It’s a little daunting to think about being anywhere in Southern California without a car. However, the Santa Barbara Car Free program is so organized it has you off the highways and on the road to fun.
There are discounts galore in the program, with the added benefit of a minimal carbon footprint. santabarbaracarfree.org
Amtrak offers a 20% discount aboard the Pacific Surfliner into the Santa Barbara train station, built in 1902 (you can even take the train to the Santa Barbara Zoo and Sea Center). It’s a relaxing, beautiful ride up the coastline—and you can wave to those sitting in traffic as you pass. You do have to register here first: santabarbaracarfree.org/register.htm
Seeing the Sites
A great way to see the town is via the Trolley Tour (discounts available with the Car Free trip). You can ride all day, hop off at any stop, see the site(s), and jump back on the next trolley that comes by. They run every half hour, and the driver gives you plenty of information about each site.
It is a 90-minute tour that takes you to Stearn’s Wharf (the pier), the Franciscan Inn, down State Street (the main street of shops and restaurants), over to the Museum of Natural History, the Old Mission (built in 1786, it still functions as a church today) and the Santa Barbara Courthouse.
The courthouse is well worth the hop off. Built in 1929, it is still in use today, but open to visitors. Rumor has it that it is the most photographed building in the United States; and it offers gorgeous views. sbtrolley.com
Another option to get around town is to jump on one of the electric shuttles as they run up and down State Street and each ride is only 50 cents. The harbor for whale watching cruises, local wine tasting spots, shops and restaurants are all easily within walking distance. And the car free website offers discounts for bike rentals, restaurants, hotels and more.
When your getaway is over and you head back to the train station, you will be amazed how you don’t want to get back behind the wheel so soon. At least you can nap before you have to dig out those car keys.