This article provides tons of ideas on things to do in Ventura County, Southern California!
After living in Los Angeles County for several years, I have noticed non-locals do not have a clear idea of the actual county size.
First, the county itself is huge (it is the biggest in the United States). Second, people consider places that are located in Orange, Riverside, and even San Diego County as part of Los Angeles.
And, with that compulsion of calling everything “Los Angeles” (even if it is 200 miles from Los Angeles), it seems like people forget over and over again about Ventura County, our neighbor to the north.
Ventura County is a place brimming with beach towns, mountains, lakes, parks, delicious food, and tons of fun activities. I am here to provide 200+ ideas on what to do, see, and eat in this outstanding area of Southern California.
Things to Do in Ventura County
Ventura County has an extension of 2,208 square miles and a population of about 850,000. The seat of the county is the city of San Buenaventura (often called Ventura). However, the most populous city is Oxnard.
Some consider Ventura the northernmost county of coastal Southern California while others consider it the southernmost county of Central California. The county is often considered when talking about the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. By the way, Ventura is located 70 miles from Downtown Los Angeles and 30 miles from Santa Barbara.
This is a wonderful place to experience the coastal California vibes without having to deal with the heavy crowds.
The places mentioned in this article are located all over the county. I have divided certain categories as clear as possible. My intent is to show you how diverse this place is. You can spend months exploring!
I recommend using a city as a base and visiting other nearby areas as “day trips.” Or, you can stay put for 2 or 3 days. Each city in the county has a plethora of amenities to keep you busy.
Enough talk, let’s explore the things to do in Ventura County.
Our journey starts in the seat of the county, sunny Ventura, the city of good luck.
Ventura is a mix of old-world charm and funky beach culture. If you have never been, I recommend walking around Downtown and checking out the Mission, museums, surf shops, boutiques, and antique shops. After that, you can move to the beachfront to check the long wooden pier, the boardwalk, and taco shops.
If you need help, do not hesitate to pay a stop by the Visitors and Convention Bureau (101 South California Street). This is one of the best of its kind I have seen around my travels in California.
Here is a sample of what you can/should see on your Downtown walking tour:
- Mission San Buenaventura
- Mission Park
- Museum of Ventura County
- City Hall
- Junipero Serra Statue
- Main Street (Lots of eateries, boutiques, antique and thrift stores)
- Ventura Botanical Gardens
- Plaza Park
- Ventura Vintage Sign (Seen from the Freeway)
- Grant Park (Awesome views of Downtown and beyond)
- Farmer’s Market (Takes place every Saturday, be ready to witness giant produce)
- Seaside Park
- Beach Promenade or Boardwalk
Other Areas in Ventura
Downtown is awesome but you should not limit yourself to this part of town. Consider the following too:
- Ventura Harbor – This is the place to visit for cruises, water activities, and seafood restaurants
- The area around the Anacapa Business Center – This is an industrial area thriving with wineries, breweries and other retailers
Other Cities and Towns to Visit
As wonderful as Ventura is, other places located in the county have made a name on its own. They have a different vibe. I have planned weekend gateways based on most of these.
- Port Hueneme
- Thousand Oaks
- Simi Valley
- Santa Paula
Two of the Channel Islands, a group of five islands that have been named National Park, are part of Ventura County. As a matter of fact, the park’s visitors center is located at Oxnard’s Harbor.
These islands are considered remarkable since their isolation has made them a place of high biodiversity. The islands can only be visited through an outfitter called Island Packers. If you have time, I recommend putting this on your list of places to see.
You will need at least an entire day to see one of the closest islands (Anacapa or Santa Cruz). Overnight (camping) trips are also available. Reservations are encouraged.
Island Packers offer non-landing, wildlife cruises around Anacapa Island. This excursion takes half-day to complete.
I cannot leave out of the equation our beloved piers. Visit as many as you can!
- Richfield Pier – Private pier, can be seen from the shore. Check the views from Oil Piers Beach
- Ventura Pier
- Port Hueneme Pier
Lake Casitas and Lake Pirru offer amenities such as fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming, hiking, and camping to visitors.
If beaches are your thing, you have a wide array of options in Ventura County. Not all beaches listed here are appropriate for bathing (some are surfing beaches). However, most of them offer a full set of facilities, and some of them, camping opportunities.
- Rincon – This famous surfing spot is located on the line dividing Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The Rincon Beach Park (facilities) is located on the Santa Barbara side.
- Mussel Shoals
- Oils Pier Beach
- Hobson County Park
- Rincon Beach – Yes, there is another Rincon Beach
- Emma Wood State Beach
- Surfer’s Point (Access Through Seaside Park)
- San Buenaventura State Beach
- Harbor Cove Beach
- McGrath State Beach
- Mandalay Beach
- Oxnard State Beach Park
- Hollywood Beach
- Silver Strand State Beach
- Port Hueneme Beach Park
- Ormond Beach
- Point Mugu Beach
- Thornhill Broome Beach (Point Mugu State Park)
- Sycamore Cove Beach (Point Mugu State Park)
Below, I have listed businesses that can provide cruises, whale watching excursions, surf classes, sailing classes, and bicycle/kayak rentals. In addition, there are details about farms, petting zoos, and golf courses.
