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 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
This 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Hungry? 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.