A Day Trip North

If you're fortunate enough to live in Southern California, you have access to world-class beaches, mountains, bohemian music festivals in barren wastelands, sports, entertainment, sports entertainment, and food. Lots and lots of excellent food. And now, you can call the region an alcohol mecca. However, the automobile severely limits one's drinking capabilities. There are beer tours, wine tours, and small charter busses available here and there, but unless you're rolling fifteen people deep, it can be a bit of a wash. I know what you're thinking, "How can I experience all of these delicious, high ABV libations without driving? Or babysitting a gaggle of drunk friends? Or breaking the bank?!" Fret not! Your humble, traveling beer journalist has done the research for you. We'll start with the American Riviera...

Santa Barbara

How to get there: The Pacific Surfliner from Union Station for $62-$72.

An early start for this trip is a necessity due to the roughly two hour train ride. Coffee up so you don't miss the sunrise lighting the mountain side of the Santa Barbara Channel. Amtrak offers several train options from Union Station, but the best one by a mile is the Pacific Surfliner. During the week, a round-trip ticket will run you about $65, with the weekend fares going up slightly.

What to bring: Good shoes, shades, sunscreen, and a halfway fashionable outfit for the Funk Zone.

The whole of Downtown Santa Barbara was designed as a walkable area well before the concept of walking around was cool. The heart of State Street runs roughly a mile from the Paseo Nuevo Mall to the pier, with small street blocks and plenty of buffers from auto transport. A Mediterranean climate blesses up the area with three hundred-plus days of sunshine, but temperatures can fluctuate rapidly with the marine layer and variable winds.

The Spots: Backyard Bowls, South Coast Deli, Uncle Rocco's, Brophy Bros. Seafood, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, Telegraph Brewing Company, The Funk Zone, The Good Lion Bar, Whiskey Richards.

If you are an ambitious traveler, rent a bike right at the train station. Otherwise, grab a breakfast primer at Backyard Bowls on Motor Avenue and foot it to Figueroa Mountain. The twenty-plus beer selection and modern backyard vibe will get your buzz going and knock out that train-lag real fast. Stop two, any wine company in the Funk Zone. Seriously, just pick one. It's Santa Barbara. This roughly four by three block area is also home to a variety of art galleries and quirky curio shops, give them a peruse, and don't knock anything over. Finally, cruise back up State Street to The Good Lion Bar for some of the most progressive, fresh, and delicious cocktails in town. Cap the day off with some Ahi Poké at Brophy Bros. and watch the sunset on the pier.

Approximate cost (Per person): $161

Other fun attractions: The Santa Barbara Zoo. Kayaking around the marina. Biking up and down State Street. Crashing someone's Landshark Tour.

Tim Maher