In 1917, the Ranger was a sport-fishing yacht?the first built on the West Coast?that hosted celebrities trying their luck at snagging tuna, swordfish, and other swimmers. Flash forward nearly a century, and the Ranger is now a lure, one of several vintage boats that entice visitors to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. Inside a former Naval Reserve building, the museum traces the history of the California Coast seas, from cannons to seaplanes and surfing to the environment. The Munger Theater brings the sea to life with films that could feature maritime history or a trip around the coast, and lectures and other events further enrich the experience.
At the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, visitors of all ages delight in newfound knowledge about the community around them, soaking up information from a wealth of permanent collections, artifacts, and art. Guests marvel at beautiful Chumash baskets and stonework, paintings and armor from Spanish settlements, and relics of life in Santa Barbara during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History seeks to educate its visitors about the world around them through in-depth exhibits on nature, wildlife, and native cultures. A 72-foot blue-whale skeleton stares down and Chumash Indian relics wait for their secrets to be uncovered. Traverse these halls to see everything from outer space, fossils to bears and a nature trail.
Gull Wings Children's Museum appeals to many childhood aspirations as it teaches—the Blast Off area lets kids pretend to be astronauts, the Home Town Hero exhibit lets them play firefighters, and the Lego-a-Go-Go room lets them portray immobile plastic bricks. Aside from the many exhibits, there are a series of regular programs in reading, science, and other subjects. The museum also hosts special events such as storytellers and dance groups.
The Channel Islands Maritime Museum brings the area's rich seafaring history to life with original paintings, ship models, and intricately decorated scrimshaw. After 21 years in one spot, the museum relocated in 2012, hauling along its 2,000-strong catalogue of artifacts—including historic documents, records, and art—to its current location on Channel Islands Harbor. Museum collections inside the new digs highlight periods and industries important to the development of the local maritime culture, reaching as far back as the Chinese Treasure Fleets that sailed the high seas in the 15th century. More modern attractions include the collection that explores whaling industry of the 18th an 19th centuries, the curious case of the La Jenelle, a ship that sunk right in the harbor in 1970 thanks to a nasty northwester.
Established: Before 1950
Staff Size: 2?10 people
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: An authentic working drill rig from 1890
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
California's natural resources have defined the state's history and evolution, from the gold hiding in the hills to the oil bubbling just under the earth's surface. The California Oil Museum tracks the history of petroleum within California's borders, starting with the fossilization of organic matter. Then, through a series of interactive displays, videos, games, and restored gas station memorabilia, the museum's exhibits peel away the millennia. Visitors can relive the glorious early days of roadsters and highways through the vintage gas pump exhibit, or try their hand at old-fashioned oil siphoning with the restored turn-of-the-century cable tool drilling kit. The museum gives plenty of reasons to return, with rotating exhibits on science and history.