Santa Barbara is for toddlers {and our anniversary}

A little bit over a month ago, Daddy Dom and I celebrated our 2nd marriage anniversary. Although it’s been short and still fairly new, our marriage has been full of ups and downs, smiles and frowns, cheers and tears, excites and fights. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been easy. I haven’t discussed the negative aspects of it here on the blog (not sure yet if I ever will) but just know that we’ve had our fair share of it and then some. The reason I’m even mentioning any of this is to give you a better understanding as to why our anniversaries (only 2 so far) have been so important to us. We’ve made it another year! That’s worth celebrating, so we decided to pack up our small family (no dogs) and we headed to Santa Barbara, CA for a night. Why Santa Barbara? We sorta eloped there. I was 8 months pregnant and we scheduled ourselves to get hitched only 3 days before it happened at the court house! You can check out the post I wrote on it HERE (with a pic or two of the big baby bump). It’s for this reason that Santa Barbara will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

This overnight trip was Mia’s first since she was only 3 months old which was 20 months ago. I was uneasy about how she would handle napping and sleeping outside of her bedroom and in a new place. I brought our pack n’ play to set up in our hotel room (she’s far too wiggly to sleep on the bed yet). Both the nap and bedtime required me to rock her to sleep in my arms, but once she was out she was out. Other than those few hiccups, Mia did so amazingly well over the whole weekend. Yes, she’s an awesome kid but I also give major credit to the city of Santa Barbara for keeping Mia entertained and for all of the toddler friendly activities it has to offer.

The following photos show some of the things to do and places to go when visiting Santa Barbara with your toddler. They also support my new found desire to want to move there, permanently.

Alice Keck Park:

What small child doesn’t like watching and/or chasing ducks and birds?! There’s a fairly large pond in the middle of the park area that also has small trails that lead you through beautiful trees and flowers. I can see myself living nearby, waking up early to take Mia and the dogs to this area for a walk/jog followed by a little picnic by the water. Why don’t we have something like this close by to us now? Mia loved exploring here.

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Kids World Castle Playground:

Get this, the play structure below is directly across the street from the pond. I’ve never seen a playground more unique than this one. It’s completely made of wood, it’s ginormous and has an endless amount of cubbies and corners and nooks and crannies and steps and bridges to completely get lost in. The kids there were having the time of their life.┬áMia was thrilled to join in on the fun. I also loved how there were picnic benches set up super close to the structure so that parents can relax while keeping a close eye on the kiddos. After hanging out at the pond, this would be our next stop for the day (if I lived in Santa Barbara).

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The Pier

After blowing off some energy at the pond and the park, we hit up the beach. We took a stroll down the pier which was a first for Mia. She stopped every 5 feet or so to peek over the edge to the ground. She was so intrigued by just the sand when we started our walk, seeing people below us. You can only imagine her curiosity when we reached the shore and she could see the waves roll in. It was seriously cool to watch her observe it all. The payoff for our walk to the end of the pier was a small bag of buttered popcorn, a favorite of all 3 of ours.

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The Santa Barbara Zoo

The next day, we went to the zoo. It’s a much smaller zoo than what we’re used to (LA Zoo) but I really enjoyed it a lot more. First of all, the exhibits are very close to each other, making it easier to navigate through the park. Kids tire out soon and keeping the walking to a minimum helped us reserve our energy. The actual exhibits were nicer (I think) than those at the LA Zoo and are larger (except for the elephant enclosure). There were less animals, though. My favorite part of this zoo, was the amount of interaction that is encouraged between the zoo and the children. There were ride-along toy cars (in the shape of zoo animals) that the kids could cruise around on. You could pay (super cheap) to hand feed a giraffe. There was an interactive playground area for kids, complete with a hill meant for sliding down on top of cardboard. There were food dispensers scattered around the park where you could pay a quarter or two for some food to feed the petting zoo animals (and few others). Overall, we had a great time there and I think our LA Zoo should take a few tips from this one. Great place for the family!

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The Beach

What kid doesn’t love the beach?! Oh…right. Mine. We finished our trip in Santa Barbara at the beach because we had been talking it up for days to Mia. She loved the idea of the beach and would talk about it pretty often before we actually arrived. Once we were finally there, she still loved the idea of the beach. It wasn’t until she realized that walking in sand is hella hard and that waves of water come rolling in constantly, that she decided she most definitely does NOT like the beach. I’m not surprised. She hated it the first time we took her to one last summer. Remember this? We tried to convince her that the bubbles in the water were so cool and that running from the waves was actually fun, but we failed. Maybe next time. If your kid is not my kid, chances are this is a fantastic way to spend a day with your family. Just don’t forget the sunblock.

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I should also mention that Santa Barbara is jam packed with amazing restaurants and cafes! A small little drive through town will reveal this in seconds. Every other business you drive by is something delicious looking. It’s hard to choose which one to try out. I’d love to recommend a quick breakfast and/or light lunch spot called Backyard Bowls. Daddy Dom and I are big Acai bowl fans and this place has THE BEST! They also have delicious oatmeal bowls that I enjoyed on Sunday morning. Their food/ingredients are natural and healthy, too.

Another activity we noticed on this trip and on the last one there a year ago was an art walk. We didn’t check it out this time, but it looked like something we’d be interested in. There just wasn’t enough time in the day.

And, near the beach and a skate park (Mia LOVED watching the skaters take to the half pipes and rails. Seriously, mesmerized) and I think near the zoo, there’s an outdoor carousel! It’s so beautiful but we only spotted it from the car and didn’t check it out ourselves. Next time, for sure.

So there you have it. In case you were wondering where to vacation or visit that would also be appropriate for the family, look no further than Santa Barbara. I love beach towns and I loved that most of the people walking around were somewhat young. It was refreshing. Our anniversary couldn’t have gone any smoother or been more enjoyable. It was just what we needed as a family and I’m looking forward to the next time we visit. Maybe, we’ll head over on the train!


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  1. Happy Anniversary Misty! It is a big deal, marriage (especially with children) is challenging. Congrats.

    • Thanks so much Jordan. I feel like we entered into this with a lot of challenges to face from the get go…so it’s been extra hard but we’re hanging in there still :)

  2. What an awesome trip and gorgeous photographs!! I love this post. Congratulations on your two-year anniversary. That IS an accomplishment. We’ll be celebrating two years in June and like you, we’ve had an up and down journey, too — I mean REALLY up and down. It’s so nice to see you all enjoying yourselves and hooray for your good little traveler. <3


    • Dena, I’ll see your “REALLY” and I’ll raise you another “REALLY REALLY”! I kid, but…I feel ya. Maybe we should swap stories sometime. Thanks for the nice words as always.

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