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Residents of Santa Barbara County may from time to time have a craving for the excitement of big city life. In my travels, I have found that downtown hotels which are geared for weekly business travel often tender great pricing on weekends. All the cultural offerings can also be enjoyed with lower occupancy, allowing for a more peaceful experience.


Los Angeles

In my younger years in business, I actually lived in downtown Los Angeles. After about 7 p.m. on a Friday the area transforms into a peaceful enclave, which lasts till Monday morning. Yet there are all kinds of things to do. For theatergoers, this is a paradise with the Music Center and its four venues. The newest is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which has joined the more famous Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum, and Ahmanson Theatre. The world’s finest performers in dance, music, theatre and opera have all entertained on these stages.

The Millennium Biltmore Hotel is ideally suited for a weekend theatre trip. This historic property has served celebrities, presidents and dignitaries for 85 years. The entire first floor lobby area is simply stunning and worth some extra lounging time. The interiors here are quite ornate and decorated with murals and frescos. The mural ceilings in the Galleria and Crystal Ballroom were hand-painted in 1922 by Giovanni Smeraldi, known for his work on the Vatican and the White House. Carved marble columns and fountains, along with extensive wood paneling throughout complete the opulent feel. This is a memorable entrance, and words alone do not do justice. The guest rooms have been continually updated through the years. The 8th and 9th floors include even more amenities aimed at attracting executives. The most luxurious accommodations can be found on the Club Level, which also serves breakfast and hors d’oeuvres daily. This is a great way to start your day or to take a break at the end.

If theatre is not your thing, what about a ballgame? Dodger Stadium is just a short drive from downtown and the Staples Center, home to the Lakers and Clippers, is even closer. You really do not even need a car for this trip – and taking Amtrak might be a wise choice. It will take a bit longer, but the ride will be much more relaxing. County residents can board at Lompoc or Santa Barbara and depart at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, just a short cab ride from the Biltmore. For more information, visit MilleniumHotels.com.


Travel talk

In the past week, I have received email offers with some eye-popping airfares from Air Tran. They are offering one-way fares from LAX to just about anywhere in the US for less than one hundred and fifty dollars. They usually have very attractive pricing on Business Class upgrades as well. A pilot friend once told me that Air Tran was always a good bet due to superior pilot training and larger aircraft. For more information, contact AirTran.com.

Of course, there is also a case to be made for flying in and out of either Santa Barbara or Santa Maria. This cuts down on travel time but often comes at a severe price increase. Best to book those flights well in advance or keep watching for best pricing. If you go to LAX, take Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu and enjoy the view. It almost always takes about the same amount of time driving the coast, especially if you can avoid peak commuting hours. Early on a Saturday or Sunday is the best time. If you are planning to spend a lot of time traveling, you may want to look into joining an airline club. These are useful, especially if you like to get to the airport early. With airport pricing these days, you may find this more cost-beneficial for food and beverages, and the ambience will certainly be more relaxing. American Express Platinum Card holders have privileges at most all of these clubs, and if you use a lot of different airlines this may be the best way to go. Usually the more a carrier flies to a particular airport the better its airline club. Also, any time you fly first-class, even on a last-second upgrade, you are entitled to use that airlines club free of charge.