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Fun stuff that's free (or cheap) and easy
SANTA BARBARA HARBOR
Harbor Way at Cabrillo Boulevard.
At the center of it all is the harbor, the heart of maritime Santa Barbara, complete with marina, walkable breakwater, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (113 Harbor Way,  962-8404, www.sbmm.org) and myriad restaurants, including the Breakwater, Brophy Brothers and Chuck's Waterfront Grill. To get out on the water yourself, you can rent a sailboat or take lessons (Santa Barbara Sailing Center, 133 Harbor Way,  350-9090, www.sbsail.com), try a kayak (Paddle Sports, 117B Harbor Way,  899-4925, www.kayaksb.com), or relax on a dinner cruise (Condor Cruises, 301 W. Cabrillo Blvd.,  882-0088, www.condorcruis-es.com).
THE URBAN WINE TOUR
There may not be any vineyards, but tasting rooms are scattered around downtown Santa Barbara. The local granddaddy, Santa Barbara Winery, was established in 1962 and has one of the best-developed tasting centers, with a $5 charge. Several other wineries are within a three-block area, dotting a neighborhood across State Street from the Santa Barbara Railroad Station. Others are found around the city. For more information, see www.santabarbarafresh.com, or contact the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau, (805) 966-9222.
SANTA BARBARA MISSION
2201 Laguna St.; www.sbmission.org
In the middle of all the new things Santa Barbara has to offer, it's easy to forget its past. The mission is the place to reconnect with the town's Spanish colonial roots. Surprisingly, Junípero Serra was not its founder (he died two years earlier), but the mission was among his plans. Exhibits show how the Indians and the clergy lived. Weekdays attract the boisterous school tours, but no matter: The sanctuary is beautiful and peaceful as only an old spiritual place can be. Admission $5.
1100 Anacapa St.; (805) 962-6464
Talk about photo ops. From the clock tower, you get a great sense of the lay of the city, the red roofs and green hillsides. The lush courtyard, a favorite for school tours, was the site of 16 weddings last Valentine's Day. But most breathtaking of all is the Mural Room. Once used for meetings by the county Board of Supervisors, it ranks among the most spectacular public spaces in America.
See the city's main tourist attractions in 90 minutes from aboard a vintage red-and-gold trolley car. Tours run hourly 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (www.sbtrolley.com,  965-0353). You can ride straight through or hop off and on. Tickets cost $18 ($16 online) for adults and $9 for kids. Main pickup stops are at Stearns Wharf and the Old Mission.
BIKE ALONG THE
SANTA BARBARA COAST
From shoreline park to Andree Clark Bird Refuge.
Breathe in the brisk ocean air while riding a rented bicycle along the shore. A paved, 3-mile bike path runs from Shoreline Park to Andree Clark Bird Refuge, past several restaurants and shops along Cabrillo Boulevard. The path is relatively flat, good for family bike riding. For a map, go to www.santabarbaracarfree.org.
WHEEL FUN RENTALS
101 State St. and two other locations in Santa Barbara; (805) 966-2282, www.wheelfunrentalssb.com.
This is a great way to see the beachfront or tour State Street. Rentals include bikes, mopeds and motor scooters as well as pedal-powered surreys that seat 11. Try the three-wheeled Scoot Coupe for a teeth-rattling ride down State Street ($49 an hour). Or try the scooter ($50 for two hours) for the ultimate coastal experience. (Note: You need a motorcycle license to rent one.)
Six days a week (Mondays excluded), rain or shine, you can find a farmers market, selling fresh produce and handmade souvenirs, within a 10-mile radius of downtown Santa Barbara. The most well-attended farmers market is held Saturday mornings at the corner of Santa Barbara and Cota streets. For schedules and locations, go to www.sbfarmersmarket.org, or call the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Assn. at (805) 962-5354.
SANTA BARBARA ZOO
500 Niños Drive; (805) 962-5339, www.santabarbarazoo.org.
A small, manageable and beautifully landscaped zoological park with feeding times for giraffes, lorikeets and Humboldt penguins that will please the kids, who will also enjoy the rest of Noah's Ark. $11 (about a third of the price for an adult ticket to San Diego Zoo), $8 ages 60 and older and 2 to 12. PIER FISHING, STEARNS WHARF
Stearns Wharf at Cabrillo Boulevard; www.stearnswharf.org.
This 2,000-foot wharf, once partly owned by actor James Cagney, offers seafood houses, a museum, a pirate cruise and even a palm reader. The best bargain of all might be at Mike's Bait & Tackle, where you can rent a rod and reel for $5 an hour. What distinguishes this pier from many others in Southern California is the open design of the fishing deck. No rails. Tip: Families with young kids should try the fishing area near the Ty Warner Sea Center, where standard guard rails are in place.
SUSAN QUINLAN DOLL & TEDDY BEAR MUSEUM & LIBRARY
122 W. Canon Perdido St.; (805) 730-1707, www.quinlanmuseum.com.
More than 3,000 dolls and teddies of all sizes and eras inhabit glass cases in this little-known local treasure assembled by Quinlan, a retired librarian. Don't miss the charming tea room, with murals of dolls and teddy bears enjoying a tea party and beach picnic in Santa Barbara. $6.50 adults, $3.50 ages 12 and younger.
