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Santa Barbara, California is alive with youthful energy within an atmosphere of casual sophistication and charm. Students from five colleges in the area bring vitality and enthusiasm, collaborating with local residents on many worthwhile projects. The city rests on a narrow shelf between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific coast, and is one of southern California's foremost vacation areas.

A day in the city could be spent biking, beach-going, fishing, or hiking in a setting rich with distinctive architecture, public art, beautiful parks and playgrounds. The same day could also include spending time at Santa Barbara's enchanting zoo or visiting a selection of museums with special children's exhibits.

The Santa Ynez Valley stretches west through central Santa Barbara County, reaching toward the city and the Pacific Ocean beyond. It's a land of relaxed beauty, where narrow roads curl through the knobby, windswept Santa Rita Hills, through rows of walnut trees and strawberry fields, past acres of cabbage and broccoli and, here and there, a few vineyards. Santa Barbara has the perfect climate for growing the varieties of grapes that produce the finest wines. Visitors benefit from the fact that this secret is just being discovered, and they can still take a tour of Santa Barbara's wine country at a leisurely pace without the press of crowds.

It is exhilarating to venture into the back country and enjoy the rugged beauty of National Forest lands, home to everything from modern lakeside campgrounds to trackless wilderness, providing almost unlimited recreational choices for families. Returning to Santa Barbara from a day of hiking, there is the opportunity to ease back gradually into city life through a visit to the alpine village of Solvang. This is the county's "Little Denmark," with windmills, Tudor architecture, and a wealth of Scandinavian food and souvenirs.

Santa Barbara County offers an outstanding variety of cultural attractions, such as, theater, dance, art galleries and musical performances.

You don't need a car to enjoy downtown Santa Barbara because most everything, from shopping and dining to performances and historic attractions, is within walking distance. Walking through Santa Barbara on foot gives a close-up look at its distinctive architectural style. This style is largely the work of engineer Bernhard Hoffman, who founded the City Planning Commission and worked with other community organizations to enforce building codes and architectural standards early in the 20th century. Following a major earthquake, legislation was enacted to insure that all new construction would conform to modern safety guidelines. The new style that emerged was influenced by the architecture of Spain, but is a blend of genres, including Spanish, Mediterranean, and Moorish/Islamic. Its key features are the gleaming white stucco surfaces, the famous red tile roofs, courtyards, and the decorative wrought iron windows, light fixtures, and staircases.

A free electric shuttle runs every 10-15 minutes to all points of interest. Shopping is a major pastime on State street, which is lined with boutiques, caf├ęs, bookstores, as well as toy and book stores of interest to children. On Brinkerhoff Avenue there are a large number of antique shops.

The beach is beautiful, the weather almost always perfect, and the people friendly. Many vacationers rent bikes and blades and travel up and down the beachfront path along Cabrillo Boulevard. The county draws surfers, hikers, naturalists, in-line skaters, mountain bikers, rock climbers, scuba divers and hang gliders, to mention a few. Santa Barbara has been described by many as " heaven on earth".

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