When temperatures heat up in Southern California, Ventura County, with some of the lowest summer daytime temperatures in the continental U.S., beckons as a cool change. The beach towns of Ventura and Oxnard are the hub of activity in this lush and laid back land of beaches, dining and historic downtowns. Here are seven destinations not to miss on your trip up the coast.
- Ventura County Fair
Running from Aug. 2 to 13, the Ventura County Fair is the region’s premier annual event, drawing more than 300,000 visitors each summer. This year’s event includes concerts, rodeos, motorsports, comedy from Gabriel Iglesias, carnival rides, live animals and contests. The fair will be open each day at the Ventura County Fairgrounds (exit on Seaward Avenue or California Street and take a left) between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. , with $12 adult admission and $10 parking, though free remote parking, accessible by shuttles, is also available.
- Channel Islands Harbor
With a population of more than 200,000, Oxnard is the largest city in Ventura County. The community’s Channel Islands Harbor is the heart of the coastal scene, with a farmer’s market every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., kayaking, the Channel Islands Maritime Museum, bicycle rentals, dining and souvenir shopping. The harbor is accessible from the 101 Freeway by exiting on Victoria Avenue.
- Channel Islands National Park
Encompassing five islands off the California coast, Channel Islands National Park preserves nearly 250,000 acres of unique coastal habitats. Ventura County is the best place to begin your exploration of the islands, with the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Islands National Park in Ventura’s Harbor Village. Flights and boats ferry visitors from Ventura County cities to the tranquil and rustic islands in as little as one hour or less, providing an introduction to what coastal California must have been like before human development. For more information, visit the national park’s website.
- Mission San Buenaventura
The ninth of the 21 Spanish missions in the Golden State was founded in Ventura in 1782 (despite the prevalence of the popular name, the city is still officially known as San Buenaventura, after the original Spanish place name). Wracked by a severe quake and tsunami in 1812 and the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake (a repeat of which would be considered the much-feared “Big One” on the San Andreas Fault), the mission has been restored several times.
Today’s visitor can stop by Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a look at the Ventura County of yesteryear. Adult admission is $4, though families can save with a $10 combined admission. The mission is located at 211 East Main Street in Downtown Ventura, accessible from the 101 Freeway by taking the California Street exit.
About 20 miles north of Ventura along Highway 33, Ojai offers an arts and culture scene; wine tasting; farm tours and dude ranches; a diverse selection of dining options; and Lake Casitas – more than 1,000 acres of water recreation, including swimming, boating and fishing.
- Ronald Reagan Library & Museum
Regardless of your political beliefs, you are sure to be impressed by the Ronald Reagan Library & Museum, which offers visitors the chance to board an actual former presidential airplane and helicopter, witness magnificent vistas of Los Angeles County to the east and the Central Coast to the north and west from the museum’s hilltop location, and immerse yourself in U.S. and world history of the late 20th century.
Through Jan. 7, 2018, the museum will be hosting a 10,000 square-foot exhibition on the 1912 Titanic disaster, including artifacts and photos from that fateful voyage.
With so much to see, plan to devote at least several hours to a visit here. Two dining options – the Reagan Country Café and the Ronald Reagan Pub – make it easy to spend the day. To reach the library, exit Highway 23 or Highway 118 on Madera Road and follow the signs. During the duration of the Titanic exhibit, general admission is $29 for adults.
- Ventura Pier and Promenade
Ventura vies with Oceanside in San Diego County to claim the distinction of the longest wooden pier on the West Coast. Originally built in 1872, it is also one of the state’s oldest developed beachfronts. Visitors can enjoy the ocean and mountain views, seafood dining, souvenir shops and miles of sandy beaches. A five mile round-trip walk along the waterfront from Promenade Park to Marina Park is a great way to get some exercise, people watch, and enjoy the scenery and cool ocean breeze. Limited free parking is available at Marina Park and Pierpont Boulevard.