August 29, 2018

Museum’s Renovated Backyard, Nature Club House, and new Butterfly Pavilion Opening September 22, 2018

Following 12 months of renovations as part of the Museum’s $20 Million Centennial Project, the transformed Backyard and Nature Club House, and new Sprague Butterfly Pavilion will open to the public on September 22, 2018. Press preview tours may be scheduled for September 18, 20, or 21 by contacting Director of Marketing and Communications, Briana Sapp Tivey at


The popular Butterflies Alive! exhibit in the new Butterfly Pavilion will run from Saturday, September 22 to Sunday, October 14, 2018 and will be open daily from Noon-4:00 PM when the butterflies are most active. The exhibit is free with paid Museum admission.

Guests will be delighted as they walk through a tranquil garden filled with butterfly-friendly plants and beautiful native landscaping while nearly 1,000 live butterflies flutter freely around them. The exhibit will feature butterflies of varying shapes, sizes, and colors including Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Mourning Cloak, and Gulf Fritillary, all species found in Santa Barbara County.

Starting in 2019, the Butterflies Alive! exhibit will be open every summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The new Pavilion will be available for event rentals starting in October. Inquiries should be directed to Meridith Moore,


Located just beyond the Pavilion, the renovated and ADA-accessible Museum Backyard is a nature play area nestled in the oak woodland along Mission Creek. Starting September 22, 2018, it will be open daily from 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and is free with paid Museum admission.

Backyard features include:

Nature Club House: A naturalist-staffed cabin featuring touchable objects and live animal and insect interactions. Also includes an ADA-accessible restroom.

Boardwalk: A beautiful new elevated walkway that winds through forest and creek, making nature accessible to all.

Bio Builders Zone: Guests can build forts and create inspirational nature art, using natural materials.

Create Zone: Guests are invited to explore, make mud pies, and get a little messy as they literally get in touch with the earth.

Waterway: Our new and much improved creek in the woods sets the scene for relaxation, exploration, and play for guests of all ages.

Play Stage: Put on a show, see a live animal, or check out a Museum production. You never know what you’ll discover on stage.

Excavate a Fossil: Guests can check out paleontologist tools from a Naturalist, and help the Museum reveal incredible, real fossils hidden in the rocks. What will you discover? Chip away and find out.

Sensory Garden: Guests can enjoy a sensory experience with local plants.

Eyes in the Sky Aviary: Home to seven rehabilitated raptors – Max the Great Horned Owl, Ivan the Red-tailed Hawk, Kisa the Peregrine Falcon, Athena the Barn Owl, Puku the Western Screech Owl, and Kachina and Kanati the American Kestrels. Eyes in the Sky is Santa Barbara Audubon Society’s key wildlife education program featuring birds of prey that can no longer survive in the wild. For more information, visit:


Updated Galleries

The beloved Mammal Hall, Bird Hall, and Bird Habitat Hall reopened to the public on June 2, 2018.

Historic specimens now look livelier than ever after being refreshed by specialists, who also added new taxidermy, new foliage, and fun touchable interactive exhibits. The Museum also added new dioramas that squarely engage visitors in a conversation about the closeness of nature and our place in it. Diorama experts, taxidermists, fabricators, painters, and Hollywood prop-makers all lent their artistry to the cause, and as a result, the new incarnations of these exhibits still honor their heritage while better serving future visitors.

Cartwright Hall reopened as the Santa Barbara Gallery and focuses on how geography and climate come together to create the unique ecosystems of the Santa Barbara region. These conditions give rise to extraordinary biodiversity, and this space highlights the fascinating species interactions that result. As with the dioramas in the revitalized Mammal Hall, the Santa Barbara Gallery explores the dynamics of natural systems in our region and how our actions affect those systems. The Gallery leaves visitors with a roadmap to begin their own exploration beyond the Museum’s walls. In effect, this new Gallery serves as a visitor’s field guide to the Santa Barbara region.

Exhibits in all the updated halls are now better equipped to address the important environmental issues on the minds of Museum visitors. Technology has also been strategically implemented in ways that allow for greater flexibility in disseminating new media to keep pace with science.

New Arrival Corridor and Puesta del Sol Esplanade

The Museum has improved access by building a pedestrian-safe, ADA-compliant arrival corridor. The corridor guides visitors from the parking lot to the historic front entry via the Blue Whale courtyard and a walkway surrounded by geological and paleontological wonders. On the other side of the entrance, a new pedestrian path parallel to the historic Hazard Estate “stegosaurus” wall along Puesta del Sol provides safe access between the Museum and Mission Canyon Road, in homage to the original 1922 design.

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