Discover Ventura

Discover Ventura

Here are family-friendly things to do in the beach town of Ventura, just a few hours up the coast from San Diego. Find more at http://visitventuraca.com.

WHAT TO DO

There is always something fun going on at Ventura Harbor Village (VHV). Nestled between the harbor and an awesome stretch of somewhat secluded beach, VHV has a collection of boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants and an arcade and indoor carousel for kids. Parking is complimentary. Check www.VenturaHarborVillage.com for the latest information and current events at the Village.

During our visit, my teen daughters and I rented kayaks from Ventura Boat Rentals (located right at the harbor, down the ramp from Coastal Cone). Exploring sea caves by kayak is not really our thing, so cruising through the waters of the peaceful marina was right up our alley. Well, except for when a huge yacht snuck up behind us and got our hearts racing briefly! We simply paddled to the side and let the yacht go by. A sea lion even swam alongside us for a while (just 10 feet away)—that was a real treat! Visit www.VenturaBoatRentals.com for rates on single or double kayaks, stand-up paddleboards or pedal boats. 

Channel Islands Visitor CenterBe sure to take the kids to the Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center at 1901 Spinnaker Dr. (at the end of the VHV parking lot) to learn about local marine life and experience their ocean exhibit (new this year). We were very impressed by the clever transformation of a stairwell leading to the lookout tower, featuring beautifully painted murals and interactive displays. Kids can earn a free badge and patch (while supplies last) through the Junior Ranger Discovery Program when activities are completed in a booklet provided by a volunteer or park ranger on site. Exhibits and Junior Ranger materials are in English and Spanish. www.nps.gov/chis/

Having lunch at the Harbor? Be sure to stop at Boatyard Café for a sandwich, salad or delicious bowl of clam chowder. Kids menu available. www.theboatyardcafe.com

Coastal ConeTrue confession: We went to Coastal Cone twice in less than 24 hours. Why, you ask? Dole Pineapple Whip, 40 flavors of Thrifty ice cream, homemade waffle cones, brownie sundaes and chocolate-covered bananas. Enough said. www.coastalcone.com

Rent beach cruisers or a surrey from Wheel Fun Rentals at the Marriott or Crowne Plaza and take a ride on the Ventura Beach Promenade (bike/walking path). Bike north a couple miles to Ventura River Estuary where you can spy birds and other wildlife.

Marina Park at 2950 Pierpont Blvd. is an absolute gem for families. It boasts a large grassy area, sand, two playgrounds (one with a pirate ship and zipline!), views of the bay and marina, a paved walkway, even beach access.

Outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers will want to spend a day exploring the Channel Islands. Whether you prefer to hike, camp, explore tidepools, take a kayak tour, embark on a wildlife cruise or go whale watching, there’s something for everyone. Find information at www.islandpackers.com and read more about visiting the Channel Islands at www.SanDiegoFamily.com/travel/family-travel/1521.

WHAT TO DO—Downtown Ventura

Tip! The free Downtown Harbor Trolley runs Wed.–Sun. (varies on holiday weeks) between downtown and Ventura Harbor. It will pick up at several area hotels if requested in advance by the concierge. www.downtownventura.org/downtown-harbor-trolley

Shopping downtown was a trip highlight for my 13-year-old, Naomi. She loved the eclectic mix of unique boutique shops and thrift stores and could have spent several hours walking up and down East Main Street.

At first, my teens were less than enthusiastic about going to a museum. But I was intrigued by “The Changing Face of Abraham Lincoln,” a collection of George Stuart Historical Figures that was on display at Museum of Ventura County on E. Main St. The one-room exhibit illustrated pivotal moments of Lincoln’s life and presidency. Even Naomi was fascinated by the compelling sculptures and historic photographs. In fact, she was the last one to leave the exhibit. Check the website for current exhibit information and special kid-friendly events. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. www.venturamuseum.org

Discovery VenturaWe learned a new term on our trip: a “boutique bowling alley” has fewer than 16 lanes and the focus is on serving great upscale food. That’s what you’ll find at Discovery Ventura at 1888 E. Thompson Blvd. The retro bowling lanes are super cool (pins are attached to strings!) and we had an awesome dinner, but we decided Discovery Ventura is best for date night, or ages 10 & up. They frequently host concerts and social events for adults, so be sure to check the schedule in advance. www.discoveryventura.com

GOOD EATS AND TREATS—Downtown Ventura

Locals recommend breakfast on the patio of Cafe Nouveau at 1497 E. Thompson Blvd. Try the Maple Bacon Beignets or Bananas Foster French Toast.

Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack at 533 E. Main St. is a great little place to get friendly service and a tasty, quick lunch. Favorites are the crispy tacos and salsa bar. www.snapperjackstacoshack.com

Pick up a sweet or savory baked good from Sunflowers on the Square Bakery at 451 E. Main St., tucked away in the quaint El Jardin Courtyard. We enjoyed their freshly made chocolate chip, limoncello and snickerdoodle cookies during BOTH of our stops there.

Chocolates from Trufflhound's Fine ChocolatesLove chocolate? Get a handcrafted gourmet truffle or homemade toffee at Trufflehound’s Fine Chocolates at 607 E. Main St. www.trufflehoundsfinechocolates.com

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop sells old school, hard-to-find candies that will take you on a nostalgic trip down memory lane. 105 S. Oak St., Ste. 100

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed at the Ventura Beach Marriott at 2055 E. Harbor Blvd. It has an ideal location one block from San Buenaventura State Beach and the beach bike/walking path; about a mile from Ventura Harbor Village and just two miles from downtown. Family features include a pool, koi pond, bike rentals on site and access to the free trolley (see below). We felt very welcome by the Marriott super friendly staff, who seemed genuinely happy to help. Be sure to ask about breakfast deals for families when you make hotel reservations. www.Marriott.com

The recently renovated Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach is located on the promenade, just steps from the beach, a beach playground and Ventura Pier where you can eat at Beach House Fish or Beach House Tacos. www.crowneplaza.com

Why not take a couple days this summer to do some exploring with your family? If you make a new discovery in Ventura (or elsewhere), tell me about it: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Find more information about visiting Ventura at visitventuraca.com.

----------

Lisa Gipson is the managing editor at San Diego Family Magazine. She lives in North County with her husband and two of their three daughters.

Published: June 2015

Discover California National Parks

Discover California National Parks

These national parks in Southern and Central California are within a day’s drive of San Diego.Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with a visit to one (or more) of these sc . . .

Read more

Family Camping Fun: Activities, Recipes and Ideas

Family Camping Fun: Activities, Recipes and Ideas

  Grab your camping gear and get ready for a great outdoor adventure (even if it's only in the backyard). Here are activities, crafts, recipes and tips that make fabulous family camping me . . .

Read more

Take the Family Glamping in Buellton, California

Take the Family Glamping in Buellton, California

So, what is glamping? Glamping is like camping—but not. Combining the words glamorous and camping, glamping includes amenities and comforts of home (beds, electricity, indoor plumbing). None of th . . .

Read more

Family Road Trip: 6 Fun Stops Along California's Central Coast

Family Road Trip: 6 Fun Stops Along California's Central Coast

The secret is out: San Diego is amazing. In fact, it’s a top U.S. vacation destination. So while the rest of the country is descending upon San Diego this summer, consider venturing away from the . . .

Read more

Plan a Family Adventure to Catalina Island

Plan a Family Adventure to Catalina Island

What do wild bison, an awesome zipline, a casino and walking on the ocean floor have in common? Catalina Island, of course.Looking for a fun family day or weekend trip? I’ll let you in on a little . . .

Read more

Visit Zion National Park in Utah

Visit Zion National Park in Utah

Photo by Lisa Pawlak Breathtaking, colorful Zion National Park embraces towering cliffs, glimmering waterfalls, emerald-green pools, blue skies, red sandstone river canyons and massive multihued rock . . .

Read more

SoCal’s Best Beach Camping

SoCal’s Best Beach Camping

Southern California beaches are a popular destination year round, so why not spend a few days at a beachfront or bayfront campground? “Southern California has some of the best ocean-front campgro . . .

Read more

Fun Things to Do with Kids in the Bay Area

Fun Things to Do with Kids in the Bay Area

Planning a road trip to the San Francisco Bay Area? Here are five kid-friendly stops from Gilroy (south of San Francisco) to Fairfield (north of San Francisco). Each super fun spot will entertain, e . . .

