California has an abundance of many things. Within that group of ‘abundant things,’ we have to count beach towns. I know I write a lot about beaches in here but, who doesn’t want to be in constant contact with ocean breeze and soft sand? And if there are good restaurants, palm trees, wondrous views and dozens of recreational options near a particular beach, well, can you really blame me for being a seaside junkie?
So, today, I want to write a little bit about Ventura.
I am not sure we can call this city a beach town. It has more than 100,000 residents and it is the seat of the county of the same name. However, the downtown area, located close to the shore, gathers all the desirable characteristics of a picturesque beach town.
By the way, the city is known as Ventura but its official name is San Buenaventura (city of good fortune).
The Mission and its Gardens
We cannot talk about Ventura without talking about its Mission. Father Junipero Serra, officially established his ninth and final mission on 1782, forming the basis of what would become the city. The Mission had a prolific garden of fruit, vegetables and herbs which made it very prosperous.
The Mission and its Gardens (located on Main Street) are open to the public and it is a compulsory stop for those who want to learn more about the city’s history. Oh, and did I mentioned the gardens are lovely?
Across the Mission (on Figueroa Street), you can observe other old and historical buildings. There are plaques explaining the significance of certain spots.
This area was once known as China Alley because Chinese immigrants who helped to build railroads across the state built temples, tea-houses and gambling halls in there. There is a mural commemorating those early settlers.
Some of the county museums such as the Ortega Adobe, the Albinger Archeological Museum and the Ventura County Museum are located within walking distance of the Mission.
The City Hall
Don’t forget to walk towards one end of California Street and take a good look at the elegant city hall. A statue of Father Junipero Serra stands in front of the white building (he is everywhere, even in the county seal).
From the front of the city hall, there is a great view of California Street and the ocean.
I am not sure what words to use to describe Downtown. Ok, let say this area is cool, lively, quaint, charming, distinct and varied. So, do you get what I am trying to say?
Downtown (mainly Main and California Streets) has everything you need to fulfill your desires. There is a big variety of restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters, boutiques, book stores and souvenir stores. There is even a public library and Wi-Fi is readily available.
There is also a good selection of antique and thrift stores. I always find something good at an affordable price (shopping doesn’t have to hurt in here).
Ventura County is known for agricultural items such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, honey, eggs, whole and shelled nuts, cheese, olive oil, fruit juices, jams, jellies, cut flowers and potted plants.
The ideal place to sample and buy these products is at a certified farmer’s market. The Downtown market takes place every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the corner of Santa Clara and Palm Streets.
There is also a Midtown market on Wednesdays (9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) at the Pacific View Mall.
Ventura is proud to have one of the oldest (1872) and longest wood piers in the state.
The area around the pier includes the San Buenaventura State Beach and some well known surf spots.
There is a coastal bikeway which goes from the Emma Wood State Beach to the San Buenaventura State Beach. There are options to connect with trails which go to the Harbor Village or to Ojai (more strenuous). Bike and surrey rental shops are located nearby.
For wonderful views of the beach, pier and city, there are two options.
Behind the City Hall, there is a trailhead to the Botanical Gardens. You can hike the trail to high a point and take a look from above. If you don’t want to walk, you can drive your car to Grant Park, park and enjoy the views. From Grant Park, you can connect to the Botanical Gardens trails.
A village full of shops, restaurants and businesses is located next to the Ventura Harbor.
The Channel Islands National Park Visitor’s Center is located in the harbor. This is the place from where boats depart to the islands (thru Island Packers Company).
It is also the place to take whale watching (in season) and harbor cruises and the place to rent pedal boats, SUP boards and kayaks. It is a fun place to go with your loved ones.
A comprehensive guide of places to eat in Ventura will fill pages and pages of a book or magazine. The topic is beyond the scope of this post since there are too many options (I would need 100 visits to maybe scratch the surface).
Let me just say I have eaten great meals in Ventura and look forward to continue discovering new places. If you need recommendations, talk to the locals, stop by the places with long lines or ask in the visitor’s center (they have menus for a lot of restaurants in town).
- Ventura is located about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Los Angeles (real distance depends of your starting point).
- There is free parking in Downtown.
- This post intends to give you an idea on things to do in Ventura. However, for more detailed information go to the Visitor’s Center in Town (101 South California Street). To this date, it is the most complete and biggest (way bigger than my apartment) visitor’s center I have seen. It contains detailed information about the city, the surrounding areas, the Central Coast and even place like Yosemite National Park.
Have you been to Ventura? What are your recommendations?