The Commons at Calabasas

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The Commons at Calabasas is an open-air, Mediterranean style shopping center located at 4799 Commons Way. It is an attractive center with nice landscaping and fountains. There are about 35 businesses, including a Ralph's Supermarket, the Edwards Grand Palace Stadium movie theater, Barnes and Noble, lululemon athletics, Gymboree, LOFT, Siany, White House Black Market, Williams-Sonoma, Rite Aid, Chico's and other stores.

Dining options at The Commons includes Marmalade Cafe, Corner Bakery, King's Fish House, Fresh Brothers, Johnny Rockets, Starbucks, Sugarfish by Sushi Nogawa, Toscanova, Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, Pick Up Stix and SunLife Organics.

The Commons also hosts a weekly Kids Club and numerous other events and entertainment.

Visit www.shopcommons.com or call 818.637.8922 for more information.

The Promenade at Westlake

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Located at the southeast corner of Westlake Boulevard and Thousand Oaks Boulevard, The Promenade at Westlake is an architecturally appealing outdoor mall that has a nice assortment of things to do, including two large fountains, a koi pond and a high-end Cinepolis movie theater.

One of TWO fountains at The Promenade at Westlake.

One of TWO fountains at The Promenade at Westlake.

Restaurants include The Grill on the Alley, gastropub Public School 805, Marmalade Cafe, Farfalla Trattoria, Champagne French Bistro, Fresh Brothers, Lemonade, Loteria Grill and Paul Martin's American Grill..

There is also a Bristol Farms, Cost Plus Imports, Sports Authority, See's Candies, Sprinkles Cupcakes and Ice Cream and a variety of clothing and specialty stores, including Brandy Glanville, Intermix, Lululemon, Sephora, Sharon Segal / Nina Segal the closet, soon, Vince, and more.

Lots of outdoor seating around the fountain area outside of Barnes and Noble.  There is usually live music on Friday/Saturday nights during the summer months.

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The Promenade at Westlake is the sister mall of the similarly appointed The Commons at Calabasas.  It is located at 100 Promenade Way, Westlake Village (southeast corner of Westlake and Thousand Oaks Boulevards).  Visit www.ShopPromenade.com or call 805.497.9861 for more information.

Ty Warner Sea Center - Santa Barbara

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The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Ty Warner Sea Center is a fun, engaging, interactive marine education facility located on Stearns Wharf. The Ty Warner Sea Center fulfills the mission of the Museum to inspire a passion for the natural world.

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This is a not a huge museum but is worth a stop by with the kids every now and then. There's a shark tank where you can interact with and pet the sharks and other sea life, a 1,500 gallon tidepool tank and various other displays such as an octopus, moray eel, jellyfish, etc. There's also an area of where they dredge up sand and sea life from below and let you sift through it, looking for interesting things under easy to use microscopes.

Make a day of it in Santa Barbara, have lunch, stop by the carousel at Chase Palm Park, ride bikes along the beach, shop and eat on State Street, etc.

The Sea Center is located at 211 Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara and is open daily between 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve (at Noon), Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. As of February, admission is $8.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors (65+) and teens (13-17) and $6 for children (2-12). Or purchase a family membership at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and get in FREE anytime you want to both museums! 

For more info visit www.sbnature.org/seacenter or call 805.962.2526.

Ventura Flea Market - Ventura County Fairgrounds

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The Ventura Flea Market is held near the ocean in Ventura and is a great place to shop. The event features antiques, used and new merchandise sold by over 500 vendors, more than 5,000 buyers visit the Market each time it is held. 

The Ventura Flea Market is held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. A special Early Bird admission is available from 6am to 9am at $10.00 per person. Regular admission starts at 9 a.m. at $5.00 per person. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.  (Prices current as of January 2016.) Pets are not allowed. Event is held rain or shine!

Upcoming Dates as of 1/30/16

  • January 31, 2016
  • February 28, 2016
  • April 24, 2016
  • June 26, 2016
  • September 25, 2016
  • November 20, 2016

Visit www.rgcshows.com/Ventura.aspx or call 323.560.SHOW (7469) for more information.

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Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles

The Petersen Automotive Museum at 6060 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles re-opened in December 2015 after a 14 month, $90 million complete renovation. Displays include some of history’s most breathtaking collector cars, championship winning race cars, groundbreaking art cars, famous Hollywood vehicles, seminal motorcycles and more through the Museum's 25 galleries.

Courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum

Courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum

There are three full floors of content with 95,000 square feet of exhibit space. Guests are invited to enter the museum through either the parking structure off Fairfax or the new entrance on famed Wilshire Boulevard. There they can see several display vehicles in the David and Ginny Sydorick Grand Concourse, purchase tickets, and take an elevator to the third floor, where the experience begins.

The History Floor (3) covers history of the automobile. “Concept Cars as Art” shows what the future looked like in the 1950s and 60s, while the Hollywood Gallery includes the Batmobile, the Magnum P.I. Ferrari, several vehicles from James Bond movie Spectre, the Pontiac Aztec from Breaking Bad and other fan favorites. Also featured is “Southern California: A Region in Motion, " which uses interactive video content to show how Los Angeles grew out, instead of up, like most cities.

As visitors descend the staircase to the Industry Floor (2), they can explore the diversity of automotive design and technology and see cars that have been modified for speed and efficiency. Learn what it’s like to work in the car industry and watch automotive design students as they design the next generation of transportation.

Courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum

One of the most visually stunning displays in the museum is the Precious Metal exhibit in the Bruce Meyer Family Gallery presented by Rolex, a gathering of the world’s rarest and most exotic cars – all finished in silver. The gallery includes a 1995 McLaren F1, the 1959 Chevrolet Corvette XP-87 Stingray, the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 driven by James Bond in the movie Goldfinger, a stunning 1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic by Ghia, a 1967 Ferrari 625/250 Testa Rossa by Scaglietti known as one of the most winning Ferraris of its time, and a 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 Streamliner.

The Pixar Cars Mechanical Institute features a life-size Lightning McQueen and uses augmented reality technology to tech children how cars really work, starring their favorite characters from the Cars movies on Carspad tablets. The Industry Professionals exhibit features interviews with the engineers, designers, marketers and executives who take cars from design to reality – all hosted by Jay Leno. The Alternative Power exhibit showcases the history and future of alternative fuel vehicles – from early 20th century steam and electric cars to the latest in hybrid, CNG and fuel cell technology.

Courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum

Courtesy of the Petersen Automotive Museum

The Production Gallery features “Made in Italy: Design to Line,” an exhibit showcasing how a production luxury car goes from rendering to model to finished vehicle. The High Performance Road Cars exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of Ford’s historic win at LeMans with the museum’s GT40 MkIII alongside the all-new Ford GT supercar. The Motorsports exhibit features some of the fastest and most seminal race cars of all time, backed by a 134-foot, 180-degree projection wall immersing visitors in the sights and sounds of these incredible cars on the track. Directly behind the Motorsports exhibit is the Forza Motorsport Racing Experience, where fans can get behind the wheel of a variety of vehicles and try their hand at racing on driving rigs running the latest version of Microsoft’s racing simulator.

The Motorcycles Exhibit features nearly two dozen of the fastest, rarest, most beautiful or sometimes oddest two-wheeled vehicles from history. The Hot Rod Gallery celebrates Hot Rod Magazine, Petersen’s first publication, along with the cars featured in the magazine over the years, artifacts from Petersen’s life and a selection of wildly customized cars – from iconic customs (the Hirohata Merc and Billy Gibbons’ “CadZZilla”) to lowriders, roadsters and race cars.

One last trip down the grand staircase and visitors will find themselves on the Peter and Merle Mullin Artistry Floor (1), where they can discover the most artfully designed vehicles from history, often regarded as rolling sculpture. Explore how the automobile has been interpreted as the subject of fine art and even used as a canvas for artistic expression. The Mullin Grand Salon features the exhibit Artistry of the Automobile, featuring some of the finest coachbuilt cars of the art deco era, from the 1936 Type 57sc Bugatti Atlantic to the 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C SS Figoni et Falaschi Teardrop, and more.

From the Mullin Grand Salon, visitors can move to the Ken and Dayle Roath Gallery, featuring a curated display of cover art from the 106-year history of Westways Magazine, the print publication of the Automobile Club of Southern California. Never before has such a collection been assembled and displayed in one place.

The last exhibit on the top-to-bottom tour is also the first one visitors see upon entering the museum – BMW Art Cars, featuring  a 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL, the 1995 BMW 850 CSi designed by highly influential British artist David Hockney, who now lives a few miles from the Petersen, as well as the 2008 BMW Z4.

The Petersen Automotive Museum is open seven days a week, from 10am to 6pm, and admission prices are as follows: adults - $15, seniors and students - $12, children - $7, active duty military and educators – free, Children under 3 – free. To learn more about The Petersen, its latest exhibits, rotating galleries and special events, visit www.Petersen.org

Ojai Valley Museum

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Founded in 1966, the Ojai Valley Museum at 130 West Ojai Avenue has an extensive collection of art, Native American baskets, pioneer tools and photographs of early days in Ojai.

The Ojai Valley Museum Research Library houses archives including historical journals that chronicle the events of early to contemporary Ojai Valley activities.

Admission as of January 2016 is $5 for adults, $1 for kids 6 to 18 and 5 and under free. Open Tuesday through Sunday with guided tours. FREE admission the first Friday of each month! Hours are 10am to 4pm Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4pm on Sunday.

