By car, U.S. 101 runs right through Santa Barbara; it's the fastest and most direct route from north or south (1 1/2 hr. from Los Angeles, 6 hr. from San Francisco).
By train, Amtrak (tel. 800/USA-RAIL [872-7245]; www.amtrak.com) offers daily service to Santa Barbara. Trains arrive and depart from the Santa Barbara Rail Station, 209 State St. (tel. 805/963-1015). Fares can be as low as $32 (round-trip) from Los Angeles's Union Station.
State Street, the city's primary commercial thoroughfare, is the geographic center of town. It ends at Stearns Wharf and Cabrillo Boulevard; the latter runs along the ocean and separates the city's beaches from touristy hotels and restaurants. Electric shuttles provide frequent service along these two routes, if you'd rather leave the car behind.
The Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau, 1601 Anacapa St. (tel. 805/966-9222; www.santabarbaraca.com), distributes maps, brochures, an events calendar, and information. It's open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, and Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
Be sure you pick up a copy of the Independent, Santa Barbara's free weekly, with articles and events listings; and Explore Santa Barbara, a compact visitor's guide published by the local paper, the Santa Barbara News-Press. Both are also available at shops and sidewalk racks throughout town.