Travel guide of Ventura, California, United States

Ventura, officially San Buenaventura, is a city on the Central Coast of California and the county seat of Ventura County. Just an hour’s drive from Los Angeles, located along the scenic southernmost part of half-hidden California’s Central Coast. Year-round daytime temperatures average 70F. Day or night, Ventura has a casual soul, with a pulse that quickens and slows with its unique offerings: art, music, rich food trends, and rare combination of ecological wonder, colorful diversity, and storied history.

Ventura is a vibrant town with artistic culture, enduring history and privileged locale is crazy-inviting, very much alive, and refreshingly human. From rolling hills to sweeping ocean views, a place that embodies a casual soul and unexpected allure. Ventura features a warm Mediterranean climate and is a popular recreational paradise and tourist destination. Ventura has even been called Hawaii on the mainland.

The City of Ventura is located 63 miles northwest of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Santa Barbara. Nestled between the Los Padres National Forest and the Pacific Ocean residents and visitors enjoy miles of sun drenched golden beaches, diverse parks and a spectacular small boat harbor. It has retained its coastal character with a backdrop of foothills and scenic vistas of the Pacific Ocean. Its warm Mediterranean climate and wonderful quality of life are a few of the reasons many call Ventura home.

The town incorporated in 1866. The development of nearby oil fields in the 1920s and the age of automobile travel created a major real estate boom during which many designated landmark buildings were constructed. During the post–World War II economic expansion, the community grew easterly, building detached single-family homes over the rich agricultural land created by the Santa Clara River at the edge of the Oxnard Plain.

Ventura offers residents and visitors surfing, sailing, golfing, skateboarding, biking, hiking, scenic, and historical tours and more. Ventura is a beautifully planned community. The beaches are among the most spectacular in the world. Arthur Frommer, famed tourism guru, has rated Ventura beaches superior to many better known places in Northern California and Los Angeles.

Ventura offers year-round recreational and cultural opportunities. Beaches, guided tours, golfing, tennis, hiking, parasailing, scuba diving, jet skiing – the list of activities is unending. Bicycle enthusiasts are able to travel from Ventura to Ojai along the Ventura River Trail. This 914 mile trail provides walkers, runners, and cyclists with an easy connection to the Coast Bikeway.

Ventura has 31 parks including the recently completed Ventura Community Park. This park provides a wide array of recreational amenities for Ventura residents and visitors. The park, designed to accommodate numerous sports, recreation and leisure activities, serves a wide variety of different interests and activity levels. This includes a recreational pool, a competition pool, two waterslides, a bathhouse, multipurpose fields, and bike and pedestrian path.

The Ventura Chamber of Commerce supports cultural growth in the City of Ventura. Year-round recreation of live theatre, farmers’ markets, art walks, fairground events, music festivals, and street fairs bring locals and tourists alike into Ventura’s artistic realm. Ventura artfully melds thriving family owned businesses with high-tech enterprises in beautifully planned communities, making the region one of the fastest growing in Southern California.

In 1782, the eponymous Mission San Buenaventura was founded nearby, where it benefitted from the water of the Ventura River. Settlers came in after the Civil War, vast holdings were later acquired by Easterners. Ventura had a flourishing Chinese settlement in the early 1880s. The largest concentration of activity, known as China Alley, was just across Main Street from the Mission San Buenaventura.

Ventura Pier was built in 1872 at a cost of $45,000 and was the longest wooden Pier in California. It was later rebuilt to a length of 1,700 feet (520 m) by 1917. Much of the pier destroyed by a storm in 1995, but it was subsequently rebuilt.

Thomas R. Bard, who is often regarded as the Father of Ventura and his descendants have been prominently identified with the growth of Ventura County. The Union Oil Company was organized with Bard as President in 1890, and has offices in Santa Paula. The main Ventura oil field was drilled in 1914 and at its peak produced 90,000 barrels a day.

The large Ventura Oil Field was first drilled in 1919 and at its peak produced 90,000 barrels per day (14,000 m3/d). The development of the oil fields in the 1920s, along with the building of better roads to Los Angeles and the affordability of automobiles, enabled a major real estate boom. Contemporary downtown Ventura is defined by extant buildings from this period. Landmarks built during the oil boom include Ventura Theatre (1928), the First Baptist Church of Ventura (1926), the Ventura Hotel (1926), and the Mission Theatre (1928).

