Santa Barbara is located geographically less than 100 miles from hyper-metropolitan Los Angeles but feels light years away from the noise and congestion of its huge neighbor to the south, which helps explain why the upper crust of Southern California have long favored the coastal retreat as both a getaway destination and the perfect place for a second (or sometimes first) home. With a temperate climate and lush natural environs, the "Riviera of the West" is perfect for a day trip, with its wide, perfect beaches, highly rated wineries, and a large variety of shopping and dining choices, or a much longer stay, with a highly active local culture of volunteerism and fund-raising (not to mention the very high number of wealthy people) that enables the town of just 90,000 residents to enjoy the sort of cultural and social amenities which are usually found only in much larger cities.
Although the common perception of Santa Barbara is as a playground for the rich and famous, the reality is more middle-America than you might think, with an average income only slightly higher than California as a whole, and a diverse ethnic makeup and heritage. Notable for its California Mission-style architecture (a long-standing local ordinance ensures that all commercial construction follow the Mission theme, which results in a plethora of red-tiled roofs and faux adobe supermarkets), local residents are intensely proud of their city's roots and traditions, and a number of hugely popular festivals throughout the year celebrate the many cultures found within the city limits.
Santa Barbara's core is cozy enough that simply walking from one destination to another is quite possible. Especially on the weekends, State Street is full of people walking up and down the street.
There is also a healthy public transit system in place here. The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (SBMTD) runs buses all over Santa Barbara proper, as well as neighboring Goleta and Montecito. Routes and fares are on their website. The SBMTD also runs a special shuttle service between downtown and the waterfront, leaving every fifteen minutes during the day.
Along the waterfront, many businesses offer bicycle or inline skate rentals for exploring the beach areas, and "rickshaw" taxis are also a common sight. Budget and Hertz car rental outlets are present at the airport terminal for easy car rentals, but several other rental agencies are located in Santa Barbara; call around for best rates.
In addition to Santa Barbara wine tasting, the region is also full of bars. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your preference), many of them cater to crowds of students from the nearby university. You won't find many dive bars here, and expect to pay a dollar or two more per drink than you would in your typical San Francisco or LA bar. Thursday nights are the official college night of downtown bars. The drinks are cheap, and UCSB is home to some the most attractive people in California (or the country, for that matter). Really any bar on lower State Street is Fun on Thursday nights to relive those college days.