- Island Packer Cruises
- Channel Islands Whale Watching
- One Wave Surf School
- Ventura Surf School
- Ohana Surf Camp
- Ventura Boat Rentals
- Channel Islands Kayak Center
- Leo Robbins Community Sailing Center
- YOGAqua Ventura
- Underwood Family Farms
- McGrath Family Farm
- Limoneira Company (Citrus Growers)
- New Oak Ranch
- Ojai Olive Oil
- Tawni’s Ponies
- Happy Trails Mobile Farm
- Buenaventura Golf Course
- Olivas Links
- Saticoy Regional Golf Course
- Ventura Food Tours
- Wheel Fun Rentals
- Ventura Bike Depot
- Ojai Electric Bikes
- Camarillo Skydiving
I have been surprised by the good selection of museums available to visit in the area. Even small towns have dedicated places to cover topics relevant to the community. Therefore, you can go as museum crazy as you want.
- Camarillo Ranch
- Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center
- Stagecoach Inn Museum
- Ojai Valley Museum
- Carnegie Art Museum
- Gull Wings Children’s Museum
- Heritage Square
- Murphy Auto Museum
- Ventura County Maritime Museum
- Rancho Camulos Museum
- Civil Engineer Corps & Seabee Museum
- Aviation Museum (Santa Paula)
- California Oil Museum
- Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum
- Strathearn Historical Park & Museum
- A.J. Comstock Fire Museum
- Olivas Abode Historical Park
Outdoors (Walking and Hiking)
Even though the cultural offering in Ventura County is varied, I see it as an outdoor destination. There are a lot of places where you can go for an easy walk while admiring gorgeous scenery.
About half of the county is covered by the Los Padres National Forest. In there, you can find trails with different levels of difficulty. Many people approach the forest from Ojai. Find more about the different day hikes here.
I leave you other ideas on where to go to walk or hike.
- Conejo Ridge Open Space
- Los Padres Open Space
- Los Robles Open Space
- Hope Nature Preserve
- Conejo Valley Botanical Garden
- Arroyo Conejo Open Space
- Potrero Open Space
- Wildwood Regional Park (Paradise Falls)
- Happy Camp Canyon Park
- Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Reserve
- Marr Ranch Open Space
- Foster Park
- Steckel Park
- Camarillo Grove County Park
- Point Mugu State Park
Keep in mind a lot of the beaches we have previously described have good walking/biking trails or paths.
The food in Ventura County is a-ma-zing! Sometimes, I visit just to eat. You will have no trouble finding something of your liking. Each city has outstanding restaurants that are worth trying. Here are some recommendations:
- Social Tap
- Himalaya Restaurant (Do not miss this restaurant serving Nepali food)
- Lure Fish House
- Rice by Mama
- Beach House Tacos
Ventura Harbor (Great place to get fish & chips)
- Brophy Bros.
- Andria’s Seafood
- The Jolly Oyster is a classic for oysters. Do not miss this shack on the San Buenaventura beach if you are a fan of bivalves.
- Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut (a classic!)
- The Best Breakfast (this place, oh so yum)
- Moqueca Brazilian Cuisine (Tons of dishes from the Bahia state)
- Ragin Crawfish
- Yolanda’s Mexican Cafe
- The Annex Food Hall – Located at The Collection shopping center, it brings together several creative food ventures
- Mouthful Eatery (Peruvian-inspired sandwiches)
- Thousand Oaks Fish & Chips
- Al Mulino
Heritage Valley (Santa Paula, Fillmore)
- Tlaquepaque Restaurant
- Santa Paula Steak & Hoagie
- Rabalais’ Bistro
- El Pescador
- Ojai Pizza Company
- The Ojai Beverage Company
- Manhattan of Camarillo
- Jessica’s Cafe
- Waypoint Cafe
Note: There are many farm stands in the Oxnard and Heritage Valley areas. When I visit the area, I pack a small cooler to keep the produce I buy at a proper temperature. If you are a fan of fruits and vegetables, I advise packing a cooler too.
As you know, I need to have to dedicate a special section to Mexican Food when I prepare this type of article.
If you are looking for scrumptious Mexican Food, I recommend heading to Oxnard. There are so many dishes to try there. Here are some recommendations:
- Sabor Taqueria y Mariscos
- Money Pancho
- Mi Pueblo Mexican Grill
- Tacos La Bonita
- Taqueria Cuernavaca
- Carnitas El Rey
Sometimes California is seen as a synonym of wine. Well, fame is well deserved since California is a top producer of wine at the global level.
Ventura County is not the exception when it comes to this beverage. Now, let me warn you. The wine production here is not on par with the prime viticultural areas in the state. However, that doesn’t mean you are going to get a bad product.
In my opinion, the best wine tasting rooms are located in Oxnard. Visit the Ojai tasting rooms if you are looking for the vineyard and views experience. Ventura is a great option for those who want to combine beach and tasting and Camarillo works for those who want to taste between shopping rounds.