SOHO RESTAURANT &
1221 State St.; (805) 962-7776, www.sohosb.com.
Two cavernous rooms with high ceilings, exposed rafters and brick-and-wood walls host a high-energy, mixed crowd served by friendly bartenders. Cover charge varies and so does the music, which includes folk, reggae, rock, jazz and more
CHASE PALM PARK
236 E. Cabrillo Blvd.; (805) 897-1982.
When you tire of the beach and Stearns Wharf, this is a little 10-acre gem with a skate park, a restored swath of Laguna Creek and a wonderful kids' playground with Southwest-style adobes and beached whales (of the cement variety) to climb. The park is open sunrise to 10 p.m.; skate park 8 a.m. to half an hour before sunset. But the real draw: a 1916 merry-go-round with exquisite horses and sleighs for $2 a ride.
MUSEUM OF ART
1130 State St.; (805) 963-4364, www.sbma.net.
How could such a small, stately venue hold such great art? Peruse antiquities, Impressionists, buddhas, even works from contemporary artists such as Dan Flavin. The attached museum store is worth a stop on its own. Open Tuesdays to Sundays. $9, $6 ages 65 and older and 6 to 17, 5 and younger free; free admission Sundays.
SANTA BARBARA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
2559 Puesta del Sol Road; (805) 682-4711, www.sbnature.org.
Taxidermic mammals, including a grizzly and California condors, have wonderful murals of Santa Barbara-area terrain as backdrops. This museum tells a rich history of the Chumash. A special exhibit, "Romancing the Indian: Photographs of Edward S. Curtis," runs through April 6. There's also a wonderful area in the back of the museum for walks and picnics. Open daily. 8, $7 ages 65 and older and 13 to 17, $5 ages 2 to 12.
ANDREE CLARK BIRD REFUGE
1400 E. Cabrillo Blvd.
This refuge is a good spot to view black-crowned night herons, egrets and bushtits, which seem to twitter from every stand of reeds. There's a bike/walking path around the refuge, but don't expect this to offer any human solitude. Even at 7 in the morning, nearby U.S. 101 and passing trains are a noisy counterpoint to the grebes and mallards paddling effortlessly through the water. Open sunrise to 10 p.m.
15 W. Ortega St.; (805) 962-7970, www.myspace.com/wildcatlounge.
This retro lounge has red vinyl booths and offers a range of musical offerings. It draws a twentysomething crowd with one of the most packed dance floors in town. But early-evening happy hours and free appetizers are a draw for nearly anyone. No cover most nights.
KARPELES MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY MUSEUM
21 W. Anapamu St.; (805) 962-5322, www.karpeles.com
This museum, one of nine across the country founded by local real estate investor David Karpeles and wife Marsha, displays an eclectic assortment of historic documents, artwork and marvels of modern technology. Items recently on view included a sandstone sculpture of Egyptian King Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton), a manuscript by composer Richard Wagner and a control panel from a 1970s Soviet Salyut space station. Admission free.
1400 Santa Barbara St.; www.santabarbaraca.gov/parks/.
The two-block city park, one of Santa Barbara's oldest, is home to Kids' World, an 8,000-square-foot playground built by local volunteers. It offers a mock castle for climbing, swings, slides and sculptures of sea creatures. Family-friendly and free, Alameda also has green space, a gazebo and picnic tables.
ALICE KECK PARK MEMORIAL GARDEN
1500 Santa Barbara St.; (805) 564-5418, www.santabarbaraca.gov/Parks
This restful refuge offers a koi pond, babbling brooks, a gazebo, picnic areas, nature trails and a large botanical collection. In one jungle-like area, visitors can activate recordings of short talks on nearby plants.
SANTA BARBARA BOTANIC GARDEN
1212 Mission Canyon Road; (805) 682-4726, www.santabarbarabotanicgarden.org.
The drive to get here is almost as nice as walking the 78-acre garden in the hills. It's dedicated to California species, so the setting for its redwoods faintly echoes Avenue of the Giants. It's quiet up here, save for the small stream burbling through the giants' shadows and the wind rustling leather leaf ferns. Various one-hour docent-led walks are offered, or you can wander at will. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. November to February, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. March to October. $8 adults, $6 ages 60 and older and 13 to 17, $4 children 2 to 12. (Show your AAA card for a discount.)
LAPS AT LOS BAÑOS DEL MAR POOL
401 Shoreline Drive; (805) 966-6110.
When you're feeling the effects of gorging yourself at Santa Barbara eateries or your bar crawl along State Street, slip into a bathing suit and swim some laps in this city-run public pool. Los Baños Pool is heated and has seven 50-meter lanes, lockers and showers. Lifeguards are on duty during all public hours. Open 7:30 to 9 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday; 7:15 to 8:15 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays; and noon to 2 p.m. holidays. $5 ($4 with resident discount card). Day-use lockers are provided; bring your own lock.
SANTA BARBARA MARITIME MUSEUM
113 Harbor Way, Suite 190; (805) 962-8404, www.sbmm.org.
Children will enjoy a visit to this museum at Santa Barbara's harbor. Exhibits show the development of seafaring vessels around Santa Barbara, from handmade Chumash canoes to scale models of modern warships. There is even a working submarine periscope to check out the action in the harbor, plus other hands-on displays. Upstairs, the museum shows films with maritime themes in its 100-seat high-definition theater built in the shape of a boat hull. $7 adults, $4 children ages 6 to 17, $2 children 1 to 5, infants admitted free. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during summer, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year. Closed Wednesdays.