May 11, 2009

Fig trees and rubber duckies: not your standard B&B fodder. Yet the Inn of the Spanish Garden (915 Garden St.; 805/564-4700; www.spanishgardeninn.com; doubles from $185) is anything but ordinary. The 23 guest rooms are decorated in Spanish Mission style—warm ocher walls, dark wood furnishings, fireplaces. Beyond the obligatory Frette linens, Molton Brown bath products, and oversized tubs, downtown Santa Barbara's only luxury inn delivers the best kind of access. After morning laps in the pool and breakfast on your private terrace overlooking a blooming courtyard of wisteria and bougainvillea, you can easily walk to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (the permanent collection is one of California's finest), then to State Street for some low-impact shopping. Later, retreat to Ca' Dario (37 E. Victoria St.; 805/884-9419; dinner for two $60), a shoe box-sized trattoria off the main drag, for Italian home-cooking and plenty of local gossip.

The Inn of the Spanish Garden

This Spanish-style inn, located in the Presidio District, is only three blocks from Santa Barbara’s main drag, State Street. Each of the 23 rooms has a sitting area with a fireplace, and all reservations include a daily complimentary continental breakfast with quiche and espresso drinks. Relax in the property’s namesake garden, either at a table or by the tiled fire pit, or take a swim in the outdoor lap pool that is always 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The evening wine bar offers small bites and pours of local Santa Ynez wines.

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