Cristal's Blog


November 23, 2023

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Santa Barbara museums and cultural attractions are an essential facet of the American Rivera jewel. They tell stories about the natural world, teach, inspire, entertain, and some even transport us back in time. Those of us who live here are downright spoiled by the quality of programming, depth, and breadth of the collections, and aesthetic beauty showcased at these fine institutions and landmarks dedicated to mind-expanding experiences.

One of the amazing galleries at the SB Museum of Art with statues.
Jllm06, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Santa Barbara Museums

Santa Barbara boasts a diverse array of museums that encapsulate the city's cultural and historical richness. Each museum offers a captivating journey into the heart and soul of this coastal destination. For instance, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art showcases stunning works, as seen in the image able, while MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, offers immersive experiences that blend science and art seamlessly. The Santa Barbara Historical Museum exhibits our rich history in exquisite collections, and while MOCA Santa Barbara provides a contemporary perspective with cutting-edge artistic expressions. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, featuring the Sea Center along with the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum are all beloved local favorites. Plus, the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum boasts the world's largest private collection of significant original manuscript documents, the AD&A Museum encapsulates the region's architectural evolution and The South Coast Railroad Museum at the Historic Goleta Depot offers a glimpse into the importance that railroads played in shaping the development of the region.

The door to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Mary Harrsch from Springfield, Oregon, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
The mission of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is to integrate art into our lives. And that they do, with more than 27,000 pieces on display, spanning 5,000 years of human creativity. Conveniently located on State Street, the museum is home to some of the most important art ever created, including the most extensive collection of works by legendary French Impressionist Monet on the West Coast, to "Portrait of Mexico Today, 1932," the only intact mural in the United States by David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara
Commonly known as MOCA Santa Barbara, the Museum of Contemporary Art stands as a dynamic hub for modern artistic expression. Located in the heart of downtown, this institution captivates visitors with its thought-provoking exhibitions and innovative programming. MOCA Santa Barbara is dedicated to showcasing the works of both emerging and established contemporary artists, providing a platform for the ever-evolving world of visual arts. With its sleek and modern architecture, the museum itself is a canvas, reflecting the spirit of experimentation and creativity that defines contemporary art.

The Art Design & Architecture Museum UC Santa Barbara
In a serene setting alongside a Pacific lagoon, the Art, Design & Architecture Museum at the University of California, Santa Barbara provides intimate access to art. Through rotating installations of its permanent collections along with special exhibitions and programs, the AD&A Museum is both a teaching museum, committed to the development of critical thinking and visual literacy in support of the University’s goals of education, research, and service, and a resource for the wider Santa Barbara community and surrounding region. Of particular regional significance are the meticulously preserved archives of George Washington Smith and Lutah Maria Riggs, offering an immersive exploration into the architectural tapestry that shaped the unique character of Southern California. The ADC stands as a testament to the rich legacy of design innovation and cultural history encapsulated within the region's architectural evolution.

Inside an exhibit at the MOXI Museum with a wall of televisions and two statues.
AnTOn!0, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Moxi, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation
MOXI, Santa Barbara's Science Museum, caters to all ages with its innovative, imaginative, and fun exhibits focused on science and technology. Located on lower State Street, the museum's three engaging floors and stunning rooftop Sky Garden provide a bird's-eye view of Stearns Wharf, Cabrillo Boulevard, and downtown Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Historical Museum
Ready to take a stroll through more than 500 years of history featuring collections from the Chumash, Mexican, Spanish, and American periods? Then, head to the Santa Barbara Historical Museum in the historic El Pueblo Viejo district. You'll find some 80,000 artifacts and objects there, including fine art from the late Renaissance, Spanish Colonial, Mexican, and Early California periods. The museum maintains the most extensive institutional collection of works by artists such as Ludmilla Welch and Clarence Mattei and the Old West artwork of John Edward Borein.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
At this unique Santa Barbara museum, you'll discover artifacts and stories illustrating the adventurous history of man's discovery and exploration of the Santa Barbara Channel. Located off Shoreline Drive, within walking distance of Santa Barbara Harbor, topics of exploration here run the gamut, from the superstitious world of nautical tattoos to firsthand accounts of the more than 300 women who once served as lighthouse keepers. A visit will give you a unique insight into some of the lesser-known stories of the sea.

The front of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
Image from Wikipedia

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
Established in 1916, this local favorite boasts revolving displays of over 3.5 million artifacts and specimens encompassing every facet of natural history. Set on 17 acres of oak woodland along Mission Creek, the museum features state-of-the-art interactive exhibits for all ages, including the Central Coast's exclusive planetarium. Educational programs for various age levels, facilitated by the museum's scientists, provide engaging hands-on nature experiences.

Sea Center/Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
For a hands-on aquatic adventure, visit The Sea Center on Stearns Wharf. Dive into the captivating life of the Santa Barbara Channel through a 1,500-gallon tidepool tank and a live shark touch pool. The Sea Center not only hosts permanent exhibits but also offers unique events and special educational programming.

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
Did you know the world's largest private holding of important original manuscript documents was located right here in Santa Barbara? Well, it is. The archives include Literature, Science, Religion, Political History, and Art. Treasures include the original draft of the Bill of Rights of the United States, The original manuscript of the sheet music for "The Wedding March," Einstein's famous formula "E=Mc2", Roget's "Thesaurus," Webster's "Dictionary," and over one million more.

The South Coast Railroad Museum at the Historic Goleta Depot
Nestled within the historic confines of the Goleta Depot in Santa Barbara, The South Coast Railroad Museum stands as a captivating testament to the region's railroad heritage. Housed in a meticulously preserved historic depot building, the museum invites visitors to embark on a journey through time, exploring the significant role that railroads played in shaping Southern California's development. Exhibits at the museum showcase vintage locomotives, railcars, and artifacts, providing a vivid glimpse into the heyday of rail travel. The Historic Goleta Depot itself, a charming structure dating back to the early 20th century, adds an authentic backdrop to the museum experience. Beyond the tangible exhibits, the museum serves as a hub for educational programs and events, engaging visitors of all ages in the fascinating history of railroading on the South Coast. Whether one is a railway enthusiast or a casual observer, The South Coast Railroad Museum offers a unique and enriching experience that transports visitors to a bygone era of locomotive marvels and regional progress.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our local culture and visual riches we who live here enjoy. If the allure of Santa Barbara's cultural riches has captured your interest and you're considering a move, I invite you to, explore my comprehensive website. For a complimentary consultation, reach out to me at (805) 886-9378 or email

Of Related Interest:

A Weekend in Santa Barbara
Living in Santa Barbara: Soaring and Sailing on the American Rivera
Santa Barbara Bucket List

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch