Santa Barbara may hog the travel spotlight in this area, but nearby Goleta is a diamond in the rough. This more relaxed, less gussied up town is home to small restaurants, large stores and a thriving student population. Let this article inspire you to go go go to Goleta!
See & Do
Beaches in Goleta are typically less crowded than Santa Barbara beaches. Goleta Beach Park is the ideal destination for a quiet family outing or a long sunset stroll. The old wooden pier is free from commercial buildings and is usually occupied by people fishing. If you're lucky, you may even see someone catch a lobster!
There are a lot of great restaurants in Goleta that are just under the radar, like Noodle City and Goodland Kitchen. Even though they aren't well-advertised, these places have strong local followings and are packed with regulars at mealtimes. Your best bet for lunch or dinner is to ask around for recommendations; you'll likely be introduced to a new place you never would've found otherwise.
Nightlife in Goleta is varied. Unlike Santa Barbara, there is no one area to visit when you're going out. It depends entirely on what you want to do. The only bowling alley in town, Zodo's Bowling & Beyond, is in one area of Goleta. The Mercury Lounge, a quiet beer and wine bar, is in another.And don't miss The Imperial!
Driving down Hollister, one of the main streets in Goleta, you'll see a lot of hotels and motels, easy places for quick business overnights or family visits. Hidden in Goleta, though, is some place much more special: Bacara Resort & Spa. The Bacara is where the glitterati stay when it's time for a little rejuvenation. Ocean view pools, nature hikes, isolated beaches, in-room fireplaces... what are you waiting for?
The funny thing about Goleta is that - even with all the great stores in downtown Santa Barbara - locals plan a day to go out there and shop. Not only are most of the great vintage and thrift stores are out there but so are many of the larger retailers like Costco, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot etc. There are several specialty Asian markets in Goleta as well.