Welcome to the neighborhood. For tourists, downtown Santa Barbara (a.k.a. “The American Riviera”) is a yuppie’s paradise. Expensive, exotic, etc.

For UCSB students, downtown is home to a collection of amazing record stores, music venues and intimate coffee joints. From open-mic nights to exotic world music, the downtown scene is a cozy paradise of culture and class. So listen up, kiddies, as I introduce you to a new chapter of music appreciation.

SOhO, located at 1221 State St., offers up an eclectic mixture of live music and quality dining with a comfortable, New York-esque ambiance. For the past 11 years, SOhO has offered UCSB students a chance to experience a diverse mixture of music, from blues and funk to reggae and rock. Additionally, the club is great for parties, special events and first dates.

As its name indicates, Velvet Jones nightclub is positively posh. While SOhO heralds itself as the premier music club in Santa Barbara, Velvet Jones at 423 State St. considers itself the best club in the area. Acting as part nightclub and part music venue, the club caters to the young and scantily clad. With such notable acts as Alien Ant Farm, Guttermouth and Hoobastank gracing the stage, tickets often sell out fast. On Tuesday and Thursday nights, students can enjoy the local band showcase, while Wednesday nights are all about punk-rock karaoke.

“Indo for the Arts,” sponsored by the club Indochine, located at 434 State St., is a great opportunity for photographers, filmmakers and other talented artists to get involved in the local scene. On Tuesday nights, artists of all mediums are invited to project their works onto the patio wall. While this bar is reserved for the 21+ crowd, it is a great opportunity for young artists to gain recognition and network with professionals.

After all that partying and concert-going, nothing beats the local coffee shop for a pick-me-up. Northstar Coffee Company at 918 State St. has the unique ability to stir up creativity and community in the downtown area. The shop is a haven for all that is local culture: live music, poetry readings, book discussions, etc. With a lovely fireplace and plenty of leather couches, it is the definition of “chill.”

So whether you’re looking to catch your favorite band, down some beers or sip on a hot brew, make sure you get out of I.V. at some point and enjoy a night on the town. One of the best things about freshman year is roaming and discovering. Even if you miss the bus back, it’s worth it.

It’s always a beautiful day in the neighborhood here, so take advantage of it.