For most of its history, Ventura has escaped the thrust of war, and has been able to enjoy its own more leisurely, less crowded way of life. At the same time, Ventura became prosperous. The city is located between two richly endowed valleys, the Ventura River and the Santa Clara River, and so rich was the soil that citrus grew better here than anywhere else in the state. The growers along these rivers got together and formed Sunkist, the world’s largest organization of citrus production.

Ventura is a popular tourist destination in Southern California, owing to its historic landmarks, beaches, and the local leisure economy. Businesses related to tourism and hospitality account for a significant portion of Ventura’s economic activity.

The outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia is based in Ventura. Diaper bag manufacturer Petunia Pickle Bottom was founded in Ventura. Research and resource company The Barna Group is located near downtown Ventura.

In 2009 the City of Ventura created Ventura Ventures Technology Center, a business incubator with a high-tech focus. Ventura Ventures Technology Center was created as an economic engine to develop jobs and companies locally, as well as attract entrepreneurs to the area. The Trade Desk was started in the incubator.

Arts and culture
The Ventura County Fairgrounds is the home of the annual Ventura County Fair, and over the years has hosted such acts as Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Smokey Robinson, All American Rejects, Smash Mouth, and Sugar Ray, as well as the Vans Warped Tour. The train station for Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route is adjacent to the fairgrounds.

The Majestic Ventura Theater is an early 20th-century landmark in the downtown. It has been a venue for concerts such as The Doors, Pearl Jam, Van Halen, X, Ray Charles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Social Distortion, Bad Religion, Fugazi, Incubus, Tom Petty, They Might Be Giants, and Johnny Cash, as well as homegrown artists like KYLE, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Army of Freshmen.

Main Attractions
Ventura’s historic downtown is the city’s designated Cultural District. A compact main street lined with locally owned restaurants and shops, a rustic wooden pier jutting into the pacific. Downtown has grown into a delightful mix of coffeehouses, outdoor cafes, restaurants, performing arts groups, retail shops, spas, salons, health clubs, antique stores, art galleries, museums and historic buildings, including City Hall and the San Buenaventura Mission.

The City of Ventura hosts an annual artwalk in downtown. Art galleries are open for browsing and buying with many local artists in attendance. Each August, Seaside Park hosts the annual Ventura County Fair, offering a blend of agricultural exhibits, live music, nightly fireworks, carnival booths, and rides.

Downtown Ventura is home to the Mission San Buenaventura, museums, galleries, dining, and shopping. Exploring Ventura’s historic downtown. From having historic Victorian homes to a mission, antique shops, thrift stores, cute boutiques, restaurants.

Located in downtown is the historic Ortega Adobe, once home to the Ortega family known for chili products. Downtown Ventura is home to Ventura’s ornate city hall with its statue of Junipero Serra. Downtown includes restaurants, wine bars, breweries, and the Rubicon Theatre Company.

Main Street
Downtown Ventura is full of incredible boutiques, thrift stores, antique shops, restaurants, bars, and historical sites. There also the array of vintage and antique stores mixed in with trendy boutiques and home stores.

Visitors Center
The 4,300-square-foot (400 m2) Ventura Visitors Center, at 101 South California Street, has exhibits on the Heritage Valley, Channel Islands National Park, the local arts scene, and maps and brochures about the area.

San Buenaventura Mission
San Buenaventura Mission in Downtown Ventura CaliforniaOne of the best things to do in Ventura and historical points of interest is the San Buenaventura Mission. This Spanish mission dates back to 1782 when it was founded by Saint Junipero Serra. This is the ninth Spanish mission in the state of California and the last by Junipero Serra.

Known as the ‘Mission by the Sea,’ you can visit what is left of the entire mission complex on your visit to Ventura. Enter through the gift shop and begin your self guided tour of the mission starting in the garden & grotto. Make your way through the Mission Church, Padre’s Burial, and a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta.

Olivas Adobe
The Olivas Adobe, one of the early “California Rancho”-styled homes, is operated today as a museum and performing arts venue. Located adjacent to the Olivas Park Golf Course, the home is one of the most visited historic sites on the central Pacific Coast. Living history reenactments, demonstrations of Rancho life and wonderful ghost stories are presented. A summer music series of performances held in the courtyard features an eclectic assortment of artists from blues to jazz to country.

Plaza Park
In Plaza Park (Chestnut and Santa Clara streets, downtown) stands a large Moreton Bay fig tree. Across the street, the main post office has murals on interior walls commissioned by the Section of Painting and Sculpture of the U.S. Treasury Department as New Deal art.

