A coastal community, Ventura is one of central California’s tourist gems. It has beautiful beaches and islands for adventure seekers, as well as parks and gardens for more relaxed travellers. Even history enthusiasts will be delighted with its old churches and ancient buildings from the pre-colonial period. Another thing to love in Ventura: it is has year-round warm average temperatures with no snowfall, providing everyone with a chance to enjoy the beaches no matter what time of the year.
If you’re planning a trip to Ventura soon, this list will be of great help. Check out the 12 best things to do in Ventura, California that will make your vacation an unforgettable one!
1. Visit Ventura Pier and Promenade
Established in 1872, Ventura Pier is the eighth-longest pier in the state of California. It spans 1,700 feet (518 metres) and is made entirely of wood, except for the steel foundation. The dock was mainly used to serve the local industries of agriculture, construction, and oil. At present, it is now a popular tourist attraction, especially for fishing and sunset watching. It also has a sand playground where kids can play, as well as panels where everyone can view photos and information regarding the pier’s history. Indeed, it makes for a nice afternoon stroll for the whole family.
2. Learn about the history of Mission San Buenaventura
One of the most popular worship places in the county is Mission San Buenaventura. It is a Roman Catholic church that was founded in 1782, and is also known as “Mission by the Sea”. The structure, which is more than 200 years old, is regarded as a California Historical Landmark, and is also included on the list of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Guided tours are available for families and students who wish to learn more about the history of the church and the mission life. The church also has a gift shop where you can purchase various religious items.
3. Enjoy marvelous views at Grant Park
Located in an elevated part of Ventura, the 107-acre (43-hectare) Grant Park is the best place to catch a panoramic view of the town on a clear day. From the top, you will see the famous Channel Islands and the beautiful beaches surrounding the area. Aside from the views, many tourists go to Grant Park because of a huge replica of the cross that was once placed on this hill during the Mission Era. There is a designated picnic area for public use, as well as rest rooms and a shooting range.
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4. Explore natural wonders at Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park is comprised of five beautiful islands, each boasting a unique tourist attraction. At Anacapa Island, you will find a trekking trail leading up to a lighthouse that dates back to 1932. Next, there is Santa Cruz Island, featuring sea caves that were formed by the continuous waves hitting the coastline. Meanwhile, Santa Rosa Island’s main features are Torrey pines, an endangered pine tree species in the United States. If you want to see seals, you should visit Point Bennett, located on San Miguel Island. Last but not the least is Santa Barbara Island, the southernmost island where seabirds usually nest.
5. Admire the architecture of Ventura City Hall
Ventura City Hall, also known as the County Courthouse, is a government-owned building that was designed in 1910. It features late 19th and 20th century Revival architectural styles, made by Southern Californian architecture pioneer Albert C. Martin Sr. Its main features include a terracotta facade, a dome covered with copper, and a courtroom made of dark mahogany. Located in downtown Ventura, it is now a famous local landmark and is also included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
6. Enjoy a nature walk at Ventura Botanical Gardens
Although it is not yet fully completed, the Ventura Botanical Gardens is already a famous tourist attraction for hikers and nature lovers. It is a 107-acre (43-hectare) public park that aims to showcase native plants and also to provide a green recreational space for the local community. Guests can already use several trails for hiking and running, and you are also welcome to bring your picnic basket and enjoy the garden’s rustic ambience. Meanwhile, free guided tours are conducted in the Ventura Botanical Gardens several times a year. These include introductory tours, sunset tours, and evening tours. There are no admission costs to the gardens, although a donation of 10 USD is recommended.
7. Watch a performance by the Rubicon Theatre Company
If you’re into the performing arts, watching a show at the Rubicon Theatre Company is a must when visiting Ventura. It has been producing quality stage plays since 1998, with the aim of entertaining, enriching, and educating Ventura’s residents and visitors. From classic and contemporary dramas to comedies and musicals, you will surely find a performance that suits your taste. Some of the shows you can look forward to include Moonlight and Magnolias, Merrily We Roll Along, Return to the Forbidden Planet, and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Guests can buy tickets per show, but if you love theatrical plays that much, you can also buy a flexi pass that you can use for a whole season.
8. Taste a variety of wines at Four Brix Winery
Four Brix Winery, located right in the heart of Ventura, is a craft wine station where you can taste a variety of both local and international concoctions. They offer wines from Italy, France, Spain, and, of course, California. The tasting room is called BrixHouse, which also serves as a venue for various events like Concert in the Cellar, Foodie Friday, and Wine Dinner. Meanwhile, if you are curious about the wine-making process, you can go to their Barrel and Production rooms to see demonstrations by the owners.
9. Swim at Emma Wood State Beach
A vacation in Ventura is not complete without a day trip to the beach. One of the most popular beaches in the county is Emma Wood State Beach, boasting moderate temperatures that make it an ideal swimming and surfing destination. Some people also go here for fishing since the waters are rich with common fish like perch, bass, corbina, and cabezon. Nearby is the Ventura River estuary, where raccoons, herons, and songbirds are usually seen. How about a spot of camping for more of a taste of the great outdoors? While Emma Wood State Beach only offers family camping for self-contained vehicles, for group camping you can head to the nearby Ventura River Group Camp.
10. Go camping at Lake Casitas Recreation Area
Can’t get enough of camping? You can go to Lake Casitas Recreation Area and choose from over 400 available sites. Some are located near the lake, while others enjoy the privilege of being shaded by trees. Meanwhile, for great views of the lake, you can choose a site located on the hillside. Make sure to book in advance because the campground is usually fully booked during weekends from mid-March to September. Other amenities include shower houses and a dry storage area. They also have gear and equipment rental for those who want to try boating and canoeing in the lake.
11. Browse the Ventura County Museum of History and Art
The Ventura Museum of History and Art is small but has interesting exhibits. It’s an ideal place to visit at least once during your Ventura vacation. With exhibitions changing often and recently remodeled, it’s a pleasant way to learn the history of the area. If you enjoy art, it’s a chance to see some of the local artistic talent.
There are some historical figures that are not necessarily from the area, but they make for a colorful display. If you’re with the family, there’s an education area for children and a Chumash style house out the back. it’s a safe place for children as its enclosed from passing traffic.
Ventura County Museum of History and Art
Address: 100 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001-2607
12. Get close to nature at Lake Casitas, Ventura
Lake Casitas offers hiking, biking, picnicking, camping, and wilderness filled with a range of animals. If the outdoors and nature are your thing then why not head there for a day, or even longer. Four hundred campsites in different areas give you plenty of choices.
Bird watchers love the area and may even spot a bald eagle. Explore the creeks and keep a look-out for deer coming down to water to drink. Boating, fishing and a nice kiddies playground make the destination a place with something for everyone. if you don’t want to picnic, you can pick up a meal at the Marina Cafe.
Address: 11311 Santa Ana Rd, Ventura, CA 93001-9769
Come out and play in Ventura
No matter what time of the year you choose to visit, there will be an activity awaiting you in Ventura. With its great weather conditions and variety of outdoor activities, it is not surprising that many visitors have been charmed by the coastal town!
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