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Create a Staycation – Ventura Highlights

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Ventura boasts some of our state’s most beautiful beaches, has a comfortable year-round climate and easygoing, laid-back atmosphere. Add to that the thousands of points-of-interest in the city and surrounding communities, and you have the perfect recipe for an unforgettable family Day trip or Staycation.

Downtown is thought of as Main Street, between Ventura Avenue and Laurel Avenue, and all the streets that intersect it. It is a great place to spend a day walking around with the kids, exploring little shops and even historical sites. The Museum of Ventura County at 100 E. Main St. is a good place to start, and then you can just walk across the street to the (free!) Albinger Archaelogical Museum. One block down is Mission San Buenaventura where you can explore the gift shop, sanctuary and peaceful grounds. Keep walking down Main Street and you may be able to find Ortega Adobe (free) where you can see how ordinary people lived in 1857. Just across the street from the Mission, kids especially enjoy the fountains in Figueroa Plaza which are connected by a rivulet that my kids insist on walking in. Continue down Main St. and turn left on California Street to see the historic Ventura City Hall. We like to take our kids to Nature’s Grill (across from the Century theatre) for a healthful meal or delicious smoothie. From April to October, there is a small Farmers’ Market on Thursday evenings from 5-8:30 p.m. on Main and California Streets. A larger Farmers’ Market takes place every Saturday morning on Santa Clara & Palm Streets from 8:30 a.m.-12:00 noon.

Relax and Enjoy the Harbor: The Ventura Harbor Village lives up to their motto; “It’s all Waiting for you Here”. There are so many exciting things to do at the Harbor. Take a stroll along the promenade and watch the boats sailing the ocean, enjoy art exhibits and live music, participate with the kids in any number of free activities, take a ride on the carousel and have fun at the arcade, dine as a family or get some much needed alone time at one of the restaurants or enjoy a show at the Comedy Club. And of course, your trip to the harbor wouldn’t be complete without a little shopping. The harbor offers dozens of restaurants and specialty shops! Accommodations are a snap with the Four Points Sheraton Ventura Harbor. Go to www.venturaharborvillage.com today and see what’s waiting for you!

Take a walk, bike ride or run with the kids on the mile-long promenade. You can park at the Crowne Plaza parking structure, or for a longer walk, park on San Pedro St. (off of Harbor Blvd.) and begin at State Beach. There is a playground on the sand next to the pier. If you walk north on the promenade, you will come to Seaside Park which hosts the Ventura County Fair every August and hundreds of other special events during the rest of the year such as concerts, dog shows, and rodeos. The Amtrak stop is at the edge of the Seaside Park’s parking lot. One of my favorite parks in Ventura, Marina Park (at the south end of Pierpont Blvd off of Seaward) has an amazing view of the coastline and islands; kids of all ages love to slide down the rope that is suspended from a large cement sailing ship.

Calling all Campers: Swimming, surfing, fishing, camping … you name it! Enjoy all that Emma Wood State Beach has to offer your family! The Ventura River estuary attracts a variety of wildlife including raccoons, songbirds and great blue herons. Dolphins are occasionally seen just offshore. The park also features the crumbling ruins of a World War II coastal artillery site. The offshore Channel Islands can be seen from the beach. For the fishermen in your family; catches include perch, bass, cabezon and corbina. Multiple campsites are available by reservation only and are for self-contained vehicles only. Sorry, no tents. Camping facilities include; restrooms, water (no hook-ups), fire rings, tables, and a lighted parking lot. For more park and reservation information, visit: www.parks.ca.gov.Experience rich history: Perfectly appointed on Main St, the Mission San Buenaventura is a must see in Ventura. The mission is the ninth and last California mission founded by Father Junipero Serra on Easter Sunday March 31, 1782. While it remains an active Catholic Parish in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, visitors come from all over the U.S. to experience its profound history and architectural beauty. One point of interest in the Mission is found behind the Mission building itself. Three Padres are buried there: Padre Vicente de Santa Maria, who died 16 July 1806; Padre Jose Senan, who died 25 August 1823; and Padre Francisco Suner, who died 17 January 1831. The Mission Museum and Gift Shop are open, except for major holidays, Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Donation for the Museum and a self-guided tour is $2.00 for adults and 50¢ for children.

Whale Watching, an experience you’ll never forget: Island Packers offers a Summer Schedule specifically for Blue and Humpback whale watching. This trip is perfect for the family with a specific interest in sea life and exploring the waters. Weather permitting, these special tours also offer a chance to see “Painted Cave” on the coastline of the Santa Cruz Islands. These all day excursions depart at 9:00 am and return between 4-5 pm. For younger children, you may want to bring along a few hand held toys as it may take a couple of hours to reach the seas whale watching areas. Fares are $75/Adult, $57/Child 3-12, $68 Seniors (55+). Call (805) 642-1393 for more information.

