The Santa Barbara Natural History Museum and Rocky Nook Park are often overlooked when families travel to Santa Barbara to visit the nearby Mission. The museum is amazing. It’s more than a museum to me. It embodies my childhood. I was there when the museum acquired the blue whale that washed up on the shore. In the newspaper and on separate visits, I followed how they prepared the animal for exhibit outside the museum. My sister, cousin and I had free reign to quietly inspect the indoor exhibits and tromp all through the grounds on our own. I spent a few days every summer attending family film festival showings in the auditorium. I remember watching Cheaper By the Dozen there – the old black and white version.
You can visit the SBNature.org official website for details about your visit. I just wanted to share some of my favorite childhood memories and spots not to miss:
- Any kid growing up in Santa Barbara will remember the rattlesnake case. It used to sit in the hallway, but now it’s right outside the admission office. Push a button to see and hear the rattlesnake’s rattle.
- There’s an exhibit table in the bird room which completely fascinates me. It’s a table showing off the nests and eggs of different species. As a kids, I remember being transfixed looking at the minuscule size of a hummingbird egg. I’ve never missed a peek at those little eggs on every trip since.
- The Monarch butterfly exhibit still exists. Now it’s surrounded by a brand new room just made for kids to open drawers and interact with exhibits.
- I won’t give it away, but don’t miss the gem and mineral room. Check out the case with the light that goes from bright, to dark, to black light.
- Ever read Island of the Blue Dolphins? There’s an exhibit on the girl from San Nicholas Island in the Chumash room. It’s amazing to see actual artifacts from this real life book character. There’s a marker and more memorabilia next door at the historic Santa Barbara Mission.
- Get outside the building and walk across the foot bridge over the stream where small fry trout are sometimes visible. The small trails are magical back under the trees and you’ll feel comfortable letting the kids explore on their own.
- Follow the trails past the building up the creek looping so you can cross back over the creek on another bridge. Back on the museum side, there’s a cool fossil digging station.
- After you leave the museum, Rocky Nook Park is nearby for a picnic or extra playtime.
Rocky Nook Park
This park is very nearby and is perfect for a picnic. Hiking trails, rocks for scrambling and a playground make it naturally fun.
Where will you go? Left or right at the fork?
Don’t miss these great stops next time you head to Santa Barbara!
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