Ventura County

Ventura County anaheimer Tue, 05/11/2021 - 15:28

Ventura County includes the cities of Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Ventura, Oxnard, and Ojai - each with its unique character and attractions. It is a tiny county compared to neighboring LA but full of sites and adventures.

Thousand Oaks

Thousand Oaks is the first major city you encounter as you leave Los Angeles County. The town is your typical southern California town with sprawling homes and a few large corporations, shopping centers, and parks.

But within this urban sprawl, you can find quite a few things to do and see. Here are some of my favorites:

Wildwood Regional Park and Paradise Falls

Paradise Falls - Thousand OaksThis large park is well-known for its hiking trail and a year-round waterfall. A lot of the trails are kid-friendly, but some will require close adult attention. The path to the falls is one of them.

To get to Paradise Falls, you have to climb down some steep inclines into deep valleys. Along the way, you will come across a Tepee-shaped rest area – an excellent place to relax and take some photos. Read the full article here.

Gardens of the World

Another way to enjoy nature – without a hike – is to visit the Gardens of the World.

The Gardens are privately owned and operated by the Hogan Family Foundation, Inc. The foundation shares its collection of plants and tranquil fountains with the community as a place for relaxation and communing with nature.

During summer nights, the gardens host musical performances by popular bands on their large lawn.

Before Covid days – and hopefully, soon again – you could bring a picnic lunch with you to enjoy in this serene space.

Volunteer docents lead guided tours and assist with school tours throughout the year.

The only drawback to this beautiful place is that it is too small, but we still appreciate its presence in the middle of town.

Conejo Creek North Park

Conejo Creek North Park is a beautifully landscaped park with lakes and a creek. The 27-acre natural creekside site includes two ponds, a recirculating meandering stream, a dog park, Main Library, Teen Center, and Goebel Adult Center.

You can reserve picnic shelters of varying sizes for your group events.

Chumash Indian Museum

The Chumash Indian Museum is a great place to learn about the native inhabitants of the area. The Museum has something for all ages.

Great artifacts and insight into how the Chumash Indians lived in harmony with nature in the Conejo Valley, where they hunted, fished, and farmed.

You can also spend some time hiking on trails behind the Museum with replicas of a Chumash Village. 

Theater League

It is billed as Broadway in Thousand Oaks. This theater complex is also known as the Bank of America Performing Arts Center.

The theater hosts shows like An Officer and a Gentleman, South Pacific, and Donna Summers Musical.

You can find a listing of upcoming shows here.

Camarillo

We usually zip by Camarillo on the way to Ventura or Oxnard, but I recently discovered a few interesting places in town.

You probably heard the name Camarillo in a few songs and seen it in a few movies. Sadly, its main claim to fame is the old State Mental Health hospital.

But nowadays, it is home to Premium Outlets, Aviation Museum, a few historic ranches and churches, a winery, and a lot of parks.

Some of the parks offer hiking and biking trails. Camarillo Grove Park is close to the foothills and has many rugged trails, while Calleguas Creek Park has some archaeological sites from the time of the Chumash natives.

Oxnard

Oxnard is a beach town in Ventura County and a gateway to Channel Islands National Park. Along with the sandy beaches, nature preserves, and dunes – Oxnard is also home to 2 Automotive Museums, Channel Islands Maritime Museum, and a winery.

The Channel Islands are an archipelago of 8 islands that are mostly kept pristine to protect nature and wildlife.

But you can start your day visit or an overnight camping adventure right from the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard.

Read more about Oxnard here.

The Harbor itself is a great destination where you can enjoy the rows of boats or dine at one of the waterfront restaurants.

At the Harbor, you can find places for a quick snack like Spudnuts donuts or Harbor Mart Deli & Wines – or you can have a nice sit-down dinner at places like The Waterside Restaurant and Wine Bar.

Active visitors can rent bikes and Surreys at Wheel Fun Rentals or rent a boat or Kayak.  

Right on the edge of Oxnard, you can visit Point Magu for expansive views and hiking trails.

Ventura

Ventura is a coastal city and the seat of the Ventura County government.

The area has been inhabited continuously for thousands of years, first by the Chumash natives and later by Spanish explorers.

The only remains from the Chumash civilization are a few excavation sites and artifacts collected at the Museum of Ventura County – while the Spanish left functioning Missions all over California, including in Ventura.

Ventura is another gateway to the Channel Islands. Just like the Chumash did thousands of years ago, you can take a short boat ride from the Ventura Harbor to visit the pristine islands. On the islands, you can camp, hike, Kayak, snorkel, or dive.

