Just north of Santa Barbara lies Goleta, the area’s largest suburb. While Santa Barbara offers up heaping doses of charm and scenery, Goleta is the town’s perfect complement. A short 15-minute drive from downtown Santa Barbara, Goleta’s city limits hold spacious, family-friendly homes, national chain stores and abundant resources that aren’t found in the small town.

One of Goleta’s major attractions is its proximity to the University of California, Santa Barbara. The university is home to thousands of undergrad and graduate students as well as a major employer for the county. The college’s presence in Goleta makes the city’s population of nearly 30,000 people an eclectic mix. Although not within the city of limits of Santa Barbara, Goleta maintains the same laidback vibe that makes living in Santa Barbara so enjoyable.

Goleta has only been its own incorporated city since 2002, but the land it occupies carries a piece of California’s history. Originally inhabited by the native Chumash tribe, the first record of the Goleta Slough dates back to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s visit in the 16th century. Other Spaniards inhabited the area during the time the Santa Barbara Mission was established as part of their effort to convert the Indians to Roman Catholicism.

Throughout the centuries to follow, the area we now know as Goleta was passed from rancher to rancher until the post-war housing boom in the mid-twentieth century began the city’s journey to become the residential hot spot it is today. Now, the city has transformed into a hub for high-tech firms and aerospace technology as well.

The Camino Real Marketplace is conveniently located just off the 101 Highway in Goleta, serving as a hub for the whole region. The shopping center boasts giant retailers such as K-Mart, Best Buy, Home Depot and Costco, among others. The city’s many parks are host to everything soccer games to weddings, and as is the case in all of Santa Barbara, the beach is never more than a few miles away. Old Town Goleta offers a rugged charm.

Home prices in Goleta are much more accessible than areas like Hope Ranch and Montecito, and you can get more for your dollar than you might in downtown Santa Barbara. As of February of this year, the median sale price for a house in Goleta is $655,000, while condos in the area go for around $395,000. There are several public elementary schools throughout Goleta, which filter into Goleta Valley Junior High and Dos Pueblos High schools—consistently ranking among the top public schools in California.

Learn about other Santa Barbara neighborhoods: The Upper East, The Mesa, Hope Ranch, Riviera, The Westside, San Roque, Samarkand, Montecito, Summerland, Carpinteria.