Summer is almost here, which means… road trip! This year, rather than rushing from one big city to the next, why not slow down somewhere along the California coastline? It will mean getting off the 5 and onto the 101 and actually seeing the ocean. Carpinteria is a good place to escape the car and let the little ones stretch their bones. This tiny beach town often gets overlooked in favor of its bigger neighbor, Santa Barbara, but there are many reasons to check out the sights here, including access to sand and surf. And, if the thought of piling your kiddos in the car brings on that anxiety, check out our 8 essentials for a totally tantrum-free road trip. 

Getting there: Carpinteria is just 15 minutes from Santa Barbara by car. Whether you are coming from LA or SF, you’ll take the 86B exit from the 101, then get off at Linden Ave.

What to see: The Carpinteria State Beach is popular for body boarding, and there are places to rent a board along Linden Avenue. Near the beach entrance, there’s a great little playground for tots, the Tomol Interpretive Play Area, with climbing sculptures in the shape of the local sea life and unique play structures like a wooden hut and raft. Not to be missed is the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve for hiking, field sports, beach combing, and year-round seal watching at the Seal Sanctuary. If you wish to stay longer, there’s camping by the beach as well.

Possible lunch spots: There are many places to grab a meal downtown, including nachos at Oaxaca Fresh, pizza at Giovanni’s, or Pad Thai at Siam Elephant Thai. For casual American food, try The Spot, with a pick-up window and picnic tables, steps from the beach.

How to dress: Sunhats, flip-flops, and beach gear.

Need to know: If mom or dad could use a cold one, there’s an award-winning microbrewery downtown, right across the street from the interpretive playground. Island Brewing Company has a tasting room and plenty of outdoor seating for the whole family but does not serve food.

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Online: carpinteria.ca.us

Have any of you taken a road trip to Carpinteria? Do you have any tips for visiting this family-friendly destination with kids? Let us know in the comment section below. 

—Renee Rutledge

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photo courtesy of rharrison, Ken Lund via flickr