As one of California’s favorite getaways, Santa Barbara has always had a reputation as a place to go for just the right balance of R&R and hard partying. Between ocean views, swaying palm trees and the beautiful Santa Ynez Mountains, a traveler is sure to find a Zen moment or two. And for those who need more fest than rest, the downtown scene provides a lively place to fraternize, imbibe, shop and dine for even the most stir-crazy visitor.

Start by putting a roof over your head at the El Prado Inn. Just a quick jaunt by foot from all the action in downtown and a minute’s drive from the beach, the El Prado Inn is the perfect place to set up headquarters. Rooms range from $75 to $110 per night, while also offering an AAA Auto Club discount. All the standard amenities are afforded, including cable TV, continental breakfast and queen size beds.

As the sun sinks down below the horizon, the night beckons a call-to-arms for Santa Barbara nightlife. State Street is definitely where it all happens – just take a stroll from one end to the other to take your pick of a myriad of bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants to spend your time and money in.

If you’d like to experience the likes of an English pub within the heart of city, head into Old Kings Road. The sign outside even comes complete with the symbol for the London Underground. Once inside, your task is to make a choice of beers, and with so many great ones on tap – including Stella, Bass and Guinness – it won’t be easy. When all that drinking starts to make your stomach growl, head over to the nearby Santa Barbara Brewing Company. For a good entrée, try the delicious blackened chicken. The Cajun seasonings give the chicken just the right amount of weight to balance out the ale. Although the food isn’t five-star quality, the beer is. Microbrewed seasonally, recommended styles are the India Pale Ale, which has quite a bite and layers of complexity.

A bit farther up the price scale is the Waterfront Grill at the marina. Located in the former harbor armory, the restaurant has two levels, with the upper being a sports bar and grill called The Endless Summer Bar-Cafe. The lower level restaurant has a maritime theme inside, with pictures of the harbor and armory throughout the years and a beautiful view of the harbor outside. It’s the perfect place for a romantic interlude.

And, of course, you can’t come to Santa Barbara and not indulge in a little gambling. So get back into your car and head up the 101 to highway 154 and out to the Chumash Casino. OK, so it’s not Vegas, and it’s out in the middle of nowhere, but Chumash comes with a certain rustic charm.

If you’ve spent all your past visits to Santa Barbara at frat parties, swilling beer straight from the keg, then you may be surprised at how much the city has to offer. So, pack it up, head on out and spend a few sunsets in Santa Barbara – it’s the perfect weekend getaway.