City Hall
On the hill at the top of California Street with the palm-lined streets on either side. This masterpiece of a building dates back to 1912 and is a California Historical Landmark. The terra cotta exterior and design of this building was fun to admire.

Grant Park
Grant Park directly behind the historic City Hall. The park has nice walking paths and is a great place for an impromptu picnic. There’s even the giant Serra Cross in the park that Father Junipero Serra put up in 1782 to celebrate the new San Buenaventura Mission.

Two Trees
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Ventura was “Two Trees” – two prominent lone trees on a hilltop, visible from most of Ventura. Access to the hill is private property. Signs at the bottom of the trails and at the trees themselves warn against trespassing.

Botanical Gardens
The Ventura Botanical Gardens is a 109-acre, world-class site located in the foothills behind City Hall. The Gardens is currently home to 10,000 “low-water” plants and trees representing the world’s five Mediterranean climate zones: Southern Australia, South Africa, Central Chile, the Mediterranean Basin, and California.

The Westside
Ventura’s oldest neighborhood, the Westside, is home to family-owned businesses that have served the community for years. At the beginning of the 20th century (1903) along Ventura Avenue, the first commercial oil wells were drilled in the Ventura Avenue Fields. In 1949, the Ventura Avenue Fields produced 21.1 million barrels of crude oil, the fifth most productive fields in America. Currently, the fields are producing approximately five million barrels per year.

A new vision currently evolving for this neighborhood includes a revitalization plan that proposes new commercial and retail development, mixed-use housing projects, a live-work artist district, and new areas for industrial-use development. The Ventura Unified School District offices recently relocated to the Westside. The Westside vision identifies open space opportunities, public facility recommendations, and improved transportation corridors, including, Highway 33, which connects the ocean in Ventura to the mountains in Ojai.

Midtown is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Ventura, home to spectacular ocean views, picturesque craftsman style homes, neighborhood restaurants, and major professional buildings.

Pacific View Mall, Community Memorial Hospital, financial institutions, jewelers, furniture stores, travel agencies, distinct restaurants, and shops are all found in Midtown. Ventura’s two major hospitals and several urgent care centers, family practices, specialty clinics, and assisted living communities all thrive in this neighborhood.

Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) is a non-profit, 240-bed community-owned regional hospital and health center fully licensed by the California Department of Health Services and accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. CMH operates a 24-hour emergency room, a comprehensive cardiac care unit, and a same-day surgery center.

Ventura County Medical Center is a full-service, acute-care public hospital. Associated with the renowned UCLA School of Medicine, the VCMC provides general medical and surgical services, orthopedic care, and a network of specialty and community outpatient clinics. The hospital has a 24-hour heliport and serves as Ventura’s paramedic base station. Ventura also offers a variety of free and low-cost clinics with family planning, nutrition, immunization, and alcohol and drug prevention programs. There are also several convalescent hospitals.

Seaward Village-Pierpont Community-Ventura Keys; together, these neighborhoods make up a lovely seaside area in the middle of the City of Ventura. They offer a unique selection of restaurants, historic buildings, and housing options, including beachfront homes and homes with private boat slip access.

East End
The East End is an urban residential community with small shopsVentura Aquatic Center-CompetitionPool02 and larger stores, the Auto Center mall, and some of the city’s major office buildings.

Ventura College, one of three community colleges in Ventura County, is located on Telegraph Road, at the western border of the East End. The Ventura County Government Center, the seat of government for Ventura County as well as the county courthouse, is in the East End, at the center of Victoria Avenue and Telephone Road. Assisted living communities, banks, specialty shops, grocery stores, coffee shops, and the City’s 100-acre community park are all found on the East End.

Ventura Harbor
Ventura Harbor is home to a spectacular harbor, commercial fishing fleets, and wonderful shops. The harbor is also considered one of the best kayaking spots in Southern California. Ventura Harbor has fishing boats, seafood restaurants and a retail center, the Ventura Harbor Village. The Channel Islands National Park Headquarters is also located at the harbor, and boats to the Channel Islands depart from there daily.

Ventura Harbor offers an array of water activities including harbor cruises, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and whale watching. Courtesy of Island Packers’ fleet of boats, the harbor is also the gateway to Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary. Ventura Harbor Village rings the marina with opportunities to shop local, eat freshly-caught seafood, and view original artwork at galleries and studios.

The closest islands are just an hour’s boat ride off the coast, and they are an adventurer’s dream; a playscape of spectacular hiking, kayaking, diving, camping, and just plain lolling in emptiness. Often called “North America’s Galapagos,” the Channel Islands are home to 150 endemic species, including the housecat-size island fox — an unforgettable life sighting.

