Day one includes shopping, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and fish tacos

Sunset  – September 24, 2004

In college, Wednesday night was the beginning of the weekend. In the hotel world, Sunday night is considered midweek, so we got a deal on a garden room at the small Mediterranean-style Casa Del Mar Inn, half a block from the beach, for $124 a night (with 12 percent tax, $277.76 for two nights). We later learned that, depending on availability, we could have saved another 15 percent by booking over the Internet. The area off Cabrillo, near our hotel, is packed with nice, inexpensive lodging, including the Franciscan Inn ($85 and up).

Our Sunday arrival gave us a taste of weekend Santa Barbara. We walked down the oceanfront to the weekly Santa Barbara Arts & Crafts Show (free) along Cabrillo. We ran into our wedding photographer, Thomas Styczynski, who, shockingly, was not exhibiting our smiling faces, opting instead for his large-format landscape photography.

After perusing the booths of painters, jewelers, and wind-chime makers, we returned through Chase Palm Park (free). Created from a onetime industrial area, the park features a small wetland and a historic carousel.

On the way back to the hotel, we turned down Helena Avenue, an easy-to-miss block near State Street. Because of our limited budget, we merely gazed longingly at the platters and bowls at the Italian Pottery Outlet. Then, because admission is free the first Sunday of every month (and every Thursday), we headed for the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to check out the recently unveiled David Alfaro Siqueiros mural.

Art shopping, vintage California beach culture, a hint of Italy, and a touch of Mexico. Talk about the consummate Santa Barbara afternoon. After sampling the hotel’s complimentary evening spread of wine and cheese, we considered dining on cioppino at Brophy Bros. Clam Bar & Restaurant but instead watched the light fade over the harbor from the Endless Summer Bar-Cafe. The albacore was fresh and the fish tacos delicious ($29.62, including tax and tip), and then it was back to the hotel for a hot tub under the stars.

($400 in pocket)

Two nights at Casa Del Mar Inn, where most rooms have small kitchens: $278

Stroll crafts show in Chase Palm Park, which comprises a white-sand beach and has a small carousel: FREE

Freebie day at Santa Barbara Museum of Art, with its mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros: FREE

Fresh fish dinner at the Endless Summer Bar-Cafe:$30

$92 remaining

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