For more information, visit www.ojaivalleymuseum.org or call 805.640.1390.

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Historic Dudley House Museum in Ventura

San Buenaventura Heritage, Inc. (SBH) is a non-profit educational and charitable organization founded in 1978 with a primary focus of preserving the Dudley House, an 1892 Victorian farm house, located at 197 N. Ashwood, Ventura. The Dudley House is one of 35 Ventura County properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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The house is a living history museum reflecting the life of the Dudley family. The terraces and pergola for outdoor events have been installed on the north side side of the house, and the lavender garden with some 100 plants featuring over 20 varieties is on the south side of the house. The basement is used as a community room and visitor center with cooking facilities and is available for small events and receptions. Larger events can be held outside on the grounds.

The Dudley House is open for tours the first Sunday of the month from 1pm to 4pm from January to November. Visit www.dudleyhouse.org or call 805.644.3286 for more information.  Admission is free but donations are accepted and appreciated.

Historic Recording Series

During open houses, pre-1930 recordings transferred to CDs are played. A new recording is played each month on the Victrola console in the parlor.

Old Time Radio Series

CDs of radio shows are performed in the radio console on the 2nd floor hallway.

Victorian Holiday Boutique

Each December is the Dudley House Victorian Holiday Boutique typically the Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The House is decorated inside by dozens of crafters who will be selling their items. For information, call (805)-654-8381.

Los Padres Trail in Thousand Oaks

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The Los Padres Trail is a short, 1 mile, neat little trail accessed on Los Padres Drive, near the corner of Fox Hills Drive in Thousand Oaks. Take Moorpark Road south of the 101 freeway and turn left on Los Padres Drive. The trailhead is clearly marked on the right hand side as the trail is maintained by the Conejo Open Space Foundation.

Surrounded by trees in the first section of the Los Padres Trail.

Surrounded by trees in the first section of the Los Padres Trail.

Short but sweet, the trail is pretty darn cool...enclosed by trees, several bridges, mostly single track and a bit of a climb (750 feet) as you make your way up to the Los Robles Trail junction. That's about a mile, so you can turn around there for a 2 mile round trip hike.

Where the Los Padres Trail meets the Los Robles Trail

Where the Los Padres Trail meets the Los Robles Trail

Or...you can turn right (west) and head your way up the wide, fire road sized section of the Los Robles Trail east. This is a bit of a climb, but pretty moderate and gradual. Crest the hill and you'll see a gate. Before the gate, on the left, is a picnic bench.

The Los Padres Trail is winding, uphill and wide in this section.

The Los Padres Trail is winding, uphill and wide in this section.

After you pass the sign below, there's a picnic bench on the left. You've climbed a couple miles. Time for a break before heading back down. Or turn left (east) and in 3 miles you're at Triunfo Park in the Los Padres Open Space via the Triunfo Canyon Trail. Or turn right (west) and you're off into the Los Robles Open Space. If you cllimb through the gate straight ahead, you're looking towards Hidden Valley.

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Reagan Ranch Center Exhibit Galleries in Santa Barbara

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President Reagan’s home for 25 years and the Western White House during the height of the Cold War, the Reagan Ranch embodies the life and ideas of Ronald Reagan. In the spring of 1998, Young America’s Foundation stepped forward to save the Reagan Ranch; eight years later, in June 2006, the Reagan Ranch Center in downtown Santa Barbara opened its doors. 

The Reagan Ranch Center in downtown Santa Barbara is open to the general public for tours and visitation Monday through Thursday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm year round.

These galleries feature original Reagan Ranch artifacts matched with state-of-the-art, interactive, multimedia exhibits that highlight the history of Ronald Reagan’s quarter-century at Rancho del Cielo and the accomplishments of his presidency.

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Over six hours of dynamic multimedia exhibits provide access to exclusive speeches, interviews, radio addresses, and original video presentations. The centerpiece of the gallery is a 28-foot-long interactive “timeline” that gives users the ability to explore the “Western White House” during the 1980s.

The galleries also feature several unique collections on display, including the Lorraine Wagner Letter Collection, a nearly 300-piece collection of letters written by Ronald Reagan over a 50-year period and the Russell D. Sibert Collection, featuring rare Reagan-related memorabilia such as campaign buttons, posters and commemorative items.

A massive 5,000 pound section of the Berlin Wall greets visitors as they arrive at the Reagan Ranch Center, reminding the world of Ronald Reagan’s role in eliminating this assault on human dignity and freedom. The president’s famous blue Jeep Scrambler, complete with “Gipper” license plate, sits in the center of the gallery, flanked by a selection of his favorite books, an original saddle and chainsaw owned and used by President Reagan.