Back at the Harbor, you can stroll around the boats or visit some shops and restaurants. If you plan to dine here, it may be challenging to choose your place due to the extensive selection. Go here to get a taste of what awaits.

For more fun at the Harbor, you can visit The Ultimate Escape Rooms, rent boats, or go on a whale-watching cruise.

Aloha steakhouse Ventura - Banana Fosters prepHungry? Visit Aloha Steakhouse for a delicious dinner and great views. This Hawaiian-themed steakhouse is next to the Ventura Pier, Crown Plaza hotel, and a long boardwalk overlooking the bay.

On a recent visit, we tried the Halibut herb-crusted, the Aloha Chopped salad, and clam chowder in a bread bowl. All were very tasty and filling. We had lots of leftovers for the following day's lunch. 

We ordered the Bananas Foster which was expertly assembled table-side. It was a great ending to our meal.

But the fun didn't stop with dinner. After dinner, we strolled along the promenade admiring the views and working off some of the calories we ingested.

Camarillo

Camarillo anaheimer Fri, 05/13/2022 - 04:49

CSUCI Camarillo State Hospital - by StephenSchafer - WikipediaWe usually zip by Camarillo on the way to Ventura or Oxnard, but I recently discovered that this small town deserves a visit.

You probably heard the name Camarillo in a few songs and seen it in a few movies. Sadly, its main claim to fame is the old State Mental Health hospital. 

The beautiful State Hospital now serves as the campus for California State University - Channel Islands. 

Nowadays, Camarillo is home to Premium Outlets, an Aviation Museum, a few historic ranches and churches, a winery, and a lot of parks.

Adolfo Camarillo - WikipediaSome of the parks offer hiking and biking trails. Camarillo Grove Park is close to the foothills and has many rugged trails, while Calleguas Creek Park has some archaeological sites from the time of the Chumash natives.

Some history

The area was inhabited by the Chumash Indians for thousands of years until the Mexican land grant system granted the area to José Pedro Ruiz who created Rancho Calleguas in 1837. 

Later the ranch was sold to Juan Camarillo. His two sons Adolfo and Juan founded the town bearing their name.

Places of Interest

A Stroll in Old Town

Camarillo Downtown - from VisitCamarillo.comOld Town Camarillo runs along Ventura Blvd and offers many stores, boutiques, arts & entertainment, salons, spas, and restaurants.

On a Saturday morning, you can enjoy a hearty breakfast from Old Town Café, and shop for a bargain at the Camarillo Farmers Market.

Later you can enjoy lunch or dinner at Blvd. Burger, Twenty 88 Bistro, or Sushi Planet.

Parks and Trails

Camarillo Grove Park - from VisitCamarillo.comYou can find plenty of parks in Camarillo - some are small community parks and others are large, with creeks, ponds, and playgrounds.

At Nancy Bush Park, you can walk, jog, or enjoy a picnic at one of the shady enclosures. The kids can play in the newly remodeled playground. 

At Camarillo Grove Park, you can hit the trail for a nice hike on rugged hills, bike, or just relax and enjoy the views. This park also has a fenced area for dogs and their owners to have fun in the sun.

Premium Outlets

Camarillo Premium Outlets - WikimiediaCamarillo Premium Outlets is located off Highway 101, exit Las Posas Road. The outlets are a great place to shop for bargains and to grab a meal.

Some of the 160 stores at the Outlets® are the Banana Republic, Coach, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, and Tommy Hilfiger.

Some of the sit-down dining options are Johnny Rockets, Los Arroyos Mexican Restaurant, Cracker Barrel, and Panera Bread.

For a quick meal, you can try Charley Grilled Subs, Fat Burger, Boba Time, and Starbucks.

The Children's Play Area offers kids a place to play while the adults are shopping. Hey, if they would let me, I will stay here to avoid shopping with my wife :-)

Oxnard, CA

Oxnard, CA anaheimer Sun, 01/23/2022 - 12:39

Oxnard - Channel Islands harborThis beach town's claim to fame is that it is the Gateway to the Channel Islands. But wait a minute, a few miles northwest of Oxnard, Ventura also claims to be the Gateway to the Channel Islands. So confusing!

But no, not really. They both have a lovely harbor with regular service to the Channel Islands, but I think Oxnard's harbor is more fun.

The channel islands harbor has an extensive canal system making it look and feel like Venice, Italy, or Venice, CA. You can even get gondola rides on those canals. 
On both sides of those canals, you can find homes with ramps, restaurants, and recreation areas. 

Oxnard - Channel Islands harborAlthough the harbor and beaches are the main attraction, the city of Oxnard has many other points of interest.