- Old Creek Ranch & Winery
- Boccali Vineyards & Winery
- Topa Mountain Winery
- The Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room
- Casa Barranca Organic Brewery
- Majestic Oak Vineyard
- Labyrinth Winery
- Grapes and Hops
Ventura (Industrial Park)
- Four Brix Winery
- Plan B Wine Cellars
- Squashed Grapes
- Panaro Brothers Winery
- The Cave
- Magnavino Cellars
- Herzog Wine Cellars
- Strey Cellars
- Rancho Ventavo Cellars
- Cantara Cellars
- Pantess Cellars
- Millesime Cellars
- Camarillo Custom Crush Winery
- Lucas Seller Wines
- Sunland Vintage Winery
- Giessinger Cellars
- Alma Sol Winery
- DeLiese Cellars
Beer, Spirits, and Cider
As you may know, the craft beer craze started in California several years ago and it is not showing any slow down signs. San Diego leads the movement but other counties are playing catch up.
There are a lot of beer tasting options in Ventura County. Trying all these breweries will have you coming to the county multiple times.
- Topa Topa Brewing Company
- Ventura Coast Brewing Company
- MadeWest Brewing Company
- Leashless Brewing
- Transmission Brewing
- Anacapa Brewing
- Concrete Jungle Brewing Project
- Seaward Brewing
- Rincon Brewery
- Pier City Cider
- Ventura Spirits Company
- Poseidon Brewing Company
- Flat Fish Brewing Company
- Red Tandem Brewery
- Casa Agria Specialty Ales
- Institution Ale Company
- Sespe Creek Distillery
- Tarantula Hill Brewing Company
- Pedal & Pints Brewing Company
- Mad Era Brewing Company
- Enegren Brewing Company
- Topa Topa Brewing Company
Festivals and Markets
I know this article is about things to do in Ventura County but I cannot let you go without recommending some fun festivals.
- Tamale Festival
- California Strawberry Festival
- Salsa Festival
- Ventura Music Festival
- Ventura County Fair
- Citrus Classic Balloon Festival
- Ventura County Greek Festival
- Camarillo Fiesta & Street Fair
- Ventura Harvest Festival
- Ojai Wine Festival
- Conejo Food & Wine Festival
- A Taste of Camarillo Wine & Food Festival
- Winter Street Fair
We all need a comfy place to rest our heads after a busy day of sightseeing, eating, and drinking. You have plenty of options but give your consideration to one of the top-rated hotels mentioned below:
- Ojai Valley Inn
- Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach
- Ventura Beach Marriott
- Cliff House Inn
- The Pierpont Inn
- Amanzi Hotel
- Hampton Inn Channel Islands
Camping is an adventure into itself. The good news is that Ventura County offers a nice mix of public (managed by the state or county) and private campgrounds. You can enjoy the area offering on a budget.
Reserve California allows you to reserve campsites on the state beaches listed below. On the Reserve California webpage, enter “Ventura” on the search box. The beaches are located 4 to 6 miles from Downtown Ventura.
- Emma Wood State Beach
- McGrath State Beach
The County of Ventura Parks Department operates 12 camping parks all over the county. This is good news for campers since you can pick and choose. The best thing about these parks is that there seems to be good availability. You can find a place to stay even if you are looking at the last minute. Parks include the following (partial list):
- Faria, Hobson, and Rincon are located next to the beach. These are some of the coolest places to stay since you will feel like you are part of a big community/family. There is plenty to do in the area including hiking, surfing, and biking. These are located very close to Santa Barbara. Therefore, they are a good option if you want to explore the area on a budget.
- Camp Comfort and Dennison Parks are located close to Ojai, a mountain town known for its sunsets, festivals and wine tasting rooms.
People love to stay next to Lake Casitas. With 400 camping sites, a water park, hiking trails, picnic sites, and a marina, this is hard to beat. The lake is located 30 miles from Downtown Ventura.
Lake Piru is another option for those who like to camp close to bodies of water located within the mountains. The campsite is almost on the border with Los Angeles County and close to I-5.
The Ventura Ranch KOA is located at the feet of the Topa Topa Mountains. The camp has swimming pools, Wi-Fi, climbing wall, nature trails, clubhouse and special activities (gem mining, movies).
As shown, there are many reasons to choose Ventura County as a base to explore Southern California. Here are some of the main cities and attractions you can easily visit the county.
- Santa Barbara (30 miles)
- Santa Ynez Valley (60 miles)
- Santa Maria (90 miles)
- Los Angeles (70 miles)
- Santa Monica (65 miles)
- Pasadena (72 miles)
- Hollywood (62 miles)
- Beverly Hills (65 miles)
- Disneyland (95 miles)
- Knotts Berry Farm (90 miles)
- Newport Beach (100 miles
For more information about things to do in Ventura County, I recommend checking the following resources. They may help you to get discounts or deals for events and restaurants.
- Visit Ventura
- Ventura County Coast
- Ventura Harbor Village
- National Park Service (Channel Islands)
Well, that’s it for now. Hope you find this guide of things to do in Ventura County useful to keep you inspired, and motivated. After that, it is a matter of planning, packing, and taking the road.
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