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Goleta – A Good Land for Family Fun: A Family Getaway With an Enchanting Butterfly Grove and the Only Coffee Farm in the Continental US

February 22, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Goleta, Santa Barbara’s neighbor to the north is a respite for families, offering countless activities for those who want to explore more of Santa Barbara County. 

From the undiscovered treasure of the Goleta Butterfly Grove to Goodland Organics, the continental United States’ only coffee plantation, there is something for every family.

Families that don’t mind getting a little dirty will appreciate Goleta’s outdoor offerings. Hike the bluffs in the Ellwood Mesa with A001_C032_0626NCamazing views of the Pacific Ocean en route to the Goleta Butterfly Grove.  Every winter (mid-November to mid-February) thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate to their winter home in the hidden eucalyptus groves along the interior of the Ellwood Mesa. The area is never crowded with people, so sit back and enjoy watching these beautiful creatures as they flutter overhead, and if one is lucky enough, a butterfly may land on their shoulder. Prefer to be more active? Take advantage of the free parking at Goleta Beach, one of three beaches where Channel Island Outfitters rents equipment such as stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and surfboards. For those that prefer to stay on land, there are volleyball nets and a fishing pier to keep busy.  Don’t miss the stunning ocean and mountain views at championship golf courses Sandpiper Golf Club and Glen Annie Golf Club, both offering discounted rates for junior golfers. The spectacular views make it hard to concentrate on one’s golf swing. After a fun-filled day, cheer on the UCSB Gaucho’s as they take on their rivals in soccer, basketball and more.

Ride Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner throughout Santa Barbara County and then learn about the history, technology and adventure of railroading at the South Coast Railroad Museum. While there, be sure to check out the historic Goleta Depot.  This Victorian-styled country railroad stationhouse was built over 100 years ago (1901) by the Southern Pacific Railroad during completion of the Coast Route, which joined San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Parents will want their camera handy to capture their child’s smiling face aboard a train ride on the Goleta Short Line miniature train.  Model train aficionado’s will appreciate the model railroad exhibit “Railroading on the South Coast,” which depicts the railroad areas of Santa Barbara and Goleta during the late-steam/early-diesel era.

No smart phone?  No television?  No problem.  Show your children what life was like in the 19th century by taking a tour of the Stow House.  Adjacent to the South Coast Railroad Museum is Rancho La Patera and Stow House, historic for its role in the Goleta lemon trade. Today, children can learn how people use to live (without Wi-Fi!) on a tour of the Stow House – a museum displaying the family’s photographs and furniture from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

With so many activities to fill the day, a caffeine jumpstart for the parents and a snack for the kids may be required. If so, the Coffee Educational Tour (offered seasonally) at Goodland Organics is in order; tour the continental United States’ only coffee farm with a Cup of Joe in hand. Situated in the coastal foothills of Santa Barbara, this certified organic farm also cultivates exotic crops such as cherimoyas, lychee, dragon fruit and finger limes. Continue exploring the culinary side of Goleta with a trip to Fairview Garden Farms and Goodland Kitchen & Market. For a healthy snack, purchase organic fruits and vegetables grown at Fairview Garden Farms own farm stand.  Producing over 100 different fruits and vegetables on its 12.5 acres of land, children will love seeing the goats and chickens during a docent or self-guided tour of this non-profit educational farm.  Not sure what to do with all of the great food products purchased in Goleta?  Take a culinary class at the Goodland Kitchen & Market.  Classes are periodic at this Old Town Goleta establishment, but year-round it is a grab-and-go eatery specializing in delicious, locally-sourced, and affordable meals. The food is prepared in small batches and comes from local farmers to provide an exceptional culinary experience.

For family friendly nightlife, go back in time to a different era with Goleta’s West Wind Drive-in movie theatre. Showing first run movies nightly, movie-goers can stick around for the double-feature for the same price. Pajama’s welcome. Zodo’s Bowling & Beyond is another popular family activity, and one of only two bowling alleys in Santa Barbara County. Families of all ages and skill levels can bowl together – ramps and bumpers are available for the little ones, and teenagers will love Glow Bowling with a live DJ on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night’s.  There is also an on-site restaurant and arcade.

To rest your head after a busy day, Goleta has a range of hotel properties that will appeal to families.  The newest addition to the area is the Courtyard by Marriott Santa Barbara / Goleta.  Located just minutes from the University of California, Santa Barbara, this hotel is great for parents visiting their children at school, or for families that want to be within walking distance of restaurants, a movie theatre and a park.  Kids (and parents too) love El Capitan Canyon for its glamping – hotel amenities in a camping environment.  Families can choose to stay in a cedar cabin or safari tent, both furnished with willow beds, down-style duvets, western-inspired blankets and casual furnishings. Start the morning off with a nature hike and end the day bonding over a campfire eating s’mores and telling ghost stories.  Families interested in a secluded getaway can stay at Bacara Resort & Spa.  Parents can even opt for a little alone time by taking advantage of the Monarch Kids’ Club (offered seasonally).  Pacifica Suites is another good family choice since every room on the property is a suite furnished with a pull-out sofa, and parking, Wi-Fi and a cooked-to-order breakfast are all included in the price of the room.

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