So what can you do while in Oxnard? Visit the beaches and parks, bike, boat, the channel islands, the Mullin Automotive Museum or the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, or dine in the harbor. 

Here are a few of my favorite places

The Beaches

Oxnard Beach Park

Oxnard Beach ParkWhat a great combination! You get a nice family park overlooking a long strand of beach. 

This gorgeous stretch of beach features rolling lawns, public barbecue areas, volleyball courts, a play area, skating, and jogging paths. 

You can also reserve covered group picnic areas. 

The Pacific Coast Bicycle Route runs through the park offering an excellent resting place for bicyclists on a long ride. 

This white sandy beach has spectacular views of the Channel Island National Park and Marine Sanctuary – and if you time your visit right, you can watch as the sun sets behind the islands.

At this gorgeous beach, you can sunbathe, kayak, fish, bodyboard, and surf, of course. 

Hollywood Beach

Oxnard - Hollywood BeachWhen you visit t his beach, you are in good company. Clark Gable lived here. Rudolph Valentino filmed a movie here. 

Hollywood Beach is a great spot for beach volleyball, swimming, sunning, fishing, bodyboarding, surfing, and viewing the Channel Islands offshore. 

The beach is Dog Friendly. Dogs on leash are allowed before 9 am and after 5 pm (Must bring poop bags).

Open flames are not allowed at County beaches; this includes portable fire pits and portable grills.

The beach area is also home to my favorite breakfast spot in Oxnard: Hollywood Beach Café. More on that later.

Oxnard Shores Beach

Oxnard Shores BeachOne of my favorite beaches, Oxnard Shores, has a grassy area with a jungle gym for kids and equipment rentals for beach parties. 

The beach has a trail with benches that winds between the dunes offering a good hike and great views of the beach and the channel islands.   

This beach is secluded most of the year, making it ideal for nature walks and photography. 

History

Oxnard - Old  beet sugar factoryNow that we got the beaches out of our system, let's talk about some history.

Before the European explorers, the Chumash native Americans made the area between San Luis Obispo and Malibu their home. They thrived for millennia sustaining on the land and the sea. 

The channel between the shore was easier to navigate due to lower sea levels, so they extended their habitats into the Channel Islands. 

The modern era of Oxnard started with farmers cultivating barley and lima beans in the 1850s. But the town of Oxnard was not born until Henry T. Oxnard, a beet sugar factory owner, agreed to build a $2 million factory in this area. 

Oxnard intended to name this town after the Greek word for "sugar", zachari, but frustrated by bureaucracy, they named it after himself.
To read more about Oxnard's history, go here.  

Things to do

Mullin Automotive Museum  

Oxnard - Mullin Automotive Museum - Wikipedia - Thesupermat Own workThe Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard is unique and dedicated to the personal car collection of businessman and philanthropist Peter Mullin.

The Museum has a large collection of vintage Bugattis, and many of the cars are fully restored and can be driven.

The building housing the collection was remodeled recently to be more energy efficient by American architect David Randall Hertz, using solar panels and reflective roofing to reduce heat.

The architect managed to incorporate elements that retain the Art Deco style and motifs of the era of the cars on display. 

Besides its selection of classic French automobiles and Grand Prix race cars, the Mullin also houses a collection of Art-Deco furniture and contemporary paintings and sculptures.

Channel Islands Maritime Museum

Oxnard Channel Islands Maritime Museum - courtesy of Visit OxnardThe name is a little misleading. It is not a museum about the Channel Islands – it is located at the channel islands harbor.

But it is still worth a visit, especially if you love maritime history. 
The Museum's showcased a large collection of maritime paintings, ship models, and artifacts. 

The collection also includes Seascape paintings by European painters. 
The Upper Deck hosts interactive contemporary exhibits and featured temporary exhibitions. 

The Museum windows look out over the Channel Islands Harbor's passing sailboats and gorgeous views.

The Channel Islands National Park sits just offshore, and the sea lions on the dock out front add tremendous character to the traffic stream. 

You can enjoy the art at your own pace or take advantage of the free guided tours.

Heritage Square

Heritage Square - Oxnard - by Wendell @ FlickrNestled in Historic Downtown Oxnard, this city block offers a unique perspective on historic homes. 

You can stroll through this piece of history surrounded by delightful gardens, fountains, Restaurants, a Wine Tasting Room, a Live theatre, gift shops, and a visitor center.

Many of the town's activities, such as Summer Concerts, are held here. 

Nature and Hiking

Central Park

Oxnard - Central ParkCentral Park is a good place for a leisurely walk, and it has a lot of paths with greens and fountains. 

The atmosphere during the day is tranquil and beautiful whereas, with the fountains lit up at night, it becomes more romantic.  

