Tours

As part of the experience at Old Mission Santa Barbara, we offer a handful of tours to truly take in the beauty and grandeur of what is known as the Queen of the Missions.  From a breathtaking church and historic cemetery to beautiful gardens and a captivating museum, the tours at Old Mission Santa Barbara are well worth their price.  Below is a list of our offerings, including basic pricing, types of tours, times, and contact information.  Please, take a moment and learn how you can become a part of our grand history.

Types of Tours

Self-Guided

  • Tour includes the Basic Tour Route--the Sacred Garden, the Historic Cemetery, the Church, and the nine rooms the make up the Museum
  • Tour time varies but is approximately 20 to 40 minutes
  • Though individuals do not need to make reservations for this type of tour, it is recommended that self-guided groups do make a reservation

Docent-Guided

  • Public
    • Tour includes Basic Tour Route (see above)
    • Thursdays & Fridays at 11:00am, Saturday at 10:30am
    • 15 - 20 people, but more can be accommodated with permission of the docent
    • Tours are on a first-come-first-served basis
    • This tour is not intended for school tours
    • Tour time is approximately 1 hour
  • By Reservation (For any type of private tour, groups must consist of at least 10 people and arrangements must be made at least two weeks in advance)
    • Art & Architecture Tour: 1 hour to 90 minutes on the art & architecture at Old Mission Santa Barbara
    • La Huerta Walking Tour: 1 hour on La Huerta Historic Gardens
    • Docent-Guided Combination Tours: 90 minutes
    • Regular Docent-Guided Tours: 1 hour on the history of Old Mission Santa Barbara

 

Tour Information

A ten-room museum of historic artifacts and interpretive displays.

Upon entering visitors can observe displays describing the construction of Old Mission Santa Barbara. One of the finest paintings in the Museum collections, Christ According to Saint Luke by Mexican colonial master Jose de Paez, can be seen on the right in the stairwell.  Of particular interest in the display case is a Mission-era ladrillo, or floor tile, with Chumash design pecked into the surface when the clay was still wet.  To the left is the Chumash room featuring displays of Native American artifacts, which include displays of traditional crafts and tools. Also in this room is the rare Chumash Prayer Board.  The prayer is the first written Chumash ever attempted. Chumash descendant Ernestine de Soto reads the prayer on a video provided in the room.  The room also includes artifacts associated with the Lone Woman of San Nicholas Island, immortalized in Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphin, who is buried in the Mission cemetery.  The Museum tour progresses past a typical kitchen, which displays both the original 1790s adobe wall and the 1805 addition front wall made of stone.  Past the first Bishop's room art gallery is the trades room with photos and artifacts from blacksmithing to weaving.  Beyond this is a display of agricultural tools and the three great statues made by the Chumash artisan Paciano from Mission San Buenaventura.  In the following Padre's bedroom is  Fr. Rubio's chess set and the Bishop’s glasses, staff, and desk set.  In the next room is the unique Chumash altar constructed for the 1789 church.  Other displays depict life during the secularization era. The last Museum room features the story of the Franciscans in the years since the mission era.

The Museum tour also includes the church. The edifice as it exists today replaced the church destroyed in the great earthquake of 1812.  It is full of exquisite colonial-period art as well as modern sculptures, which be found in the back alcoves. With Saint Barbara in the center, the statues behind the altar date from the 1790s, with the smaller statues—St. Francis and St. Dominic—perhaps being the finest in the collection.  In front of the Altar rail is the stone covering the only burial crypt room in a California Mission.  The room contains the remains of prominent persons, both religious and secular, who are important to the early history of not only Santa Barbara but of California as well.

The Mission cemetery contains the remains of both Native Americans who were essential to the Mission and of early settlers of Alta California. The Lone Woman of San Nicholas is buried behind the church tower where there is a plaque.  California place names abound on the family inscriptions, Sepulveda, Cota, Ortega, Orena, and more.

Lush, beautiful gardens surround the Mission. The Museum's Huerta Historic Garden, which contains plantings representative of the Mission era (1769-1836) only, is a space only seen on special docent-guided tours. Plants were gathered from remnants at early sites, then cloned, grafted, and planted from cuttings and seed. Olives from General Vallejo's home, grapes from San Gabriel's oldest vines, citrus cloned from original stock are just some examples. Mission-era bananas and sugar cane join Sonoran wheat, Purisima pomegranates, and San Buenaventura's grafted peaches. The Huerta also has a Native Plant section.

A small Chumash Ethnobotanical Garden at the front of the Mission near the parking lot and restrooms features plants used by the Chumash.  This area is easily accessible and is free and open to the public.

Native American skills can be seen in the Native-built 1808 aqueduct, fountain, and lavandaria (laundry pool) in the Mission front yard. The lavandaria end spout is a Native-carved Cougar's head and is the oldest public sculpture in the state of California.

There is much to see at Mission Santa Barbara whether one makes a short visit to observe the facade, the beautiful water features, and front gardens, or has time for an in-depth tour.

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