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Going to Santa Barbara Car Free
A scenic train trip, bicycle rides, museums, electric trolleys and wine tasting (and discounts for being eco-friendly to boot). This is how to do Santa Barbara.
For 10 years, the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District has run a progressive program luring tourists to the region without a car. Get to the oceanside city by Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, a beautiful ride that partially cruises along the ocean in a couple hours (Currently, there's a 20% discount, but make sure you book three days in advance and look for blackout dates. In 2009 the promotion might change a little). Once you step off the train, a couple bicycle rental places are within walking distance, but you can bring our own bike too, which is useful.
Also very close to the station are a handful of places to go wine tasting at (we recommend the locally owned Kalyra directly across the street and the The Cheese Shop [picture above]). For something a little further away and adventurous, try the Santa Barbara Wine Country Cycling Tours or Sustainable Vine Wine Tours in a biodiesel tour vehicle.
A car free trip can be done as a day trip, but over 20 area hotels have discounts to car-free travelers, many of which offer complimentary shuttle service to and from the train station. You can also use taxis, the Downtown-Waterfront electric shuttle or the easy-to-understand public transit to get to your hotel and around town.
You can't fit in all that Santa Barbara has to offer in one weekend (so much wine tasting and exploring to do!), but luckily it's close and the the discounts help. Their website is a big help for ideas in addition to Donna Ware's SoCal travel book, Great Escapes, which tipped us off to the program in the first place.