A testament to the art of taxidermy and early 20th century museum curation, the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum stands out in my mind as a place I loved visiting as a child.
Sitting in the shadow of the Santa Ynez Mountains tucked between the Santa Barbara Mission and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the 100-year-old museum houses collections of mammals, birds, insects, and marine animals; a planetarium, several gardens; an auditorium; a research library; and a rotating exhibit (an exhibit of the history of botanical drawings were there when I visited).
This is a museum more geared towards children and adults like me who come for the nostalgia factor. Many of the mammalian exhibits haven't changed since the 1930's. The rather racist, in that early anthropology Margaret Mead sort of way, Chumash exhibit appears dated, tacky and frankly, offensive, when compared to the new exhibit at the Museum of Ventura County. Think of it more as a testament to the time of its curation than a source of valid and culturally respectful information.
On a sunny almost spring day, the gardens and grounds of the museum are lovely. Walk over the bridges and wander through the backyard garden, the Japanese garden, and follow the Caroline Hazard Mission Creek Nature Trail.
Feeling a little like the Casey Affleck to the San Francisco's California Academy of Science's Ben Affleck, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is a fun addition to a day spent at the mission and the botanic gardens.
Admission: $12 for adults (planetarium tickets are extra)
Hours: 10-5pm daily (planetarium hours differ)
Time to visit: Approximately 2 hours (dependent on interest)