Santa Barbara offers so much amazing scenery you have to be careful you don't give yourself whiplash checking out the ocean views, the St. Ynez Mountains and the vast beauty that makes the area a popular resort town for the Hollywood elite. Just 92 miles north of Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast Highway and about 120 miles south of Hearst Castle, Santa Barbara prides itself on providing a relaxed, casual, laid-back California experience.
Santa Barbara has a terrific wine country, immortalized in Sideways, the sleeper hit of last year's film season. You can find information regarding Santa Barbara County wineries, which are just a half hours drive Northwest from Santa Barbara at www.sbcountywines.com or www.santabarbaraca.com. Wine tours, day trips, and trekking excursions are available through most of the hotels and wineries in the area.
As for trips to the Santa Barbara area, a variety of package tours and day trips ranging in price from moderate to expensive are available. The Santa Barbara Adventure Company (tel. 888/773-3239; www.sbadventure.com) offers a one-day bike tour of wine country for $140. Expect to hit four or five wineries and bike between 14 and 28 miles. Fees include all bicycles and equipment, van transportation and wine tours. Santa Barbara Adventures also offers hiking excursions, kayaking, rock climbing and surfing trips. They offer some lengthy camping trips as well. All guides are professionally trained and full of local insider information.
Beach resorts, inns and bed and breakfasts are the main choices of accommodations in the Santa Barbara area. The oceanfront Hotel Oceana Santa Barbara (tel. 800/965-9776; www.hoteloceanasantabarbara.com) has special spa rates. Located on Santa Barbara's West Beach, a short walking distance to the Santa Barbara's shopping, dining and nightlife area, the boutique hotel has 122 rooms. For chocolate lovers, the hotel has a special "Chocolate Bliss" package that for $290 per night includes one-night in a garden view room plus a 90 minute Chocolate Bliss treatment which combines an exfoliating treatment using the hotel spa's Chocolate Sugar Scrub with a full-body Chocolate Body Crème body massage. Talk about a bath in chocolate. Yum. This unique travel opportunity is available from Sunday to Thursday with travel good through December 29, 2005.
As for the quaint bed and breakfast in the area, rates tend to drop in the winter period beginning after Labor Day. The town is full of Victorian houses enjoying revitalization as inns. The Secret Garden Inn and Cottages (tel. 805/687-2300; www.secretgarden.com), a house dating back to 1905 known for its secluded and beautiful garden-type grounds, has some Internet-only specials good for travel between Sunday through Thursday. A two-night three-day Web special costs approximately $330 for two people and includes a accommodations, a full breakfast (in bed if you choose), afternoon wine and hors d'oeuvres, a $50 dinner voucher at a local restaurant, and a $20 lunch voucher for a restaurant on the water in the Santa Barbara harbor. If you want to extend your stay, normal wintertime or low-season rates start at $121. Check out www.santabarbara.com for a full listing of restaurants, inns, sites and cultural events.
Getting to Santa Barbara via airplane is easy if you fly into nearby Los Angeles. American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) has round-trip fares to Los Angeles from Austin, St. Louis, Orlando, and Nashville starting from $198. These prices are valid through January 9, 2006 (barring any holiday black-out dates). A Saturday-night stay is required. Security fees and air taxes are not included in the price of the trip.
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