Santa Barbara is a city known for its vibrant history, seaside mountains, and beautiful winding beaches. In every inch of this coastal city, there are places to explore, things to be learned, and sights to truly enjoy.
If you’re visiting or living in Santa Barbara, perhaps one of the best ways to understand the city’s charm is to visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. I was fortunate enough to go on a private tour with Briana Tivey, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the museum.
Upon arriving at the museum, you can’t help but marvel at the stunning Spanish Revival building and the beautifully landscaped grounds. Surrounded by ancient oak and palm trees, it feels as though the building has been around for a century – and as Briana informed me, it has been.
The museum was created back in 1916 as the Museum of Comparative Oology. Since the very beginning, the museum has served as both a museum and a research institute. Currently, there are over one hundred staff members at the museum, who, as Briana informed me, “are actively going on archaeological digs, going through specimens, naming species, and really filling in our collection to see how species change over time in their habitat.”
The love that the staff has for the animals and land of Santa Barabara is entirely reflected in every exhibit throughout the museum. The Santa Barbara Gallery, in particular, really shows the appreciation they have for this beautiful place. The gallery expertly showcases the many different ecosystems of Santa Barbara. From the salt marshes on the south-facing coast, to the sandy beaches, to the estuaries and coral reefs on the Pacific, Santa Barbara is a stunning place because of this biodiversity.
The gallery is lined with dioramas that will keep any child engaged and amazed. But to really get the children involved in the learning process, look no further than the curiosity lab, which is filled with enough curiosities to keep a child entertained for hours. Briana described this section of the museum as, “a mini-museum all in one.” Each portion of the curiosity room is tangible, allowing kids to run wild with their imaginations and truly enjoy the fun that can be had while they learn.
Another wing of the museums made for people of all ages to enjoy is the Mammal Hall, which is one of my absolute favorites. The hall features the animals of California, set in a diorama that showcases each individual habitat. As I walked the halls with Briana, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the abundance of wildlife this part of the country is so blessed with.
As I rounded up my trip to the Museum, Briana took me for a stroll on the boardwalk in the Museum Backyard. An area that was created to bring nature as close as possible to the visitors, the Backyard gives kids and kids-at-heart the opportunity to make mud pies, build forts, find fossils, and really just get their hands dirty learning about science and nature.
As I was preparing to leave, Briana let me know the best way to help support the museum and the community is to, “just visit and bring your friends.” After such a wonderful visit, I can happily say I will be visiting and bringing many friends. It’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon learning, reveling in the beauty that is nature, and spending quality time with loved ones.