WHEN I WAS GROWING UP in Southern California, Ventura was always the place to be. There were miles of sandy beaches, record shops, and a perpetually hopping In-N-Out Burger. As a teenager, punk and reggae shows at the
Later, as an adult living in Ventura, I discovered the subtleties and subcultures that define this diverse community; I explored every neighborhood and met lifelong friends. Now, living abroad in Europe, Ventura’s often on my mind: the always fresh ocean air, the laid-back-yet-passionate people, trail running with my dog at
California certainly has no shortage of beach towns. Yet Ventura is a place to visit and rediscover again and again. Soulful and distinct, here you can leave pretense at the door and discover the region at its best.
It hits the sweet spot on the South Coast.
In the past 20 years, Ventura has transformed itself — downtown has become a dynamic hub for the arts, food, music, and culture. With its slow growth policy, Ventura is developing existing neighborhoods rather than sprawling outward. The city also aims to keep hillsides wild and houseless through the
Compared to L.A., Ventura has less traffic, fewer tourists, a family-friendly vibe, and easily accessible outdoor activities. While you shop Downtown, deer graze on hills above and dolphins streak through waves down at the beach. Compared to the glitzy towns to the north, Ventura is more affordable and approachable. You might not see any supercars or celebrities, but you can score a beer on the pier for $2 and stay in a beachfront hotel for around $150.
Of course, it’s also easy to visit those other worlds. Hop on the
It’s a storied city made up of multiple characterful neighborhoods.
The Chumash were among the first people living here, on the coast and in the Los Padres Mountains. According to historians, food was so abundant that they led a life of leisure. The
In Midtown, you’ll find the
It’s Americana meets ocean vibes.
Nothing says classic Americana like a county fair, but a fairground steps from the Pacific is pure California. Every August, people from all over flock to the
It’s all about the food…and beer.
Craft food and beer are all the rage. Few places, however, have the natural resources to keep things local. Ventura County is overflowing with fresh produce, seafood, and quality artisanal producers.
Ventura’s craft beer scene is brewing big time. The local original,
It’s one big Pacific playground.
California really is all about beach culture; it’s not a complete cliché. Raw power, calming beauty, and an irresistible pull — the Pacific Ocean is Ventura’s heart and soul.
Being a surfer here is almost the norm rather than the exception. And with year-round waves for all levels, it’s easy to see why.
Drive past on historic Camino Real (101 Freeway / Highway 1), and you might see kite surfers catching serious air just north of Surfers’ Point. Hitting the waves? Expect favorable wind direction and long rides. SUPing or kayaking is big here, whether at surf spots (respect the surfers), or in the network of canals in Ventura’s waterfront communities.
It’s the gateway to “the Galapagos of North America.”
Remember Scott O’Dell’s novel Island of the Blue Dolphins from grade school? It’s based on the true story of a native Californian woman stranded on San Nicolas Island for 18 years in the mid-1800s. San Nicolas is one of eight islands that sit 15 miles off Ventura’s coast: the
Santa Cruz is the largest island and jam packed with activities: kayaking through sea caves (including Painted Cave, one of the world’s largest sea caves), hiking across the island’s hilly spine, diving into kelp forests, surfing, or camping with views all the way to the horizon. Keep your eyes open for breaching whales, sea lions, dolphins, and, though rare, great white sharks. I once spent the night atop Montañon Ridge and awoke to an unforgettable summer sunrise across the channel: the California mainland ahead, its mountains and valleys full of contrast and misty magnificence; behind me, the island’s arcing shoreline and the vastly inspiring Pacific. It was perfect.