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Each of these essential California adventures has been tried and tested by a Travel section staffer or contributor. To search the state by region, use the filter below.

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Central CoastFamily-friendly

Report to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse — for the view and murals

The view from the clock tower. (Susan Spano/For the Times)
The view from the clock tower. (Susan Spano/For the Times)

Why: From the observation deck atop the clock tower, you can scan a panorama of Santa Barbara's many red-tiled roofs. In the mural room below, you'll see enormous, evocative depictions of early California history.

 (Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

What: In a city full of mansions, the Andalusian-style Santa Barbara County Courthouse is among the prettiest buildings of all. It was completed in 1929, four years after an earthquake damaged much of downtown and set off a boom in Spanish-style construction.

Beginning in the second-floor mural room, docents give free, hourlong tours on weekdays at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., weekend days at 2 p.m. But you can climb the clock tower stairs on your own, and nose around the mural room too — if there isn't a wedding happening.

Where: 1100 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, 98 miles northwest of downtown L.A.

How much: Free.

Info: Santa Barbara County Courthouse Docent Council

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