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Free Admission Days at Museums in Ventura County and Adjacent Areas

The "Do Something" section of Conejo Valley Guide highlights over 250 things to do throughout Ventura County and surrounding areas, including over four dozen museums. Let's take a closer look at the museums on the list that offer free admission days. The information below of course is subject to change, so be sure to contact the museums first to confirm.

Historic Dudley House Museum in Ventura is open the 1st SUNDAY of the month most of the year and admission is free (donations encouraged).

Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Islands National Park is open year-round free of admission.

Admission is free year-round at the Reagan Ranch Center Exhibit Galleries in Santa Barbara on State Street in front of the Amtrak Station.

Ojai Valley Museum offers free admission the 1ST FRIDAY of each month.

Santa Barbara Historical Museum offers free admission year-round; donations are welcomed.

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum offers free admission the 3RD THURSDAY of each month.

Museum of Ventura County’s Agriculture Museum in Santa Paula offers free admission on the 1ST SUNDAY of the month.

The unique Woolworth Museum in Downtown Oxnard is free to enter year-round.

Channel Islands Maritime Museum offers free admission on the 3RD THURSDAY of each month.

Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar offers free admission year-round to its showcase of vintage cars.

1956 Rolls Royce Phantom Saloon at Nethercutt Automotive MuseumAdmission to the Conejo Valley Art Museum is free year-round.

U.S. Navy Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme offers year-r

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U.S. National Park Service Free Entrance Days

As of November 2014, there are 401 national parks covering over 84 million acres throughout the United States and its territories.  The majority of these parks do not charge entrance fees (though parking fees often apply). As for 133 national parks that do have entrance fees, there are a number of designated "fee free" days each year.

Here are the National Park Service Free Entrance Days in 2015:

  • January 19 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
  • February 14-16 (Presidents Day Weekend)
  • April 18-19 (National Park Week opening weekend)
  • August 25 (National Park Service Birthday)
  • September 26 (National Public Lands Day)
  • November 11 (Veterans Day)

The parks that normally charge a fee that are free on the above dates are listed at California parks in this category include:

Plenty of other amazing national treasures are on this list, like Grand Canyon National Park.

And of course there are two national parks in Ventura County that are always worth exploring:

For more information about the National Park Service, visit


"Changing Face of Abraham Lincoln" at Museum of Ventura County Mar 21 to Oct 11

“A Worse Place than Hell: The Changing Face of Abraham Lincoln” exhibit at the Museum of Ventura County, March 21 through October 11, 2015

150 years After his Death, Exhibition of George Stuart Historical Figures Looks Behind Lincoln’s Famous and Changing Façade

This new exhibition of George Stuart Historical Figures chronicles the ascent of Abraham Lincoln from humble origins to one of the most esteemed orators of his time, to one of the most highly commemorated U.S. presidents in history. Pivotal moments of Lincoln’s life and presidency are interpreted and shown via George Stuart’s three dimensional sculptures amid historic photographs and documents.  This exhibit will illustrate how Lincoln’s appearance changed from clean-shaven to bearded, from vigorous to careworn and exhausted.

In the aftermath of the Battle of Fredericksburg, fought December 11–15, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln is said to have exclaimed, “If there is a worse place than hell, I am in it”. The battle was one of the many failed Union campaigns in the second year of the American Civil War, with Union casualties estimated at roughly 12,700, more than twice as many as the Confederates sustained. The President came under strong attacks from politicians and the press. Senator Zachariah Chandler, a radical Republican, wrote, "The President is a weak man, too weak for the occasion, and those fool or traitor generals are wasting time and yet more precious blood in indecisive battles and delays.”

President Lincoln was unaware that the bloodiest chapters of the war were yet to come. Although 1863 was a particularly tragic year, with the Battles at Gettysburg and Chickamauga, 1864 would prove to be the bloodiest, with the Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor. By the closing of the Civil War roughly 2% of the United States' population, an estimated 620,000 men, had lost their lives.

The carnage, grief and suffering weighed

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Ventura County Area Listings in the National Register of Historic Places

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

As of March 2014, there are over 89,500 listings in the Register, with 1,175 additions in fiscal year 2013. The five general categories for National Register properties are: building, structure, site, district and object.

To be considered eligible for the Register, a property must meet the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. This involves examining the property’s age (generally at least 50 years old), integrity and significance.