Pierpont Bay
Pierpont Bay (Pierpont) is a residential neighborhood in the one-mile stretch between Ventura Harbor and San Buenaventura State Beach. Reclaimed marshland was subdivided in 1925 and houses were built in fits of development interrupted by years of economic depression, war, and coastal floods (in 1937 and 1962). Long a hodge-podge of rental dwellings, weekend cottages and vacant lots, it was transformed by successive California real estate booms into a fashionable but eclectic mix of newer large homes and older modest beach cottages, now mostly owner-occupied. Pierpont Bay has widely varying architectural styles, a small retail district Seaward Avenue, newer residents’ demands for increased municipal maintenance, and continuing disputes about the proper regulation of the neighborhood’s public beaches.

Ventura Pier
Ventura Pier is considered as another one of California’s Historic Landmarks. The long wooden pier dates back to 1872 and was used as a commercial fishing wharf known as Ventura Wharf. This is once the longest pier in California at 1,958 feet until 1995, still impressive and offering rewarding views of the ocean and the Channel Islands off in the distance.

Ventura is a surf and beach town which have miles of sea-whisper beaches. Ventura beaches are the perfect playground; surfing, boogie boarding, kite-surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, volleyball, and on and on. Or just plain loll in the sand. Visitors cansoak up the sun, swim in the surf, hunt for seashells, or play beach volleyball in Ventura beaches.

Emma Wood State Beach is on the northern end of Ventura. With 7,600 feet of ocean frontage, it is popular for walking, fishing, swimming, and surfing. There are also WWII artillery emplacement remains.

The campground at Emma Woods offers 80 campsites for self-contained RVs (no tents). No water, restrooms, electricity, fire rings, or dump stations are available.

Surfer’s Point Beach at Seaside Park is a great surfing locale. It’s also popular for windsurfing and kiteboarding. It’s fun to just sit and watch the water activity, but it’s also a good bird-watching location. Seaside Park has picnic tables, restrooms, and showers. The promenade, a paved pathway, connects Surfer’s Point to Ventura Pier.

The Promenade also runs south from the Pier to San Buenaventura State Beach. This white-sand beach stretches for two miles to Marina Park and its own beach, where visitors are pleased to find a pirate ship “sunk” in the sand. There are three separate parking areas for San Buenaventura Beach as well as a large, free parking lot at Marina Park.

Across the street and over the dunes from Harbor Village is Harbor Cove Beach. It is a small but very nice beach, perfect for families, flying kites, and watching the boats come and go out of the harbor.

The Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center
The harbor is the primary departure point and home for Channel Islands National Park. The headquarters of the Channel Islands Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitors Center, a one-stop resource for information about the five northern Channel Islands, is also located at the Harbor.

The visitors’ center features a museum, a living tide pool exhibit, a tower with telescopes, a bookstore, and a picnic area. Learning at the harbor will be significantly enhanced when the proposed educational aquarium is built. The visitors’ center displays of local marine life, a live tidal pool, and exhibits about the Channel Islands, gift shop, and bookstore. Visitors will enjoy the 25-minute movie A Treasure in the Sea, narrated by Kevin Costner. Be sure to go up to the viewing tower for one of the best views of the Channel Islands and the Ventura coastline.

Channel Islands National Park
The 249,353-acre Channel Islands National Park includes Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Santa Barbara Islands. Diving, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and camping are available on the islands. The park is home to more than 2,000 different kinds of plants and animals, many of them unique to the islands. Island Packers, a company based at Ventura Harbor, offer excursion trips to the islands and whale watching from December through March, when migrating Pacific gray whales pass through the Santa Barbara Channel.

The five islands of Channel Islands National Park offer precisely the wild silence and wide distances. Two of the islands, Anacapa and Santa Cruz, are only a 70-minute boat ride off Ventura’s shore. They’ve been called the Galapagos of North America, and with good reason; a wild and wondrous place where housecat-size foxes scamper through fields of Seuss-like flowers, and moon and sun shine down on the untamed and the empty.

Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Anacapa, San Miguel, and Santa Rosa islands offer magic and adventure on so many fronts. There’s remote camping, hiking, sea kayaking, snorkeling and world-class scuba diving, and bird-watching. At night, from certain island campsites on some of the islands, you can see the pinprick lights of civilization flickering like the campfires of some tremendous army. While you breathe in silence, the stars, and the sea.