Splish Splash the Day away: A favorite among all kids big and small, is the Ventura Aquatic Center conveniently located off Highway 126 at 901 S Kimball Rd. The Aquatic Center is a beautiful state of the art aquatics facility, consisting of a competition pool, recreation pool, water playground pool, and two water slides. There are picnic areas available so bring your coolers, personal food, and beverages in plastic containers. Lockers are also available and there are accommodations for handicapped individuals. The City of Ventura thought of everything to make your stay at the Aquatic Center a splashing good time! Check their website for hours of operation or call their General Information line, 805-654-7511. Then, get your suits, towels, sunscreen, and snacks and make a day of it!

Plan a Day or Two at the County Fair: Annually, held in August, keep an eye out for the Ventura County Fair. The Fair is typicaly open daily and includes a carnival, entertainment, rodeo, bands, art and much more.

For the family who loves Horses: Head North up Highway 33 to Ojai. Ojai on Horseback is a beautiful way to spend the day exploring this picturesque community. There are numerous touring options, providing a memorable experience for everyone at every comfort level. Ojai on Horseback offers Custom or Guided Trail Rides or you can opt for a Beach or Buggy ride. Prices range from $125 to $550, depending on the length or your ride and the amount of people participating.

Travel back in time: East of Ventura, just off the 126, you’ll find the community of Fillmore. Fillmore lies in the heart of the Heritage Valley and is widely known for its Fillmore and Western Railway. Visitors come from all over to experience this unique Historical Site known as the “Home of the Movie Trains”. Rides offer something for everyone including relaxing trips through the orchards, lunch and dinner trains, tours of the Heritage Valley, and more detailed weekend scenic excursions. Plan ahead and take part in a Murder Mystery, Margarita Madness, or the Shake, Rattle and Rail ride. Kids love the trains and you can’t help but be taken back yourself, to another time. Call 805-524-2546 for more information or visit them on the web for excursions and schedules. Don’t forget the camera; you’ll definitely want to capture this unforgettable experience!

Ventura Harbor Village: Drive out to end of Spinnaker (from Harbor off of Seaward) and start at the Channel Islands Visitor’s Center, a fun place to explore and learn about the Channel Islands. From here, you can walk across the street and find Harbor Cove Beach–a popular spot for families as it is protected from strong currents by the jetty and marina. Walking from the Visitor’s Center to the Village, you will pass a large grassy area which is great for flying kites on a windy day. There are many places to eat a meal, or just get ice cream at Coastal Cone. Kids love the carousel and the arcade where you can earn tickets to “buy” a prize. You can also tour the Ventura Keys with Bay Queen Harbor Cruises, or rent a kayak or peddle boat and paddle around the marina on your own.

Midtown and East End…

Pacific View Mall (on Mills and Main) has a fun outdoor fountain, a children’s play area, and family restrooms in addition to all the great shopping. Gymboree, Limited Too and Gap Kids are favorite kids’ shops. A large number of shops cater to teens and young adults, such as Hollister, American Eagle Outfitters, and Abercrombie & Fitch. The food court is kid-friendly as is Red Robin and California Pizza Kitchen. Every Wednesday morning at 10:30am, see a kids’ show in the food court!

From Mills Rd., take Dean Drive to Camino Real Park, a huge park boasting 3 playgrounds, a sand volleyball court, a basketball court, tennis courts, baseball diamonds and a dog park! In the fall and winter, you can view the monarch butterflies in the eucalyptus trees. Arroyo Verde Park (Foothill and Day Rd.) is another beautiful park with playgrounds, hiking trails, and picnic facilities. Our newest park is Ventura Community Park (Telephone and Kimball), home to the Ventura Aquatic Center (654-7511).

Experiencing AgriTourism: The Limoneira Ranch in Santa Paula gives Agribusiness a whole new meaning. While they are the leading producer of Avocados, lemons and oranges, they also boast some of the most spectacular scenery and beauty in the world. They’ve blend their agribusiness with entertainment and tourism; offering historical packing house tours, dinners in the orchard, flights in a hot air balloon over Heritage Valley, jeep rides through the hills and trolley rides among the citrus groves. Before you leave the Ranch, make sure you pick up a few of their unique Lifestyle products to take home with you and enjoy.

Spend a weekend discovering the Heritage Valley: Santa Paula, Fillmore, and Piru also known as The Heritage Valley has been called a “Natural Wonder of Southern California” and is located East of Ventura. In the Heritage Valley you’ll find a small town atmosphere and old fashion country charm. Fillmore, known as the “Last Best Small Town in Southern California” offers the Fillmore Historical Museum, Fillmore and Western Railway, State of California Fish Hatchery, Santa Clara River Valley Railroad Historical Society, and antiques, dining and theater in the Downtown District. The community of Piru, home of the Rancho Camulos Museum, is a national historic landmark. While in Piru, experience the Piru Murals, Bennett’s Honey Farm, and the Rancho Camulos Museum. Santa Paula, “The Citrus Capital of the World” boasts a Cultural Heritage with original Murals, cultural festivals, the California Oil Museum, historic downtown district, and vintage airplanes at the Santa Paula Airport. The Heritage Valley is undeniably a “Must-See” Day or Stay Destination. Contact the Heritage Valley Tourism Bureau at 800-700-1251 for even more information and assistance with accommodations.

(Sources; City of Ventura, Heritage Valley Tourism bureau, Island Packer Cruises, State of California, City of Ojai)

July 9, 2014

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