To learn more about the National Register of Historic Places and to search its database, visit

Now let's highlight Ventura County area properties listed in the Register as of March 2014. Most of these you can visit (links provided where applicable):

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Bank of America Offers Free Admission to Over 150 Museums Nationwide

If you are a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch customer, your bank credit or debit card and photo ID will gain you one free admission to over 150 museums across the country on the first full weekend of each month during 2015. Visit the "Museums on Us" program website at for details.

Upcoming dates (updated March 2015): March 7-8, April 4-5, May 2-3, June 6-7, July 4-5, August 1-2, Sept 5-6, Oct 3-4, Nov 7-8 and Dec 5-6

And while there are no Ventura County museums on the list, there are a number of other choices within driving range in Los Angeles:

  • Autry National Center of the American West
  • Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Skirball Cultural Center
  • Museum of Latin American Art

Some other notable museums on the list are the Birch Aquarium in San Diego and Laguna Art Museum. The Discovery Children's Museum in Las Vegas is on the list and from first-hand experience is a lot of fun for the kids.

While on-the-go, visit the Museums on Us mobile site in your mobile browser for a full list and locations of participating museums:  As part of Museums on Us, more than 150 leading U.S. cultural institutions, in 32 states and 98 cities across the country, welcome bank cardholders in for free on the first full weekend of each month.


Guide to Finding Family Friendly Bike Paths In and Around Ventura County

As a casual cyclist with young kids I usually steer clear of riding on busy streets, particularly those that don't have any type of bike lane on them. Thankfully there are nearly 80 miles of bikeways in Thousand Oaks, including 3 miles of bike paths, 20 miles of bike lanes and 54 miles of marked bike routes. In fact, the City of Thousand Oaks made Bicycling Magazine's 2012 Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities list.

Bike Routes are shared with vehiclesClass I Bike Paths are separate from auto traffic and thus are great for family friendly cycling. Class II Bike Lanes are striped, painted and shared lanes adjacent to automobile lanes. Class III Bike Routes are marked by green signs that signify sharing with autos.

We also love taking our bikes to other places in and around Ventura County to enjoy other sights and surroundings. So how about if we highlight Class I Bike Paths throughout Ventura County, stretching from Thousand Oaks to Ventura.

Conejo Valley

The Conejo Creek Bike Path is a 1.2 mile path in the heart of Thousand Oaks that connects Gainsborough Road on the south to Conejo Creek Park and the Thousand Oaks Library. This is a nice, flat path, good for kids.

There is another Thousand Oaks bike path, the .5 mile Greenmeadow Drive connector bike path accessible on the west at Greenmeadow and Yellowstone, on the south side of Los Robles Greens. This is not a particularly interesting path but it does enable cyclists and walkers a path around the golf course to the Los Robles trailhead and Moorpark Road from Newbury Park. A bit hilly, too.

Entrance to Greenmeadow Avenue connector bike path in Thousand Oaks

There is also the .8 mile bike path on the north side of The Oaks mall as well as the .5 mile Read Road Connector path accessible off of Olsen Road just east of the 23 freeway.

Sign at the Read Road connector path on Olsen Road east of 23 Freeway.

Medea Creek Natural Park has hiking, biking and fitness trails that stretch from Calle Rio Vista and Oaks Hills Drive in Oak Park on the north, then south past Medea Creek Lane and Conifer Street to a cul de sac entrance to the park at the west terminus of Tamarind Street. About a mile to mile and a half of paths, including paved and dirt paths.

Nicely paved path at Medea Creek Natural Park in Oak Park


My personal favorite bike path in Ventura County is the Omer Rains Trail that runs the entire length of San Buenaventura State Beach.

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Earned Income Tax Credit & Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Locations in Ventura County

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Program is a refundable tax credit available to individuals and families earning less than $53,000 in 2014. This is the federal government's largest anti-poverty measure and refunds can amount to as much as $6,143 for familes with three or more qualifying children.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) recruits volunteer tax preparers as well as interpreters, screeners, and greeters and offers free preparation of federal and state income tax returns to taxpayers with low incomes earning less than $53,000 in 2014. VITA benefits these taxpayers by eliminating the cost of commercial tax return preparation and by securing valuable tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit and EITC.

