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SANTA BARBARA / WHERE WE STAYED

Sweet, affordable dreams

January 13, 2008|Christopher Reynolds; Jane Engle; Vani Rangachar; Susan Spano; Hugo Martin; Chris Erskine; Rosemary McClure; Mary E. Forgione; Catharine Hamm

Santa Barbara -- what's not to love? Except maybe the prices, which means a weekend getaway can cost a pretty penny. The challenge to the Travel staff: Find nice hotels, good restaurants and enjoyable activities without breaking the budget. So we ate, we slept, we played, all in the name of research. Here's what we turned up.

223 Castillo St.; (800) 468-1988 or (805) 966-2219;

www.brisasdelmarinn.com

BRISAS DEL MAR, INN AT THE BEACH

This hotel has probably never looked better. In a 2003 renovation of this 1958 complex (formerly the Tropicana Inn & Suites), the owners gave the place a pleasant modmed feel -- you know, sleekly modern yet Mediterranean enough to sport the requisite Santa Barbara red-tile roofing and Spanish colonial flourishes. The tile work is colorful. A fountain tinkles out front, and a stucco stairwell curves gracefully skyward. Inside, you'll find upscale Mission and French Country furniture, linens and wallpaper. (The owners also run four other local hotels.) Kids are welcome, and the smallish pool is good for splashing, less so for laps.

Price: $155.68, including tax, for a room with a king-size bed. Rates run $132 to $366, depending on room and season. Auto club or AARP discounts of 10%. Two-night minimum for Saturday arrivals. Cancellation up to 48 hours before arrival.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, January 20, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Santa Barbara map: A map in the Jan. 13 Travel section had the wrong compass orientation for downtown Santa Barbara. From the water, State Street heads northwest, not northeast.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, January 20, 2008 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Santa Barbara map: A map in the Jan. 13 section had the wrong compass orientation for downtown Santa Barbara. From the water, State Street heads northwest, not northeast.

Parking: Free.

Amenities: Thirty-one rooms; 16 have kitchens. (Three "penthouse" suites have fireplaces too.) Air conditioning. HBO. Free wireless Internet access. DVD players in rooms, and a free library of 600 DVDs. Continental breakfast included, along with wine and cheese and cookies in the evening. Pool, whirlpool, exercise room and a couple of decks for lounging or sunbathing.

Pros: Most rooms are set far back from the street, and the interiors are very comfortable. Staff was friendly. Upstairs suites have nice views of palms and mountains. And it's an easy walk to the train station and the shops of State Street.

Cons: Name notwithstanding, it's not at the beach; it's two long blocks away. Also, once you step past the design flourishes in front, you see that most rooms are arrayed around an automotive void: a sunken parking lot that must have seemed a great idea in 1958. The current owners' beautification efforts are impressive, but the neighbors haven't caught on yet: There's a bland apartment building on one side, a Chevron station on the other. And you hear the trains' horns as they pass. I liked that, but sopewo. You know, some people won't.

-- Chris Reynolds

PRESIDIO MOTEL

1620 State St.; (805) 963-1355,

www.thepresidiomotel.com

The price is right at this hipster motel-in-the-making on the northern end of State Street. It's not a luxury hotel, but it's more than you would expect for midweek rates that start at $69. And the staff is friendly too.

Chris Sewell and his girlfriend, Kenny Osehan, who leased the two-story structure three years ago, have been remaking it ever since. Most of the 16 rooms have new tile baths and mod, minimalist furniture. The rest, while plainly furnished, sport nice touches such as art photos and, in upstairs rooms, hand-crafted origami mobiles.

Price: $89.60, including tax, for a room with a queen-size bed. (I was upgraded to a king-bedded room upon check-in. I did not identify myself as a reporter. Sewell said he made the switch to accommodate another guest.) Rates are $69 to $129 midweek and $95 to $249 on weekends, depending on the date. Two-night minimums on some summer weekends.

Parking: 16 spaces.

Amenities: Sixteen rooms, all with cable TV, phone, heat, air conditioning and either a shower or shower-tub; some have a microwave or small refrigerator. Small sun deck with lounge chairs. Coffee, tea, fruit and pastries in the morning. Free cruiser bikes if you ask early enough; there are only four.

Pros: Helpful staff. Spotless, comfy bed. Artistic vibe. Near Alameda Park, with a playground, and Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden, with a pond and nature trails.

Cons: About 1 1/2 miles from the beach and two blocks from the last stop of the Downtown Waterfront Shuttle. Exterior, motel-type access to rooms. Thin bath towels. Spotty maintenance. (In my room, the closet rod was rusty, the microwave's glass plate was missing and the shower lacked a soap dish.) Some street noise.

-- Jane Engle

INN BY THE HARBOR

433 W. Montecito St.; (805) 963-7851 or (800) 626-1986, www.innbytheharbor.com.

About the most glaring thing at this two-story motel is that it's not "by the harbor." In fact, it's not even next to the harbor but three blocks north facing busy Montecito Street. My small room held a queen-size bed and was jammed with country pine furniture -- with two people you might be forced to do-si-do around each other -- but opened to a pleasantly landscaped central courtyard with a pool and a whirlpool. If you seek quiet, ask for a room away from the road in the back, which abuts Pershing Park.

Price: $155.23, including tax, for a room with a queen-size bed. Auto club and AARP discounts of 10%.

Parking: Free.

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