Emma Wood River Trail

If you are looking for an easy hike, you will need to venture into the city of Ventura. 

This trail is located inside the Emma Woods State Beach, features beautiful wildflowers, and is suitable for all skill levels.

Note: As of October 2021, the beach had a large homeless population. 

Arroyo Verde Park

Ventura - Arroyo Verde ParkThis 132-acre park with miles of hiking trails is actually in the city of Ventura, but it is close enough to Oxnard to warrant a visit.

It has open grass areas, shade trees, a nature center, and a new playground. 

The has several hiking trails to choose from, but the main one is a 2.3-mile moderate loop with many side trails – some with steep inclines. 

Dining

Oxnard is a large city with many dining options. You can find Italian, Thai, Mexican, Mediterranean, Japanese, Brazilian, or even kosher cuisine. 
Tourists usually flock to the harbor for waterfront seafood, but many of the unique restaurants are in downtown or sprinkled through the neighborhoods. 

Moqueca Brazilian

Oxnard - Moqueca BrazilianMoqueca restaurant offers a unique Brazilian food experience with great views of Channel Islands Harbor. 

Moqueca (mo-KEH-kah) is also the authentic Brazilian cooking style – mainly a seafood stew. The restaurant also offers a Full Bar, Steaks, Pasta, and delicious appetizers.

The waiter was attentive, explained their signature dishes and specials, and gave us recommendations for drinks. 

Before the meal, they served toasted garlic bread with Eggplant dip. An excellent start to our evening.

For drinks, we tried their authentic Caipirinha cocktails, and they were excellent! I loved my original, and my wife really enjoyed her passion fruit.

For the main course, we ordered the Mahi Mahi Moqueca and the Fish Filet with white rice and fried bananas. The food was delicious, and we had a lot of leftovers.

For a great finish to this dining experience, we shared a passion fruit mousse.

I highly recommend this place when you visit Oxnard or Thousand Oaks.

Note: Moqueca is on the second floor, and you can take an elevator up or the stairs.

Waterside 

Oxnard - Waterside restaurantFor seasonal California Cuisine right on the water, visit this lively place at channel islands harbor in Oxnard.

Waterside prides itself on offering inspired dishes prepared using the finest and freshest quality ingredients available locally in Ventura County.

Besides delicious food and drinks, the restaurant offers live entertainment on the outdoor porch. 

The restaurant offers a wide variety of American favorites like steak, burgers, and roasted chicken – but during our visit, we ordered soup and salad.

We both enjoyed a cup of Clam Chowder. I ordered the Mediterranean salad, and my wife ordered the caesar salad. We both shared the Greek fries. We enjoyed our delicious food while gazing at the boats in the harbor.

For a great finish, we shared the bread pudding, which was very tasty.

Genmai Sushi

Oxnard - Genmai SushiWe love sushi, so we had to try Genmai Sushi in Oxnard. The restaurant is a full Japanese cuisine and Sushi bar, so you can find a large variety of dishes and a great selection of rolls.

Some of the items they offer are dynamite sushi roll, the Oxnard roll, shrimp fried rice, spicy garlic edamame, sashimi salad, and the vegetable teriyaki bowl.

The interior of Genmai Sushi is stylish and festive, with TV screens to keep you entertained.

During our visit, we tried many of their sushi rolls – we actually ordered too much and had leftovers.

We loved almost everything, especially the roll named after the city of Oxnard. 

The crunchy roll was not what we expected. We expect shrimp tempura filling with a crispy topping of toasted panko breadcrumbs – and sometimes garlic. This one was a fried roll topped with eel. 
The service was quick and attentive – I would visit this place again.

Hollywood Beach Café

Oxnard - Hollywood Beach CaféI went to Hollywood Beach Café twice for breakfast and loved both the food and experience.

It is hard to go wrong with breakfast, but this beachside spot goes the extra mile to make your meal memorable.

During our two visits, we tried the breakfast burrito, the California Breakfast (2 eggs + pancakes + bacon), and make your own omelet. All choices came out just right and with very large portions.

The service was friendly and fast, and coffee kept coming.

Bistro 13

Camarillo - Bistro 13 restaurantBistro 13 is in the neighboring city, Camarillo, and is worth the short 15-minute drive. For a classy Italian meal, this is the place to be.

During our visit, we enjoyed the ambiance, service, food, and drinks. Our waiter was attentive, explained the specials, and recommended wines to go with our dinner.

We ordered the lamb special and the butter squash ravioli - both were excellent.

For dessert, we tried the homemade tiramisu and loved it. 

If you are in Camarillo or close by, you must visit this place.