Why You Need to Visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara

If you are planning a trip to California, then a visit to Old Mission Santa Barbara should be at the top of your itinerary. Nicknamed “Queen of the Missions,” this historic landmark has been enchanting visitors for centuries. The grounds include a beautiful church overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a historic cemetery, a nine-room museum filled with artifacts, and multiple flowering gardens. Find out why this monument is one of the most prominent cultural and historic landmark in Santa Barbara. Then, come see it for yourself!

If you are planning to visit Old Mission Santa Barbara, you’ll want to grab lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. If you would like a complete list of area attractions, be sure to request our complimentary Vacation Guide. It’s full of insider’s tips about what to see, where to eat, and things to do in Santa Barbara!

Old Mission Santa Barbara History

Old Mission Santa Barbara was founded in 1786 by the Spanish Franciscans. Originally, there were three adobe churches constructed and each was bigger than the last. After the third church was destroyed by the 1812 earthquake, the present church was built in 1820.  Today, the Old Mission is a standing monument that reflects California’s rich cultural diversity. Mexican, Spanish, English, Asian, Chumash, and other influences have all played an important role in the Mission’s history. These influences can still be seen in the magnificent architecture and artwork throughout the buildings. With a goal to “build a future based on reconciliation and justice which honors creation and all people,” the Mission continues to be the chief cultural landmark in Santa Barbara.

Tours at Old Mission Santa Barbara

As soon as you set foot on the Old Mission’s grounds, you will feel like you have time-traveled to a previous era. With stunning sculptures and ancient artifacts, it is a truly incredible sight to behold. You may either go on a self-guided tour or take one of the docent-led tours. Here are a few things to know about each tour option:

1. Self-Guided Tours

If you would like to explore the grounds at your own pace, then we recommend taking a self-guided tour. Take your time touring the sacred gardens, historic cemetery, the church, and the museum. Afterwards, be sure to stop by the gift store and find some souvenirs or unique treasures to take home for family and friends. Admission varies based on age and military status, but self-guided tours do not cost more than $10. They are open 7 days a week.  

2. Public Docent-Led Tours

If you would like to learn more about the Old Mission’s history, you should consider taking a docent-led tour. Take an educational and entertaining journey to the past as your experienced guide leads you to the main points of interest. As you wander through the historic grounds and buildings, you will also learn about the Mission system, the Franciscan Friars, and Alta, CA. Tours are every Tuesday – Friday at 11 a.m., and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. (excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas). You don’t need to make a reservation, but tours are led on a first-come, first-serve basis. Admission for adults is just $13.

3. Private Docent-Led Tours

If you are traveling with all of your family or friends, we recommend taking a private tour. Your knowledgeable guide will tell you all about the Mission’s history as you tour the beautiful gardens, cemetery, church, and museum. Private tours require a 10 person minimum and a 2-week advanced reservation. Similar to the public docent-led tours, admission for adults is also $13.

Book Your Stay at the Cheshire Cat Inn

Located in the heart of Santa Barbara, Cheshire Cat Inn is just 5 minutes from Old Mission Santa Barbara. All of the best restaurants, shops, nightlife, and historic sites are just steps away! If you are planning a trip to Santa Barbara, we invite you to stay with us and experience all that our beautiful city has to offer. Each of our comfortable guest rooms and cottages is equipped with all the modern conveniences. Many of them feature original fireplaces, sitting areas, and private balconies with expansive views. During your stay, you can expect to start off each morning with a delicious breakfast. Then, come join us each evening for wine and hors-d’oeuvres. Check our availability and book your stay today. We can’t wait to hear all about your time at Old Mission Santa Barbara!