride to it. 

Directions: From the entrance to Arroyo Burro Beach, head west toward Hope Ranch Beach (right) for 1.3 miles (or more if you meander like my kids).  

Time Spent: 1-2 hours depending kids and beach play

Cost: Free 

Hours: 8am-Sunset 

Parking: Arroyo Burro has 2 free parking lots with lots of spaces. It does fill up and you can park across the street on Alan Road. 

Nearby: Arroyo Burro Beach, Hope Ranch Beach, Douglas Preserve

More info: Arroyo Burro Beach, recent fire at the volcano, and historical info about it

Kid Quotes: "The steam was cool." 10 year old  

I couldn't capture a great picture, but here is one from the Independent taken by Hugh Margerum.

Hope Ranch Volcano taken by Hugh Margerum



Beach House (just before the volcano)

Cliff before Hope Ranch Beach (just after the volcano)

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Lil' Toot

Lil' Toot is a tug boat with 19 person capacity. It scoots back and forth between the wharf and the harbor daily (during summer) between 12-5:30/5:45. It shows marine life, points out the notable vessels in the harbor and shares local knowledge. 

Location: the Harbor (departs on the hour and half past) or the Wharf (departing at 15 past and 45 past the hour) 

Directions: To the harbor, take the 101 to Castillo St and turn towards the water. Turn left at the end onto Cabrillo Blvd/Shoreline Dr. Turn left onto Harbor Way. It is located at 113 Harbor Way, docking in front of the Maritime Museum.  To the wharf, take the 101 to Castillo St and turn towards the water. Turn left at the end onto Cabrillo Blvd/Shoreline Dr. Turn right onto Stearns Wharf. The office is at 237 Stearns Wharf past the seas center and the shops on the Montecito side of the wharf.

Time Spent: 15 minute narrated ride (Boats leave on time so allow time for buying tickets and you may have to wait to depart depending on arrival time). 

On the wharf, if you are waiting, you can visit the sea center, have lunch at Char West or Longboards, eat ice cream at The Great Pacific Ice Cream Company or sweets from Mother Stearns Candy Company.

At the harbor, if you are waiting, you can visit the Maritime Museum, catch the view from the Santa Barbara Visitors Center (above the Maritime Museum), walk the flag walk out to Sandspit Beach or eat lunch at On the Alley or Chomp on the Rocks

Cost: $5/$2 per one way ride with a beach stroll back and $10/$4 round trip

Hours: the Harbor (departs on the hour and half past) or the Wharf (departing at 15 past and 45 past the hour)

Parking: At the harbor, paid parking is available in the harbor lot with $ per hour (there is a 90 minutes free lot too).  At the Wharf, paid parking is available on the pier with 75 minutes free. 

Nearby: West Beach, Sea Center, Maritime Museum, Harbor Walk and East Beach 

More info:

Kid Quotes: "I liked Charlie (the sea lion)." -- 7 year old; "I liked feeling the wind and the ocean." 10 year old 

Harbor from the Visitor Center

Harbor from Lil Toot

Pelicans and Cormorants

Sea Lions

Visitor Center Deck

Wharf from the Water