We’ve got a summer travel tip for you and it’s maybe the best kept secret in the Central Coast travel industry! If you’re not flying into the Santa Barbara airport on your next trip to paradise, then you’ll likely be hitting the road. We recommend skipping the traditional road trip in the car and riding on Amtrak’s Surfliner train. Whether you’re coming south from San Luis Obispo or north from Los Angeles (or even San Diego!), when the high season hits we locals know it’s quicker to ride the train than drive.
Sometimes, a road trip from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara can take up to 3 hours! (Yikes!) The train from Union Station in downtown LA takes about 2.5 hours to get to good ‘ol SB and shows off gorgeous scenery along the way.
You may be thinking, “But what will I do once I’m off the train?”
So glad you asked! We’ve got a few suggestions of things to do that are near both train stations and tips on how to get around Santa Barbara and downtown Los Angeles without a car.
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN DOWNTOWN SANTA BARBARA
While Santa Barbara is just a hop, skip and jump away from LA, it is the polar opposite of its big city neighbor in just about every way. From the surfers lazily skateboarding along the sunny streets to the epic mountain and beach views, our quaint beachside haven begs for you to slow down, relax, and revive like a local.
Santa Barbara is very accessible by foot, but if you’d rather ride around than hoof it up State Street, jump aboard the Downtown Shuttle for a 50 cent ride. The shuttle runs up as far as Sola Street from the beach and along East Cabrillo Blvd which parallels beach. Or better yet, bring your bike on the train! (Just be sure to make reservations beforehand.) The whole city grid is centered around State Street and once you get the hang of our sideways city that runs east to west, check out this list of fun activities that will help you make the most of your time in sunny Santa Barbara.
Explore the Funk Zone
Eat your way through Santa Barbara’s eclectic, hip ‘hood on our Funk Zone Food & Photo Tour. Afterward, head over to the neighborhood’s newest addition, MOXI, for a hands-on, super cool science experience.
Stroll Down Stearns Wharf
Ever wanted to pet a shark? The Santa Barbara Natural History Museum Sea Center will let you do just that! Get a hands on experience with a swell shark, view the jellyfish up close and learn a bit about the local sea life.
Sip Your Way Through the Presidio
What better way to learn about Santa Barbara’s early history than hearing stories of the early days while wine tasting in the Wine Collection of El Paseo? Our wine and photo tour guides act as your personal wine concierge helping you discover wines that please your palate best. Along the way, you’ll be regaled with stories of the city’s early days and have multiple opportunities to snap pics of the most iconic streets in Santa Barbara.
Shop State Street
It’s been said that our city’s main drag could convince a monk to max out his gold card and we believe it! While we have a slew of trusted brand name stores, the real show stoppers on this street are the specialty boutiques like Lovebird and Wolf’s Head.
Tour the Santa Barbara Courthouse
Just before the sun sets, make your way to mid-town and wander through our Spanish-style courthouse and take in epic views of the iconic red tile rooftops and Channel Islands atop the building’s clocktower.
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES
Los Angeles can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but if you look at this map it helps break up the city by sections–which are a lot closer than they seem! It’s fairly simple to get around most of the downtown area either on foot, by bike or subway.
A good portion of downtown LA is easily walkable and doesn’t require driving or even public transportation, but if you’re in the mood for something a little quicker than traveling by foot we highly recommend hopping on a Metro bike—the city’s bike share program. It currently costs $3.50 per 30-minute ride with stations all over the downtown area and offers a free downloadable app, making it easy to locate the nearest station for pick-ups and returns.
Once you’ve mastered how to get around the bustling streets, here’s a list of our top 5 must-see places and things to do in downtown LA.
Visit the Iconic Bradbury Building
Wander through the lower levels of one of the most iconic buildings in Tinsle Town known for being in several movies, TV shows, and music videos. If you head to the back of the bottom floor, you’ll even get a peek at some behind-the-scenes photos of the movie Blade Runner.
Feast in Grand Central Market
Dine on cuisine from around the world. Our recommendations: get the pupusas at Sorito’s Pupuseria and enjoy them with a frosty brew at Golden Road Brewing. On your way out, pick up a fresh fruit juice popsicle from Press Brothers Juicery.
Take a Load Off In Pershing Square
Lounge on the grass or in a chair in this perfectly landscaped setting in the heart of downtown Los Angeles while taking in views of the city’s oldest buildings or playing a life-sized game of chess.
Do Dinner in Koreatown at Jjukku Jjukku
Two words of advice here: come hungry! Take a seat in the eclectic, exposed brick restaurant and order from one of their extensive all-you-can-eat bbq lists. Pro tip: Wear pants with a forgiving waistband.
Grab a Drink at The Edison
Get dolled up, Old Sport, for a swanky nightcap in the renovated power plant that has an old-timey feel and is known for craft cocktails, live music and burlesque. It’s one of the best way to spend a night in true Hollywood style.