Ventura County. A beautiful and temperate landscape where you can stand on the sandy shores of the 42 miles of beach and on that same day climb 8,831 feet in elevation to have a snowball fight on Mt. Pinos in the Los Padres National Forest.
This growing metropolitan area has over 900,000 culturally and ethnically diverse residents in the ten established cities. The suburban areas have green spaced parks and small locally owned coffee shops along with blue ribbon award winning schools. Yes, Ventura County is a Southern California dream place to live.
When visiting Ventura County the three best cities you do not want to miss are Ventura, Camarillo, and Ojai. Each city is uniquely different from their vast shorelines to dense forest escapes; yet each urban core is crafted with that same Spanish charm Ventura County is known for. Here are the top things to explore while visiting Ventura, Camarillo and Ojai for the entire family!
Nicknamed the ‘Mission by the Sea’, this coastal city is a mecca for surfers and windsurfers. You can stroll along the long, wooden Ventura Pier, take a boat from Ventura Harbor to head to Channel Islands National Park and see rare island foxes and scrub jays, or lay out on the sandy shores of one of the city’s beaches. History is alive in this cute city with the historic landmarks such as the Mission San Buenaventura church, founded in 1809 and located right on Main Street in the heart of the city.
Things To Do In Ventura
- Downtown Ventura: Ventura’s downtown district features a variety of restaurants, boutiques, breweries, antique stores, and more. There’s no shortage of history and culture here in downtown, and it’s worth an afternoon stroll and grabbing a bite for dinner. Now through January 2022, five blocks of Main Street are closed to thru traffic, allowing pedestrians an open, safe space to shop and stroll the downtown area.
- Mission Basilica San Buenaventura: Founded in 1782, the San Buenaventura Mission is the 9th mission consecrated by Saint Junipero Serra. Also known as the Mission By The Sea, visitors here can enjoy the beautiful gardens and historic artifacts, attend mass, take a tour, or participate in one of the many programs and events offered. Address: 211 E Main St, Ventura, CA
- San Buenaventura State Beach: Stretching from Marina Park all the way north to the Ventura City Pier are the sandy two miles of beach that make up San Buenaventura State Beach. The scenic sand dunes lay near a bike path that connects to other nearby trails and picnic areas. Here you can enjoy a game of beach volleyball, play frisbee on 6 acres of turf, rent some fun wheels and surf. In the summer months lifeguards are on duty to keep everyone safe. Address: 901 San Pedro St, Ventura, CA
- Arroyo Verde Park: Located just inland of Ventura is the beautiful 132 acre preserve of Arroyo Verde Park. You can opt to hike on one of the miles of hiking trails along the rugged landscape, have a barbecue at a designated picnic area, or learn about the conservation efforts at the nature center. There are also kids play gym areas complete with restrooms. Address: Foothill and Day Road, Ventura
- Emma Wood State Beach: This linear park runs parallel to the Pacific Coast Highway just west of Ventura near the mouth of the Ventura River. You can enjoy beach access, a group camp area, and explore Seaside Wilderness Park. Another great feature are hiking trails that lead to the Ventura River Estuary for the opportunity to see some local birds and other wildlife.
- Lure Fish House: This family owned restaurant has several popular locations including one right in Ventura. The menu consists of fresh and sustainable seafood such as Miso Sea Bass Skewers with a citrus sesame salad, the Lobster Ravioli with squid ink striped ravioli, and the Mexican Burrito Bowl with wild pacific rockfish. Address: 60 California Street, Ventura, CA.
- Angie’s Deli and Mexican Food: The atmosphere may be no frills but the taste is spectacular. The menu includes breakfast favorites such as the breakfast burrito and huevos con jamon con chorizo, meat quesadillas and pastor tacos. Address: 1285 N Ventura Ave, Ventura, CA.
- Social Tap Ventura: Located on Pierpoint Beach is this laid back, family fun focused, Southern California cuisine restaurant. They take pride in their selection of local craft beers to partake of as well as their creative cocktails. On the east side you can munch on truffle fries, mac ’n’ cheese, fish tacos, and a sweet churro waffle. Address: 1105 S Seaward Ave, Ventura, CA.
Places to Stay
- Four Points by Sheraton Harbor Resort: The resort building itself is a work of art designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. You can enjoy harbor views and every room has its own patio or balcony. Amenities include a fitness center, pool with both a jacuzzi and whirlpool and is pet friendly. Address: 1050 Schooner Drive. Ventura, California 93001.
- Inn on the Beach: This quaint inn has an old fashioned feel with fireplaces in each room plus ocean views. It is Ventura’s only ocean front hotel and a continental breakfast is included. The Inn on the Beach lacks amenities but you can not beat the location. Address: 1175 S. Seaward Ave Ventura, CA 93001.
