Visit This Underrated Family-Friendly California Town With Beautiful Pristine Beaches

If you're suffering under a deep layer of snow and ice right now, like most of the country, you're probably dreaming of a lovely, warm vacation. There is a little town you probably haven't heard of that is perfect for that getaway right on the shores of southern California. This pretty location is just north of Santa Barbara, which means it's great for wine tastings, with plenty of places in the surrounding areas to imbibe some wonderful vintages. Most restaurants in the area have at least some local wines on the menu. 

However, there is far more to the town of Goleta, California. It's actually a great spot to take the entire family, even if you never enter a winery. This town has gorgeous beaches, a butterfly grove, parks, museums, and outdoor activities for grownups and kids alike. If you want to journey further afield, Goleta is very close to Solvang, where you can get a taste of Denmark and the stunning and underrated Los Alamos, both of which have plenty of wineries. Let's take a look at Goleta, California, and learn about the family-friendly things to do in the plentiful sunshine. 

On land in Goleta, California

Goleta is less than 9 miles from Santa Barbara and has a small-town feel. The region is only 8 square miles, between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains. Everywhere you turn, it's just beautiful scenery. In the summers, the average high temperature sits in the mid to upper 70s and the low to mid-60s (degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter, with a drop at night so your kids can wear that cute sweater grandma knitted for them. 

Goleta is perfect for warm weather activities, but if you want to do something that may not seem very "California-y," visit Ice in Paradise, a skating rink open every day, all year long. If you visit in the winter, it's the perfect time to check out the free Goleta Butterfly Grove. Parts are temporarily closed due to recent damage from the historic rain in the area. You can walk through the grove from October through February to see monarch butterflies as they migrate. 

The railroad system opened up travel across the country, and the South Coast Railroad Museum is a great activity where you can learn about the history and tech of trains. It even has the Goleta Depot in the museum, built in 1901. You can also visit The Reef at UC Santa Barbara on Friday and Saturday for free, where your little ones can pet sea creatures and even hold a lobster. 

By the sea in Goleta, California

One beach you should visit if you're a family of surfers or a surfer enthusiast is Campus Point, which the UC Santa Barbara students love. There is also Gaviota State Park. You can surf here; it's also a good place for swimming. If the wind is a little strong for swimming, you can take a walk down the 1,500-foot pier or even fish from it. There are volleyball courts, a playground, a BBQ area, and the Beachside Bar Cafe for snacks.

Refugio State Beach is also equipped with picnic sites, walking trails, and beach wheelchairs that can be borrowed for free. Lifeguards are here all year, though the towers are only occupied from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Haskell's Beach is between the Ritz-Carlton Bacara and the Sandpiper Golf Club. This one has tide pools for the kids to check out and public hiking trails. 

Don't forget to keep an eye on the ocean. It's pretty common to see seals and dolphins swim by. If you prefer freshwater, Goleta also has Lake Los Carneros, a great spot for birders looking to spot Southern California avians. Plus, it's got a mile-long walk around the lake with plenty of ducks to watch. While visitors are encouraged to feed the ducks, please don't give them bread, which is terrible for them. Instead, try sweetcorn, oats, frozen peas, seeds, rice, or lettuce.