WHEN TO GO
Have the beach to yourself in September and October, when hotel prices drop as much as 20 percent and the weather is the best of the year.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly into Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (805-683-4011;www.flysba.com) in Goleta. There are direct flights from Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, LA, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. The taxi ride to downtown Santa Barbara takes ten minutes. By car, the most direct route from Los Angeles (90 minutes) is U.S. Highway 101, which runs right through Santa Barbara—for downtown, take the Garden Street, Mission Street, or Cabrillo Boulevard exits.
Downtown is walkable, and public transportation is cheap. For a fare of only 25 cents, the Downtown-Waterfront Shuttle runs electric buses along State Street every ten minutes, and along Cabrillo Boulevard every 30 minutes, from 10:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Santa Barbara Old Town Trolley Company's motorized cable cars follow a 90-minute, narrated route and stop at ten attractions, daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m—plus, you can get off and on whenever you like (805-965-0353; www.sbtrolley.com). Avis, Budget, and Hertz have outlets downtown and at the Santa Barbara Airport. Downtown parking lots are free for the first 75 minutes, and $1 thereafter for 30 minutes (www.santabarbaradowntown.com). If you're on the waterfront and in a hurry: The bright-yellow Lil' Toot Water Taxi gives rides from Stearns Wharf to Santa Barbara Harbor for $2 while blowing bubbles from its smokestack.
Santa Barbara Visitor Information Center
1 Garden Street
Tel: 805 965 3021