Local VITA location sites are as follows, courtesy of the Ventura County United Way:

Please bring the following:

  • Social Security card for each family member or ITIN number for the working adult
  • W-2 forms for all jobs worked in 2014
  • All 1099 forms for other income
  • Child care provider information: name, address, and Tax ID (if available)
  • Picture I.D. for each adult filing
  • For direct deposit of refund - bank routing and account number or cancelled check

VITA locations above are open January 31st to April 11th. Please call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment.

Other VITA locations in the Ventura County area listed by the IRS at

Additionally, volunteer tax preparers from the Conejo Senior Volunteer Program (CSVP) will provide free income tax preparation for seniors age 60 and over and for anyone (regardless of age) who has an income of $50,000 or less. CSVP is sponsored by Conejo Recreation and Park District. Volunteers are certified and trained by the IRS. Hours 9:00 am – 2:00 pm on Wednesdays at the Newbury Park Library and from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Conejo Creek South Community Room (new location this year), 1350 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. Appointments are not needed and service is first come, first served.

Participants need to bring the following items: photo ID, Social Security card, Social Security benefits statement, wage and earning statements, property tax bill, interest and dividend statements, cost of stocks and bonds and date bought and sold, copy of last year’s federal and state return, bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit and other relevant information about income and expenses. Participants are not to bring rental or profit or loss from business statements as this service is not provided (business returns only provided for sole proprietors if there is a profit and expenses are under $10,000). For more information, call the CSVP office at (805) 381-2742.



Hike to Sandstone Peak, the Highest Point in the Santa Monica Mountains

 Sunset views from Sandstone Peak toward the Conejo Valley

At an elevation of 3,111 feet, Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. It should be on everyone's "bucket list" of local hikes, with its sweeping views to the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands and inland to the Conejo/Simi Valleys.

There are some steps, then some trekking, to reach the top from this sign. You've made it!The final ascent involves some rock climbing; not for everyone, but not too bad.

Sandstone Peak is also known at Mount Allen, dedicated by the Boy Scouts of America to W. Herbert Allen, who donated nearby land at Circle X Ranch used for campouts.

Plaque dedicated to W. Herbert Allen, along with logbook, is at the peak of the mountain

The hike itself is a challenge, about a 30 minute to 1 hour, 1 1/2 mile trek from the trailhead at a dirt parking lot off of Yerba Buena Road. For me, an even bigger challenge is the winding drive up Decker Canyon to Little Sycamore Canyon Road, about 14 miles from the heart of Thousand Oaks but about a 30 to 40 minute trip. If your kids get motion sickness, be careful!

After the tight curves of the 23 (Decker Canyon) you turn right on Mulholland Drive West to Little Sycamore Canyon Road, which connects to Yerba Buena. Get ready for some tight twists and turns. Drive carefully!

The trailhead is just west of Circle X Ranch, 12896 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu. More information and photos at this link. There are some other amazing things to see up here, including "Balance Rock," "Split Rock" and "Echo Cliffs' from the Mishe Mokwa Trail up there. Read more about this trail at this link.

Views from the peak towards the Channel Islands, floating in cloud cover.


Aerial Photographs of Conejo Grade in 1957

The four mile stretch of Highway 101 that connects the Conejo Valley with Pleasant Valley is the Conejo Grade.  Originally constructed in 1915 with no less than 49 twists and turns, the Conejo Grade has been straightened and widened over the years to accommodate growing population needs.

The shot above was taken in 1957 by aerial photographer Walt Dibblee. You can clearly see remnants of prior iterations of the Conejo Grade from above. You also may notice the lack of, well, much of anything, at the top of the grade in Newbury Park.

Below is another shot, a bit closer up. As you can see, the Grade was not quite as wide in those day.

Thanks to Walt's son Steve Dibblee of


Whales, Seals, Birds and Wildflowers on Display at Point Dume in Malibu

Suzy Demeter of Suzy Demeter Photography shared these photos of her recent outing at Point Dume Natural Preserve headlands and Westward Beach in Malibu. Whales, seals and flowering coreopsis are out in force. Learn more about local beaches ranging from Malibu through Oxnard at this link.

Breaching whales near Westward BeachSeals sunning themselves at Point Dume State BeachAn egret without regret on this beautiful, sunny day


Mugu Rock at Point Mugu

Point Mugu is an unincorporated part of Ventura County that is derived from the Chumash word Muwu, or beach. Other than the Naval Base, probably the most well known fixture in Point Mugu is the Mugu Rock. Mugu Rock is a large rock formation that was formed when Pacific Coast Highway was built and cut through the mountain that now resides on the other side of PCH. Before PCH was built, a road went around the rock, where a chain link fence has been placed to keep people away from this hazardous area adjacent to the Pacific Ocean.  PCH was cut through Point Mugu from October 1937 to February 1940, according to this interesting KCET article.