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The Reagan Ranch Center is designed to engage visitors of all ages; younger children can even earn their “Junior Secret Service Clearance” by completing a fun and educational scavenger hunt.

The Reagan Ranch Center is located at 217 State Street next to the train station.

Admission is FREE. For more information call 1-888-USA-1776 or visit www.yaf.org/ExhibitGalleries.aspx.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

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Founded in 1916, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is a very low key museum that makes for a great excursion to Santa Barbara with the kids.  There are eight exhibit halls with permanent exhibits featuring birds, mammals, insects, ocean life, a planetarium and more. Many of the exhibits are "hands on" with buttons and interactive features that kids particularly enjoy. There are an additional two halls for changing exhibits.

Some of the thousands of insects on display at the Cartwright Hall of Plants and Insects

Some of the thousands of insects on display at the Cartwright Hall of Plants and Insects

You and your kids can roam the nature paths and visit the well stocked gift shop, full of educational items. I can vouch for the fascination kids (and adults) have at this Museum. It is a very comfortable museum that in my experience is rarely is crowded. The "Museum Backyard" area and gardens has a picnic area, stream, "Dino Dig," and other enjoyable features. The pond and stream often have tadpoles that captivate the kids.

The museum is open 7 days a week and is closed certain holidays. As of January 2016, admission is $12 for adults, $8 for 65+ seniors and teens (13-17) and $7 for children 2 to 12 years of age. Become a Museum member and you don't have to pay for admission. The Museum also offers birthday parties for members. Family memberships are currently $80/year.

Free Family Sundays are on on the third Sunday of January, February, March, April, September, October, November, and December. No free days in May, June, July and August.

Also in the "Backyard" area of the Museum, there is a physical structure managed by the Santa Barbara Audubon Aviary that cares for birds of prey that are no longer able to survive in the wild. Often volunteers will bring these birds out for visitors to admire. These birds are beautiful.

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Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is located at 2559 Puesta del Sol Road, Santa Barbara. More information at www.sbnature.org or 805.682.4711.

The "Backyard" area of the Museum makes for a peaceful, rustic wedding/party venue.

The "Backyard" area of the Museum makes for a peaceful, rustic wedding/party venue.

Rancho Sierra Vista / Satwiwa in Newbury Park

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We are fortunate to have such great trails and views of Boney Peak from in Newbury Park. At Wendy and Potrero is the Western edge of the Santa Monica Mountains where Sycamore Canyon cuts through Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa and Point Mugu State Park.

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Roughly a mile easy hike from Wendy/Potrero gets you to the Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center where you can explore some native Chumash items and educational information and chat with rangers. This is a nice little hike to take the kids on. There are restrooms and water at the center, which is open from 9 to 5 on weekends.

You can get easier access to the center by parking in the adjacent National Park Service parking lot via Lynn Road to the access road at Via Goleta in Newbury Park.

Another mile and a half of hiking gets you to a small waterfall, which is fun to check out with the kids but somewhat more strenuous of a hike. Note that in recent years (2012-2015), the waterfall has barely flowed due to low rainfall.

Here is more information about the Boney Mountain Trail, leading up to Hidden Valley Overlook, the waterfall and Danielson Monument.

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Click here for a pdf file describing these and other local trails or go to the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/samo.  Visit www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/rsvsatwiwa.htm for a map and site information on the National Park Service website.

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Trailhead at the corner of Wendy Drive and Potrero Road in Newbury Park. Park on the dirt on the south side of Potrero or on the street on Wendy.

Las Flores Creek Park in Malibu

Las Flores Creek Park at 3805 Las Flores Canyon Road in Malibu is a neighborhood pocket park with on-site parking, picnic tables, restrooms, a small playground, benches, a pedestrian bridge, and over one-third of a mile of walking trails. The park also has over 45 varieties of native plant species and interpretive signage throughout the park with information about the plants, riparian habitat, the creek stabilization project, and the history of the area. More at www.malibucity.org.

San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura

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The San Buenaventura Mission was the 9th and last mission founded by Father Junipero Serra among California's 21 Missions and is now a Catholic parish of 3000 members. The beautiful Mission, founded in 1782, continues to serve as an active Catholic parish within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Mission grounds include Holy Cross School (PreK - 8th grade), a museum and gift shop. The Church and Mission Garden are open to visitors every day. Access the Mission via the Mission Gift Shop on the right side of the Mission (when facing the Mission).

The Mission Gift Shop and Museum are open daily except for major holidays (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day). Hours are Mon to Fri 10 am to 5 pm, Sat 9 am to 5 pm and Sun 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is $1 for kids under 18, $3 for seniors (65+), $4 for adults and $10 for families (parents with children).

Located at 211 East Main Street in Downtown Ventura, across from the Museum of Ventura County. More information at www.sanbuenaventuramission.org or call 805.643.4318.