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The El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park is the foundation block of the modern Santa Barbara cityscape. Spend an hour exploring this ancient military fortress to engage with the history of the city’s formation and see some significant sights.
Dating back to 1782, the presidio was built as a military base and governmental house to protect the settlers of the budding Santa Barbara colony from attack. Although much of the original design has been reconstructed, the authentic 18th-century American style was retained and the layout still reflects the original building plan.
With this sense of history, take a relaxing walk around the presidio’s impressive whitewashed façades. Grab a map from the visitor center at the southern end so you don’t miss any of the intriguing sights on your self-guided tour.
Start your walk at the Canedo Adobe or the El Cuartel, which display realistic reconstructions of the living quarters of soldiers and their families. See into the lives of other historic residents of the presidio with a stop by the Padre’s Quarters or the Comandancia, where the commander of the fortress used to make a home.
Take a journey through history in the chapel and see its bell tower, which was reconstructed based on 30 years of research on its original design. Continue to the northern end of the park to find the Cocina, a kitchen with authentic period cutlery, and a pleasant garden where you can take a moment’s break.
On your way out, stop by the gift shop, and pick up a book or unique presidio-themed trinket for those at home.
Contact the visitor center to learn about special events where kids can see how to make an adobe brick or watch a vintage cannon get fired. For guided tours, book in advance at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.
The El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, located in central Santa Barbara, charges a small entry fee and is open daily.
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