Read more

Get to Know Lake Gregory in Crestline, CA

Get to Know Lake Gregory in Crestline, CA

I had never even heard of Lake Gregory in California’s San Bernardino Mountains until a couple months ago. But now the secret is out! Bustling with fun lake activities for families, it’s a perfe . . .

Read more

Winter Family Fun in Big Bear

Winter Family Fun in Big Bear

Ready to take your family on a winter getaway close to San Diego? Head to the mountains for a fun-filled winter vacation at Big Bear. Winter activities include skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and . . .

Read more

Six Snow Play Destinations

Six Snow Play Destinations

photo credit- Big Bear Mountain Resort Ready to play in the snow? The whole family can enjoy a snowy, active vacation with adventures like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snow tubing, ice skating, sn . . .

Read more

Ski Mammoth Mountain

Ski Mammoth Mountain

Take the kids to “shred some pow” at Mammoth Mountain, one of California’s premier winter sports recreational resorts. Families wanting a fun, wintery escape will fulfill mammoth-sized dreams . . .

Read more

Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

Breathtaking Bryce Canyon National Park offers one of the planet’s most surreal landscapes. Within the park’s 56 square miles, the geological forces of weather and erosion have carved intense sa . . .

Read more

Family Travel to Arches National Park

Family Travel to Arches National Park

Arches National Park, located in southeast Utah, offers an abundance of geological wonders waiting to be discovered by visiting families. The park’s scenic, red rock landscape is home to more than . . .

Read more

Get started with RV Camping

Get started with RV Camping

Take Your Family on the Road, RV Style! During a recent email session with an old friend about our summer plans, I mentioned that our family planned on taking our annual four-week road trip in our . . .

Read more

Insider's Tips when Visiting Catalina

Insider's Tips when Visiting Catalina

Here are helpful insider’s tips you won’t find anywhere else. Things I didn’t know until I got to Catalina. They could make your visit to the island a little sweeter.If you haven’t read the . . .

Read more

Make Traveling with Kids a Lifelong Adventure

Make Traveling with Kids a Lifelong Adventure

Travel is loaded with benefits for families. It awakens curiosity and helps kids and parents feel more at home in the world while creating strong bonds and lasting memories. As kids grow, the fun of . . .

Read more

Kid-Friendly SoCal Getaways

Kid-Friendly SoCal Getaways

Southern California resorts and hotels that families love! Looking for a local family getaway where there’s relaxation for adults and fun for the kids? These resorts offer plenty of amenities . . .

Read more

11 Kid-Friendly Adventures on Oahu

11 Kid-Friendly Adventures on Oahu

Taking a family vacation to the island of Oahu? Sure, you’ll lounge on the beach, build sandcastles and play in the water; but why not dig a little deeper into the culture, traditions and excitement . . .

Read more

4 Tips for a Successful First RV Camping Trip

4 Tips for a Successful First RV Camping Trip

Is your family new to RV camping? Here are a few tips provided by KOA that will help you get started.1. Make your first trip close to home so you can work out any kinks in your RV before getting too . . .

Read more

Best Family Camping in San Diego

Best Family Camping in San Diego

Ready to embark on a San Diego family camping adventure? Help your kids experience the great outdoors at one of the many family campgrounds in San Diego County! First-time campers? Consider pra . . .

Read more

Family Fun in Oxnard, CA

Family Fun in Oxnard, CA

Visit Oxnard: Family-Friendly Things to Do, See and Eat Looking for a relaxing beachside community that is void of crowds? Go a few hours up the coast from San Diego to Oxnard—it’s so awesome! . . .

Read more

(Mostly) Unplugged Road Trips

(Mostly) Unplugged Road Trips

8 Survival Tips for Family Road Trips Taking a family road trip this year? You are not alone—traveling to a vacation destination via car is still popular with families. While sitting in a car tog . . .

Read more

The Splendor of Sedona

The Splendor of Sedona

Cathedral rock (photo credit: Geno Pawlak) If you’re looking for an active family getaway that will recharge and renew your spirits, look no further than Sedona, Arizona. This spectacular destina . . .

Read more

Weekend Getaway to Long Beach

Weekend Getaway to Long Beach

Want to get away for a fun weekend? Just a couple hours north of San Diego is the pet-friendly coastal city of Long Beach, which offers water activities, popular attractions and a lively night scene . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!