Car Free Santa Barbara
It’s been awhile since I’ve added a new post… family obligations (and Gail moving to Portland!) has kept me close to home.
Yes, I went to a couple Mariner games by bus and/or Sounder train this summer, but I have been long overdue for a new adventure.
This past week’s adventure was grand and perfect:
Santa Barbara, California.
Santa Barbara is a lovely Mediterranean style (think red tile roofs and stucco) style town 90 miles north of Los Angeles.
“Santa Barbara car-free” (SBCF) (www.santabarbaracarfree.org) encourages visitors to walk and/or use public transportation to explore the city. Being a rebel by bus, that’s just what I did!
Here are some highlights of my visit:
- Santa Barbara Transit (www.sbmtd.gov) Bus line 11 travels between the airport and the downtown Transit Center every 30 minutes. Depending on where you are staying, you can catch another bus, walk, or take a taxi to your destination. (I walked). Lucky Cab gives “car-less” travelers a 20% cab fare discount. I found that information on the SBCF website. The transit website also has a good trip planner.
- I stayed at the Brisas Del Mar, at 223 Castillo Street. This older, but well maintained, Mediterranean style hotel is an easy three block stroll to the beach. They offer many extras, such as breakfast, afternoon wine and cheese, and evening cookies and milk. They also have cruiser bikes that are available (free) on a first come, first serve basis.
- The first morning of my visit, I decided to walk to the famous Stearns Wharf, which is a LONG pier in the
center of town. From there, I caught the Electric Waterfront Shuttle trolley (25 cents!) to cruise the waterfront. This helped me get oriented to the city. After a round trip, I transferred (ask for a free transfer when you first get on the trolley) to the Downtown Shuttle. This route takes you from the Stearns wharf up State Street, which is the main shopping area of the city.
- I got off the trolley just prior to the end of the route, to visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1130 State Street). A new Picasso exhibit had just opened. The museum has an impressive permanent collection, including artists such as Claude Monet and Morisot. (www.sbma.net)
- After leaving the Museum I used one of the SBCF “Santa Barbara on Foot” self-guided walking tours. From home I had printed off two tours: The Santa Barbara Mission and the Red Tile Walking Tour, historic landmarks. I decided on the Mission tour…
- The Mission walking tour took me through two city parks and the upper eastside residential neighborhood. The second park, Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden was lovely…a pond with koi and turtles, birds, gazebos, and lots of shady areas for a picnic (I bought a bagel sandwich on State Street). The homes and gardens along this route are elegant. Be sure to keep your eyes on your feet as you’re gawking and walking on the sidewalk! The Santa Barbara Mission is a very stately example of California missions. The first buildings for this mission were built in the 1790’s. The self-guided tour of the mission’s gardens and church are well worth the $5.00 fee.
- I walked back down the hill to State Street, and stopped for a cold drink (the weather was unusually warm for mid-October) and strolled through the beautifully designed outdoor shopping mall, Paseo Nuevo. This mall is connected with outdoor walkways, with beautiful plantings, arches, and benches throughout.
- This entire walking tour is 2.5 miles. You walk uphill going to the mission. If you want a less strenuous climb, MTD city bus route 22 takes you to the mission. (Note: on the weekends, MTD route 22 also goes to the Botanical Garden, which is above the Mission. The adult fare for this trip is $1.75 each way.)
- On my second day, I decided to take the waterfront electric trolley all the way to the far end of the route and the Santa Barbara Zoo. The zoo is well designed, and easy to get around. It was not at all crowded; I found a shady spot to read while I enjoyed watching the two elephants eating their hay. From the zoo, I walked back to Stearns Wharf using the wide paved beach walkway. Bikes, roller bladers, strollers, and walkers share this wide walkway. I decided to have a late lunch on the pier, and enjoyed the views from the water.
That’s a quick summary of my two day getaway to Santa Barbara. I plan to go back again… next time I’ll take a regional bus to explore the nearby towns of Montecito and Carpinteria. I’ll also try to be there over a weekend, to I can take SB Transit route 22 to the Botanical gardens.
To get back home, I took the Amtrak Coast Starlight train. The train depot, at 209 State Street, is right in town and only 3 blocks from my hotel. SBCF offers a 20% discount on Amtrak fares if you arrive or depart from the Santa Barbara train depot. The 29 hour trip was very relaxing… for much of the first day of travel the train hugs the coastline. Beautiful! The second day of travel takes you through high forestlands, including views of Mt. Shasta. Later in the day you travel through Oregon farming areas. This route is notoriously late, however my arrival to Olympia was only about 40 minutes past the published arrival time.