Referred to as "Queen of the Missions" for its graceful beauty, this Santa Barbara mission was founded by Franciscan Friar Fermin de Lasuen on the Feast of Saint Barbara, Dec. 4, 1786.
It's the 10th of the 21 missions built in California, featuring twin bell towers situated atop high ground that affords outstanding views of the city below.
Old Mission Santa Barbara is known as "Queen of the Missions" for her graceful beauty — Photo courtesy of David McSpadden
Old Mission is home to a community of Franciscan friars, a beautiful church with a large and active parish, a museum, a cemetery and 12 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens.
In addition to the incredible architecture of the mission, remnants of other early structures (a mill, reservoir, jail and kiln) can also be seen, along with sacred artifacts.
During your visit, you'll learn more about the area's early settlers, as well at the Chumash natives whose labor was essential to the creation of this historic building.
The Serra Shop is an on-site gift store that features jewelry, statues, religious artifacts and other souvenirs to help you remember your trip.
Old Mission is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Both self-guided and docent-guided public tours are available.
Docent-guided tours occur on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings, and they're operated on a first-come, first-served basis. Groups of 10 or more can reserve special tours with at least two weeks' notice.
Visit the Mission over Memorial Day weekend to see the I Madonnari chalk art festival — Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives
Across the street from the mission is a wide, grassy park with a spectacular rose garden that's open to the public year-round. This is the perfect place to host an informal gathering like a picnic or even something more elaborate.
On summer weekends, it's not uncommon to see a wedding or two take place in the garden. Can you imagine a more impressive backdrop for photos?
Over Memorial Day weekend each year, the mission hosts I Madonnari, one of the oldest chalk painting festivals in California. In just three days, artists of all ages create masterpieces on the pavement out front, while live bands play and local vendors cook up delicious foods.
The sidewalk artworks last for weeks and even months after the event, depending on the weather.
While you're in the Mission Canyon area, take the time to visit some of Santa Barbara's most naturally stunning places by making a stop at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden or hiking up to Inspiration Point.
The Botanic Garden is an easy stroll and offers many floral-filled photo ops. Meanwhile, Inspiration Point is a more serious hike to a summit that offers scenic views of town, the ocean and beyond.