Goleta is a beachside California town neighboring Santa Barbara; you might say that the two go hand in hand. But Goleta is also a town of its own, with historical monuments, beaches, and incredible spots of nature in particular as draws for both locals and tourists.
1. Goleta Butterfly Grove
In 1870, a rancher named Ellwood Cooper and his family started growing a variety of plants on their ranch, including grapes, olives, walnuts and almonds, oranges and lemons; this attracted many monarch butterflies, and today the area consists of land where monarchs migrate. There are trails throughout, and even a beach; admission is free, and it’s open from sunrise to sunset.
Goleta Butterfly Grove
Address: 7701 Hollister Avenue, Goleta, California
Website: Goleta Butterfly Grove
2. West Wind Santa Barbara Drive-In
West Wind has been in the drive-in theatre business since 1952, so you know they’ve got it down to a “T.” In fact, their Santa Barbara Drive-In in Goleta is one of their seven locations. They use high-quality digital projectors to enhance your experience, and have a high-quality concession stand as well. There’s a playground for kids, as well as an arcade, so there’s plenty to do before the movie starts! And as a plus, they feature first-run movies.
West Wind Santa Barbara Drive-In
Address: 907 S Kellogg Avenue, Goleta, California
Website: West Wind Drive-In
3. Goleta County Beach
If you’re looking for some sun and sand, this is your place. With miles and miles of beach, a fishing pier, sand volleyball courts, kayak and paddleboard rentals, walking trails that lead to a lagoon, and a paved biking path that goes all the way to Santa Barbara, there’s no lack of things to do. There’s also a playground for kids, a boat launch for boaters, and a restaurant right on the beach - it’s called the Beachside Bar Café, and it serves lunch and dinner. If you’re looking to have a picnic, there’s plenty of grassy area as well, including picnic tables, restrooms, and barbecues; and if you’re bringing your dog, dogs are allowed as long as they’re on-leash.
Goleta County Beach
Address: 5905 Sandspit Road, Goleta, California
Website: Goleta County Beach
4. The Bombardment of Ellwood
The Bombardment (or “shelling”) of Ellwood is a monument site commemorating the first attack on the U.S. during WWII. In Goleta in 1942, a Japanese submarine started shelling the Ellwood Oil Field (a non-military oil field and therefore an easy target) in hopes of destroying it. Most of their shots didn’t make it far enough; needless to say they did not succeed. Though this attack on U.S. soil is largely unknown today, at the time it was sadly one of the things that pushed the U.S. government to place Japanese-Americans in internment camps. Today the Sandpiper Golf Course (where the oil field used to be) has a stone marker with a plaque to commemorate the event, as does nearby Haskell’s Beach with a wooden sign.
The Bombardment of Ellwood Monument
Address: 7925 Hollister Avenue, Goleta, California
Website: The Bombardment of Ellwood
5. Circle Bar B Guest Ranch
This gorgeous guest ranch offers daily 1.5-hour guided horseback riding tours with four different departure times, as well as private rides; the rides go around the trails throughout the ranch’s vast land. But the fun doesn’t end there! You can stay overnight, and the ranch amenities include an outdoor pool, a game room with a pool table, foosball, and ping-pong, a full bar, and even a library stocked with books! Plus, I’ve heard the food is really good.
Circle Bar B Guest Ranch
Address: 1800 Refugio Road, Goleta, California
Website: Circle Bar B Guest Ranch
6. Los Padres National Forest
About 20 minutes outside Goleta, this gorgeous national forest is full of mountains, wilderness, rivers and beaches, wildlife, and more; some areas of interest include Pfeiffer Beach and other beaches, the Jacinto Reyes National Scenic Byway, and the Wheeler Gorge Visitor Center. There are various campgrounds for campers (ranging from basic to modern), lakes and ocean areas for swimming, and miles of hiking trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding; some hunting and fishing is allowed in certain land and water areas – be sure to check the forest’s website for rules and regulations.
Los Padres National Forest
Address: Los Padres National Forest, Goleta, California
Website: Los Padres National Forest
7. Knapp’s Castle
Located in Los Padres National Forest (about 30 minutes from Goleta) and known for its stunning views, Knapp’s Castle is the remains of an estate that burned down about 70 years ago. The land it’s on is privately owned, so the ruins themselves might not always be accessible, but the trail is open year-round; the trail leading to Knapp’s—Snyder trail—is less than a mile (1.6 km), and simple enough even for novice hikers. It continues for about 7 miles (11 km) if you’d like to keep going.
Address: East Camino Cielo (Forest Route 5N12), Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara, California
Website: Knapp’s Castle
8. The Cube Escape Room
The goal of this escape room is to make you feel like you’re in your very own action movie—who doesn’t want to pretend to be a secret agent now and then, right? You’ll be trapped in a room with 1 hour to figure out how to escape—there will be various clues and puzzles throughout the room, and you and your team have to work together in order to get out. Their most popular room is the “Pirates Parlor,” in which you are taken captive by pirates, and have to escape their ship!
The Cube Escape Room
Address: 5775 Dawson Street, Goleta, California
Website: The Cube Escape Room
Go for Goleta
Beaches, hiking and nature, suspense games, movies, horseback riding, and history are all things you can find in Goleta. Whether you’re taking a day trip from Santa Barbara or vice versa, it’s worth the visit.
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