Mugu Rock is located just a few miles near the northwest tip of PCH before it veers north towards Oxnard. It is about a 10 mile drive from the Camarillo Premium Outlets and about 20 miles from the heart of Thousand Oaks taking either the 101/Lewis Road route or the slightly slower, curvy and interesting Potrero Road route.

Professional landscape and wildlife photographer Greg Clure of Newbury Park has shared a couple neat images facing Mugu Rock from the south. Visit Greg's website at for more of his outstanding work.

And here is some not so professional video footage of Mugu Rock from the north.



California Has Billions of Dollars of Unclaimed Property - Claim Yours Now!

The State of California currently has over $7.1 billion in Unclaimed Property belonging to 27.9 million individuals and organizations (as of February 2015). That's nearly half of the state's population!

California's Unclaimed Property Law which requires "holders" such as corporations, business associations, financial institutions, and insurance companies to annually report and deliver property to the Controller's Office after there has been no customer contact for three (3) years. Often the owner forgets that the account exists, or moves and does not leave a forwarding address or the forwarding order expires. In some cases, the owner dies and the heirs have no knowledge of the property.

The most common types of Unclaimed Property are bank accounts and safe deposit box contents, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends, uncashed cashier's checks or money orders, certificates of deposit, matured or terminated insurance policies, estates, and mineral interests and royalty payments, trust funds and escrow accounts.

Find out more at Search the database at

Search by last name and drill down by city if you'd like. But perhaps you might want to try the first few letters of your name and city...maybe someone misspelled your name!

There are over 50,000 unclaimed accounts in Thousand Oaks alone!


The Giant Sand Dune on PCH Across From Thornhill Broome Beach in Malibu

After two decades of living in the Conejo Valley and driving PCH countless times, I've always rushed by the gigantic sand dune located on the east end of Thornhill Broome Beach in Malibu but never actually stopped by to inspect it. With the urging of my 6 year old, we decided to check it out over Labor Day weekend.

Driving north up PCH, you'll see the sand dune on the east side after passing by Sycamore Canyon/Sycamore Cove Beach and before the reaching the entrance to the Thornhill Broome Campground.  CLICK HERE for more information about various beaches in Malibu.

Park on the shoulder off of PCH. There's plenty of room, though you may be partially parked in the sand. You can also park on the beach side of PCH but rather than taking your life in your hands jaywalking across PCH, you're better off parking on the mountain side of the highway.

The mysteriously large sand dune is the result of "Aeolian transport," or the wind's movement of particles, in this case, sand. Quite steep this hill is, but your effort will be rewarded with some beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Plus, you get a nice birds eye view of Mugu Rock.

We noticed that the southern-most portion of the sand dune see

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Ventura County Fire Department Offers Free Car Seat Safety Inspections

For those of you with kids looking for some help in ensuring your child safety seats are properly in place, consider the Ventura County Fire Department Child Passenger Safety Program.

Members of the Department are trained and certified through the National Highway Transportation Safety Association as a Car Seat Safety Technicians. The Program educates parents on proper use and installation of child safety seats. The department provides free car seat inspections, installation guidance, product recall checks and informative literature.

Program locations are near the Camarillo Airport, CHP Ventura, Crowley House in Thousand Oaks, CHP Moorpark and Moorpark Family Resource Center. More information at this link.

Volunteers from the VCFD Child Passenger Safety Program are knowledgeable and friendly!More on California child passenger seat belt laws and safety information


Photos From Janss Conejo Ranch in 1960-1961 in What is Now Wildwood Park

In the 1930s to 1960s, a number of TV shows and movies were filmed in what is now Wildwood Park, like Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Spartacus and Wuthering Heights. Steve Dibblee of Ventura Views has provided these shots taken by his father, Walt Dibblee, of a western ranch town in Wildwood Park in 1960-1961.

You can see the same, familiar Mountclef Ridge in Wildwood Park today

Steve indicated the above photo shows The Rifleman's house and barn. It may also have been used in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."

And here is a bit of a depressing scene at the ranch on September 28, 1960.

View more of Walt's Ventura County area photography, including an extensive collection of aerials from the mid 1950s to the late 1960s, at