- Amanzi Hotel: This newly remodeled hotel has a laid back beach vibe to match the area. The rooms are spacious and clean and the extended complimentary breakfast includes tasty hot items such as eggs, sausage, bacon and biscuits and gravy. Other amenities include an outdoor pool and an evening reception with beer, wine and snacks. Address: 298 S Chestnut St, Ventura, CA 93001.
The first thing that hits you when you arrive into the town of Camarillo is the scenic mountainous views surrounding you. The city tempts you to enjoy the great outdoors as the near perfect climate year round confirms that choice. This mix of rural and suburban communities is only nine miles from the closest beach. With an average of 300 bright, sunny days and a low 70s temperature average, Camarillo is a place to get outdoors and stay out.
Things To Do In Camarillo
- Camarillo Premium Outlets: Shop at more than 160 stores at Camarillo’s Premium Outlets and save on everything you need. You’ll find everything from big names like Kate Space and Saks to popular household staples like Vans and Disney. Spend the day shopping, then fuel up at one of the many dining options here like Cracker Barrel, Pink’s, and Fatburger. Address: 740 E Ventura Blvd., Camarillo. See a list of more outlet centers in and around Orange County.
- Pleasant Valley Historical Society Museum and Botanical Gardens: Founded in 1964, the Pleasant Valley Historical Society opened the museum in 1988 dedicated to preserving the rich history of the area. This small museum is volunteer operated with a vast repository of local history of Camarillo’s agricultural past and present. Many of the items are donated by local Camarillo residents giving a glimpse into what everyday life was like in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The property also Includes a garden of indigenous plants complete with a gazebo. Address: 720 Las Posas Road, Camarillo, CA 93010.
- Camarillo Grove Park: This serene 24.5 acres park is the home to the oldest tree in the district. Some of the park’s amenities include a playground, a dog park, a nature center and horseshoe pits. The newly expanded trails include an upper trail and lower trail, with benches along the way to sit, plus interpretive signs along the way with facts about the wildlife and region. The lower loop is an easier gently sloping trail with oak trees, sage, volcanic rock formations, and more. The upper loop is a moderate hike, over 1 mile in length, with an approximate 600 foot vertical differential.
- Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak: This almost 7 mile loop is a popular hiking trail that is about a 30 minute drive into the Santa Monica Mountains. The loop trail is among the more scenic in the area for its abundance of wildflowers, vast views of the Santa Monica Mountains, and peeks of the ocean on a clear day. The climb to the actual summit of Sandstone Peak is rated difficult with an elevation gain of 1,700 feet. Make sure to pack plenty of water and sun protection since the majority of the trail is exposed and can get quite hot in the warmer months.
- Adolfo Grill and Daily Bar: This historic eatery has a heart to connect communities of Ventura County. The menu is full of locally grown berries and vegetables, gourmet burgers, a spinach tortilla ahai roll, beef stroganoff, and frosty martinis for adults to enjoy. Address: 67 E. Daily Drive, Camarillo, CA 93010.
- Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant: Owners Ottavio and Noella Belvedere started their first restaurant in Camarillo, California where they opened Pizza Villa on Ventura Boulevard in 1969. In 1974 the name was changed to Ottavio’s Italian Restaurant but the homemade dishes did not. The menu spans from build your own pizza to elegant veal parmigiana. Address: 1620 Ventura Blvd. Camarillo, CA 93010.
- Pink’s Hot Dogs: This iconic spot first started when Betty and Paul Pink bought a hot dog cart in 1939 with a dream to bring hotdogs to the nation. They expanded with Pinks Hollywood in the 1940s which even drew Hollywood celebrities with its popularity. Now you can visit one of their locations here in Camarillo. The menu is vast with numerous and creative hotdogs, burgers, burrito dogs, onion rings and coconut cake. Address: 630 Ventura Blvd. Suite 1215. Camarillo, CA 93010.
Places to Stay
- Residence Inn by Marriott Camarillo: This picturesque extended-stay hotel is a popular location for weddings. Each of the suites contain separate living and sleeping areas to relax in, fully equipped kitchens to whip up meals, and chic décor. Hotel amenities include complimentary breakfast, a heated pool with a whirlpool, a fitness center and a Sport Court designed for games of tennis, volleyball or basketball. Address: 2912 Petit St. Camarillo, CA 93012.
- Hampton Inn and Suites Camarillo: The 116 guest rooms at this hotel are looking pretty fresh after being newly renovated. Located close to Point Mugu Naval Base Hampton Inn and Suites Camarillo is a great place to stay when visiting military friends and family. Hotel amenities include an outdoor pool, fitness center and complimentary breakfast. Address: 50 W Daily Dr. Camarillo, CA.
- Bella Capri Inn and Suites: This Spanish style boutique hotel, is located in the heart of historic Old Town Camarillo. The Inn has a warm atmosphere with a sunny patio and delish Old Town Café. Other amenities include three room suites, breakfast, and access to a fitness center. Address: 2050 Ventura Blvd Camarillo, CA 93010.
