It’s called the American Riviera, with weather, community, and sun-drenched beaches reminiscent to some of the European coast of the Mediterranean Sea. In truth, Santa Barbara is all California.
Culturally, Santa Barbara sits in Southern California but the pace of life slows down just enough to make for a comfortable vacation. Many of the visitors to Santa Barbara do in fact come from elsewhere in California, and the town is known to residents as one of the best “local” beach resorts.
In the town proper, you’ll find lots of museums, outdoor shopping areas, and great restaurants . Inland a bit, a growing young wine region  thrives. Along the soft, flat sandy beaches cluster fabulous four-star beach resorts .
The Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau (1601 Anacapa St., 805/966-9222, www.santabarbaraca.com ) maintains an Outdoor Visitors Center (113 Harbor Way, Waterfront Center, 4th Fl., 805/884-1475) for visitors who never want to leave sight of the beach.
To reach Santa Barbara by air, fly into the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (Moffet Rd., 805/967-7111, www.flysba.com ). A number of major commercial airlines fly into Santa Barbara, including United, Alaska/Horizon, Delta, and American Airlines.
A more beautiful and peaceful way to get to Santa Barbara is by train. The Amtrak Coast Starlight (www.amtrak.com ) runs into town daily. From Los Angeles  or San Francisco’s east bay , connect to other trains that run into California from points east.
Santa Barbara is located on Highway 101, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway and El Camino Real in this neck of the woods. To head out to the Santa Ynez Valley and other local wine regions, take CA Highway 154 east. If staying in Santa Barbara proper, expect fairly standard city driving, complete with traffic jams during weekday business hours and on beach access roads on the weekends.
Parking can be challenging, especial at the beach on sunny summer weekends. Expect to pay a premium for a good-to-mediocre spot, or to walk for several blocks. If possible, take the local public streetcar from the downtown area to the beach and leave your car elsewhere.
Santa Barbara has its own transit authority. The MTD Santa Barbara (805/963-336, www.sbmtd.gov ) runs both the local bus service ($1.25 regular fare) and the Waterfront Shuttle and Downtown-Waterfront lines ($0.25 regular fare). Have exact change to pay your fare when boarding the bus or shuttle; if transferring buses, ask the driver for a free transfer pass.