A weekend trip to California’s coastal city of Ventura, California, isn’t a bad idea for someone who wants to escape Southern California’s summer heat. Located about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, between Santa Barbara and Malibu, “the City of Good Fortune” boasts beautiful, year-round weather, averaging 70 degrees and more than 250 sunny days a year.
For an artistic vibe, a classic Southern California surfing community with a laid back atmosphere, great views, and a historic downtown, look no further than Ventura. Outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy a day of kayaking through the majestic sea caves of the nearby Channel Islands. There’s also whale watching year round.
The beaches and the Ventura Pier
It was wonderful to enjoy the miles of pristine beaches along the Pacific Ocean. The weather was a comfortable 80 degrees, which locals found too hot and remained in the shade, while we found it a bit on the chilly side and walked in the sun. The ocean, however, is simply too cold for swimming.
My wife and I lounged at the beach to refresh our souls and basked in the embrace of the sun with the ocean’s continuous sound of crashing waves. Meanwhile the kids played at the beach playground and built their sand castles—what better way to spend a morning at seashore.
The Ventura Pier, noted as one of California’s oldest wooden piers, is also great for a leisurely stroll. It’s well maintained with one restaurant at the base serving delicious fish. The walk was windy, chilly but amazing. The end was packed with fisherman while seagulls eagerly waited to catch a free meal. The view of Ventura from the end of the pier is one to admire, with hills rising in the background and a beach extending to infinity. The ocean view provides a spectacular panorama of the Channel Islands and the opportunity to spot sea life.
Rent a bike and ride along the beach is something everyone should do. Its not only fun, but it gives you a nice workout. We rented a double surrey bike with kids in the basket rode as much as we could until we burned all our calories. It was entertaining for us while our little kids sang their favorite songs.
Historic Downtown Ventura
Ventura’s great downtown has a lot to offer visitors and locals alike, and it’s just a five-minute walk from the beach. The historic buildings with boutiques, museums, homes, antiques shops, restaurants, and bars provide a great atmosphere amid the palm-tree-lined downtown streets. It’s also the birthplace of Perry Maison.
Mission San Buenaventura
The old mission of San Buenaventura, an important monument in downtown, is the pride of the city. Named after Saint Bonaventure, a 13th-century, Italian Franciscan and cardinal, the founding of San Buenaventura Mission dates to March 30, 1749 by Franciscan priest Junipero Serra. The mission was also his last to consecrate that Easter Sunday. The self-guided tours are available with a $4 admission for an adult and $1 for a child.
Local art not to be missed
Ventura isn’t just a surfing community. It also has a profoundly creative side, with an incredible art center, studios, and great galleries. According to a study in 2007, Ventura also has the nation’s fourth highest representation of live music.
Most of the action takes place around the Ventura Harbor Village on Spinnaker Ave. There’s an array of things to do such as renting a pedal boat, eating fresh fish, enjoying live music, and window shopping. If you’re lucky, a festival could also be taking place. On a side note, Ventura Harbor is also known as one of the largest squid harbors on the Pacific coast.
Ventura Botanical Gardens
To reach the Botanical Gardens, visitors can either hike up the hill or drive. We decided to walk the steep climb of small, windy roads, which turned out to be quite a work-out. The view from the top, however, was the perfect reward, with an endless ocean and stretches of beach before us. Grant Park is the perfect place for a picnic and stunning vistas.
The Botanical Gardens are still a work in progress, but their current collection consists of flora from Mediterranean climates, along with some examples of sub-tropical plants. There are also hiking trails to enjoy in Arroyo Verde Park.
Channel Island National Park
Considered one of nation’s best land and sea preserves, the Channel Islands are also a must-see to truly experience the Pacific Ocean. Board Island Packers to Santa Cruz for a fantastic boat ride to enjoy a day of hiking or kayaking with breathtaking view and the chance to also spot whales, dolphins and sea lions.
After accumulating great memories and escaping the heat of the desert for a few days, we returned to Palm Springs for another hot, sunny day.