Ojai is a charming and quaint small town a quick thirty minutes away from the Pacific Ocean. The area is dotted with boutiques, elegant hotels, locally owned shops and eateries, as well as a bustling farmers market. The residents of Ojai are an intriguing collection of salt of the earth farmers, whimsical artists, spiritual leaders, captivating intellectuals, passionate environmentalists, up and coming chefs, families running away from the larger urban areas to raise kids, retired snowbirds, movie stars and everything in between that you can think of!
Things To Do In Ojai
- Ojai Certified Farmers Market: Every Sunday no matter the weather this popular farmers market is open from 9am to 1pm. This weekly event has so much to choose from with locally sourced delights. Fresh fruits and vegetables harvested, sweet jams, honey and BeesWax Candles. Breads, elegant desserts, raw chocolate as well as locally caught seafood. They have natural meats, olive and walnut oil. Free range chickens and eggs, a wide variety of nuts and dried fruits. Flowers and or hides to bring home and more! Address: 300 E Matilija St, Ojai, CA.
- Ojai Valley Museum: Housed in the historic former St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, the Ojai Valley Art Museum showcases a variety of exhibits including history of local culture, art, interpretive gardens, and informational displays about local wilderness. The museum also hosts and participates in many programs and events such as Family Fun Sunday, walking tours, town talks, and First Fridays Downtown. Address: 130 W. Ojai Ave., Ojai, CA.
- Valley View Preserve: This 195 acres of natural beauty and wildlife is a short drive from the downtown hub of Ojai. The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy protects this wilderness paradise and provides access for public enjoyment. There is the Fox Canyon Trail which is a combination of two rebuilt historic trails. Just over a mile in length it travels up an 800-foot climb, to connect to Foothill Trail and the U.S. Forest Service trails. The Foothill Trail is known to showcase the beauty of the Valley View Preserve. Try looping the Fox Canyon Trail, the Foothill Trail and Luci’s Trail for a terrific day hike. Lastly Luci’s Trail is a short yet steep .75 mile trek. This is a great workout with switchbacks and rock steps to help you climb.
- Ojai Meadows Preserve: It is truly incredible to see the restoration of this beautiful preserve that started in 2000 by the Ojai Land Conservancy. What was once a trash filled, tree cleared field is now full of native plants, wildflowers, birds and more. The Ojai Meadows Preserve has an almost one mile trail that loops around protected wetlands, meadows and sweet smelling Eucalyptus trees. The trail is family friendly with informational signs with history and facts about the local wildlife. You can opt to extend the loop by about .14 more by filling the Taormina Meadows past the Eucalyptus Grove back to the loop trail.
- The Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room: This local treasure is over four generations of crafting, growing, and enjoying the art of wine making. With over 300 wines to choose from, the tasting room gives a unique experience as the staff shares stories and tidbits about your drink. Although The Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room does not serve food, you are allowed to bring your own noms in to enjoy. Reservations are required. Address: 109 S Montgomery St. Ojai, CA.
- Hip Vegan Café: This chic all vegan and all-organic casual café is a small but sweet eatery. The menu includes items such as Wagamamma macro bowl with tofu and pickle cucumbers, a spicy Torta with jackfruit and avocado, and a yummy date cacao with coconut milk and dates. Address: 201 N. Montgomery St., Ojai, CA.
- Osteria Monte Grappa: The rustic menu of Northern Italian cuisine made with local and seasonal ingredients is a culinary experience to say the least. The menu has daily specials such as the Baschetti which is a buckwheat ravioli filled with fresh seasonal mushrooms and Italian cheese, the Rixotto del Doxe risotto with wild scallops, saffron and local organic arugula and the house-made tiramisu for that sweet tooth craving. Address: 242 East Ojai Avenue Downtown, Ojai CA.
Places to Stay
- Ojai Retreat and Inn: This 12 guest house bed and breakfast style retreat is located on a five acre Hilton complete with panoramic views of the surrounding Ojai valley. Many of the rooms have terraces or patios and there is a buffet breakfast plus yoga on the serene property. You can even take a stroll on their nature trail! Address: 160 Besant Road Ojai, CA.
- Casa Ojai: Located in the Topa Topa Mountains in the charming Ojai Village is this eco friendly spot to rest your head. The hotel has a salt water pool and jacuzzi, plus a sunbathing deck to take in the California rays. Also if you have a furry friend, the Casa Ojai is pet friendly. Address: 1302 East Ojai Avenue Ojai, CA.
- Thacher House: If you ever dreamed of cozying up with chickens in a chic, classic environment, this is the place for you. The four bedroom Thacher House and its four private cabins is a private getaway complete with chickens and a family of goats, citrus and pomegranate trees, plus a lovely garden. Other on-site offers are classes in cooking, baking, olive-oil pressing, wine-making, and more. Address: 4424 Thacher Rd., Ojai, CA.
Ventura County holds so many wonderful things to explore with so much diversity and beauty. I hope you get a chance to enjoy all of what Ventura, Camarillo, and Ojai have to offer.
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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus