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Santa Barbara has always been one of my favorite day trips in Southern California. The Spanish architecture and beautiful setting between the mountains and ocean creates an atmosphere that never fails to regenerate my spirit.

Santa Barbara is about an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles. It’s easy to visit by train, as you can take a shuttle from the Amtrak station to the zoo or down State Street. The train station is also within walking distance of most of Santa Barbara's attractions, including Stearns Wharf on the ocean and State Street, Santa Barbara’s main street that’s made for an afternoon stroll. Poke into shops along the way and sample one of the many quality restaurants. If you get tired of walking, hop on the shuttle that passes by every ten minutes.

It’s worthwhile for a new visitor to visit the courthouse and view the beautiful murals depicting California’s early history. Then take the elevator to the top of the 83-year-old structure for a spectacular 360-degree view of the area.

The city was rebuilt after a huge earthquake destroyed most of the buildings in 1925. Spanish Revival architecture, with its white walls and picturesque courtyards, was the result. The old El Paseo on the 800 block of State Street was Santa Barbara’s first shopping center after the earthquake and is my favorite setting of courtyards and shops.

While in Santa Barbara, I love to visit the Botanical Gardens. This is a great place to take a stroll in a beautiful natural environment. Although out of walking range from downtown, it’s a worthwhile stop if you have a car. The Gardens have been divided into different sections paralleling the flora of the state: redwoods, meadows, manzanita, chaparral, canyon and so on.

Before you leave S.B., be sure to stop by the Mission. It was the tenth mission built by the Spanish but it's sometimes called the Queen of the Missions because of its beauty.

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