24 hours in Carpinteria CA with kids

If you’re not familiar, Carpinteria, California is a beach town just south of Santa Barbara that, in the three decades I’ve visited, has managed to retain its beach-town charm and distinct lack of city or suburbia influence. Located just off Highway 101, Carpinteria is characterized by sandy beach bungalows (each valued around a million dollars, of course), a quintessentially laid-back downtown of shops and diners, and a long, wide state beach dubbed ‘the safest’ in California, largely due to its lack of waves.

carpinteria ca

Families will find Carpinteria to be quieter than adjacent Santa Barbara, a bit more affordable, and easier to navigate. A weekend or overnight in Carpinteria is an ideal add-on to a trip to Orange County to visit Disneyland, or as a stop on iconic Highway 101. Here’s what not to miss in 24 in Carpinteria with kids:

Stay at the Best Western Plus Carpinteria Inn on Carpinteria Avenue, just blocks from the beach and the downtown sector. It’s easy for families to walk to the action (certainly with older kids, but also with kids in strollers), and is quieter and cheaper than the beach motels right on the water. The Best Western Plus has a wonderful garden courtyard that, I believe, is what elevates it to a ‘plus’. There’s also a small outdoor pool, and the rooms are oversized for a Best Western.


Where to eat and play:

Linden Avenue is Carpinteria’s main drag, with public parking at a lot adjacent, and many fun shops and dining opportunities. At the end of Linden is the public beach. Where to eat:

Nutbelly: This sandwich and pizza shop on Linden Ave has excellent sub sandwiches made to order, plus pro-biotic ciders and beers for the adults.

Island Brewing: On 6th Street, Island Brewing is one of the largest local breweries in the area, and worth the stop for a brew. Go adjacent to The Spot for burgers with the kids, then add a bottle from Island Brewing to the mix. Both locations are really close to the beach, which is a big plus.

Esau’s Coffee Shop: Esau’s was recommended to us as the best breakfast in Carpinteria, and it didn’t disappoint. Almost any time of day, Esau’s is hopping, so be patient and perhaps opt for the side patio dining outside. It’s located on Linden Ave, and has plenty of local character.

State beach: Plan to spend the majority of your day at the beach, which is wide and flat with gentle surf and swimming platforms, plus lifeguards on duty during the tourist season. The beach (and parking) is free, and there’s a state campground adjacent, with plenty of picnic tables and the like. You’ll find public restrooms a few blocks up Linden Ave.

Ready for a field trip to Santa Barbara? Check out Cold Spring Tavern:

cold spring tavern

This historic site and eatery is located in the hills overlooking Santa Barbara, about 25 minutes from Carpinteria. If you have a car, it’s well worth the drive. From Highway 101, take Highway 154 up the mountain top, then one mile down the valley side, turn left onto Stagecoach Road. Follow the signs to Cold Spring Tavern, which was once a stagecoach stop in the mid-18oos. Now a hodge-podge of historic buildings on the winding country highway, Cold Spring Tavern is popular with motorcycle groups as well as families. Get there in the morning for their breakfast menu, or come for lunch, when you can sample their tri-tip BBQ on weekends. Either way, check their hours (which do change by season) and plan to linger, exploring the grounds to see the jail (transported from Ojai), as well as other historic buildings tucked into the mountainside.

Tip: Don’t forget that Carpinteria (and adjacent Santa Barbara) are on the Amtrak line. Take the train from San Diego or Los Angeles, then enjoy the beach town sans car!


Have you been to Carpinteria CA with kids? Share your tips in the comments!



About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler.