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Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Get fabulous views while you wander at this peaceful hillside retreat

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This appealing garden, situated on the hilly east side of town, focuses on the state’s diverse native plants. But here, you don’t just look and see, you do too. The events calendar is packed with guided walks, bird-watching sessions, book signings, lectures, and workshops on painting and photography. “Sustainable horticulture” is a phrase that is key to much of what goes on here; through “Gardening with Natives” classes offered, visitors can learn how introducing native plants to gardens and landscaping can lower water and fertilizer needs, provide food and a habitat for pollinators and other beneficial wildlife, and conserve unique California flora.

Stroll the grounds to experience a variety of climates. The garden is divided into different sections, each one representing a different part of California: the Canyon Section, the Desert Section, the Redwood Section, the Woodland Trail, and more. 

Kids love getting the chance to see and learn about an authentic Japanese tea ceremony at the tea house, open the second Saturday of each month from noon to 2 p.m. (Tea house closed in May.) Lizards, turtles, and woodpeckers will delight, and the Garden Shop has a variety of games, books, and educational toys for children of all ages.

Of course, it’s perfectly fine to just hang out and enjoy the view. More than five miles of paths loop around the 78-acre property (see a map here), and it’s a fabulous place to take in vistas of the handsome Santa Ynez Mountains to the north and east, as well as the Channel Islands, surrounded by Pacific blue.

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