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Santa Barbara Car Free: One California City Gets Serious About Carbon

We here in San Francisco always groan a little when visitors rent a car. After all, Fog City is one of the few destinations in the U.S. where it’s not necessary to have a car to see the sights. Why pay all that money just to leave the rental in the hotel’s parking garage?

Often in the U.S. when we think about “car-free destinations,” we think of big cities like New York City, Boston, and San Francisco. But what should you do if you want to go car-free and get away from the hubbub of urban life? I now have an answer for you: visit Santa Barbara.

carbon certificate

Known as The American Riviera, Santa Barbara is an idyllic town on California’s coast, beloved for its delicious local food and wine, its vibrant arts scene, and its sun-drenched shores. It’s the perfect place to get away from it all and leave the rush-hour traffic far, far behind.

And since 1998, the city has a robust program to help you do just that. Santa Barbara Car Free is led by the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District and the program encourages visitors to go green through a variety of resources and perks. The program has more than 100 business and community partners, meaning that you can enjoy some awesome local discounts by skipping the car rental.

Just arrive by plane, train, bus, or bike; skip the car rental; and then print out the coupon above. That will entitle you to savings at local hotels, restaurants, and activities. Even better, their website can help you plan car-free itineraries and save 20% on your Amtrak ticket.

In fact, the program was just honored with 2009 Clean Air Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all their efforts. This vacation, if you’re looking to get away from it all and skip the hefty footprint of a car, visit Santa Barbara–the car-free way!


My name: Alison Presley

Nickname: Presbo, because I'm good police.

How I earn my keep: I'm the manager of Travelocity's Travel for Good program. Visit Travel for Good to learn more about our green travel and voluntourism initiatives!

What kind of traveler am I: I'm an intrepid food explorer. I usually starve myself on the plane (not that that's too hard to do) so that the moment my toes touch foreign soil I'm ready to sample new and exciting cuisine. I like to dine everywhere from hole-in-the-wall local secrets to Michelin Guide gems. Cannelés, poi, boiled peanuts, oxtail soup, poutine--there's no stopping this adventurous palate.

Greatest travel lesson I've learned: It doesn't cost a lot of money to do good. Offsetting your carbon impact only adds a few bucks to your trip, green hotels are very affordable, and volunteering locally during your vacation is a great way to give back and learn about the culture.


Nathan Rodriguez

No question why they received the Clean Air Excellence Award from EPA, that´s a great initiative to create a better environment.

Amusement Parks In California

I’m a Disneyland freak but on my next trip, SANTA BARBARA will be definitely be on the agenda as the main point to visit.
Thanks for this refreshing clean green idea.

Kathy Shaper

It’s always heartwarming to hear about what cities are doing to help clean up our environment.

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