Santa Barbara Zoo

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The 30 acre Santa Barbara Zoo is a great family outing, with beautiful landscape, low key, clean environment and cool breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean.

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There are over 500 animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo and my family's favorites include the giraffes and the penguins.  One of the most unique features is feeding the giraffes. For a fee of $6 ($5 if you are a member of the Zoo), you are situated face to face with these friendly Masai giraffes as you give them a snack. Open weekdays from 11:30am to 1:30pm and weekends 11:30am to 2:30pm.

The penguin exhibit is mesmerizing as you are treated to happy go lucky penguins frolicking in the water.

There are plenty of other animals, exhibits and places in the park to just hang out and have a picnic lunch.  And the train ride is always fun.

So drive the 45 miles up the coast, take the kids to the zoo, grab a bite, feel the sand, do some shopping and you've got yourself a nice day out.  Better yet, buy a tax-deductible zoo membership and visit the zoo several times per year with the kids.

Speaking of membership, if you have a membership at the Los Angeles Zoo, your card will get you 50% off admission at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Conversely, a membership at the Santa Barbara Zoo will get you 50% off at the Los Angeles Zoo. Nice!

The Santa Barbara Zoo is located at 500 Niños Drive, Santa Barbara.  For more information, visit www.sbzoo.org or call 805.962.5339 or 805.962.6310.

Open every day 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., except 10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas.

Ticket Prices (as of December 2014) are Adults 13-64: $17, Children 2-12 $10, Seniors 65+: $123and Children under 2: Free. Parking: $7 (free with SB Zoo Membership)

Triunfo Creek Park in Westlake Village

Owned and maintained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, 600-acre Triunfo Creek Park in Westlake Village/Agoura provides deep oak woodland, native grasslands and blankets of wildflowers in the springtime. The main feature of the park, the Pentachaeta Trail, is named after the Pentachaeta lyonii, a federally-listed endangered flower found in the park. The yellow, daisy-like flower is found only in Southern California, and blooms between April and June.

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An informational kiosk at the trailhead interprets the Pentachaeta lyonii, as well as other unusual wildflowers found on the site such as the Chocolate Lily, and the White Globe Lily. The site also provides access to hiking trails on the Westlake Vista parcel, also owned and managed by the Conservancy.

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Pentachaetta Trail to the east. Westlake Vista Trail towards the Las Virgenes Reservoir on the west.

Pentachaetta Trail to the east. Westlake Vista Trail towards the Las Virgenes Reservoir on the west.

Pretty flowers off the Pentachaetta Trail in March 2016

Pretty flowers off the Pentachaetta Trail in March 2016

Views from Westlake Vista Trail towards, well, but of course, Westlake Village

Views from Westlake Vista Trail towards, well, but of course, Westlake Village

Las Virgenes Reservoir in close proximity to Westlake Vista Trail (but surrounded by a fence, so don't get your hopes up!)

Las Virgenes Reservoir in close proximity to Westlake Vista Trail (but surrounded by a fence, so don't get your hopes up!)

Directions: The main trailhead with kiosk is on Triunfo Canyon Road east of the southern terminus of Lindero Canyon Road. There are a small number of off-pavement parking spots there. The other end of the trail is at the west end of Triunfo Canyon Road about 1.5 miles west of Kanan Road.

Directions: From the 101 Freeway in Westlake Village exit Lindero Canyon Road. Take Lindero south to Triunfo Canyon Road. Turn left. The trailhead is located opposite Oak Forest Mobile Home.

Visit www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=62 for more information.

Map courtesy of Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

Map courtesy of Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

Demolished car sitting near Westlake Vista Trail.

Demolished car sitting near Westlake Vista Trail.

Beaches Spanning From Carpinteria Through Ventura County to Malibu

Beaches Spanning From Carpinteria Through Ventura County to Malibu

My kids and I love going to the beach but for many years we seemed to go to the same ones all the time. So I stopped by the Automobile Club and asked them if they had a brochure on all the local area beaches open to the public. They shrugged their shoulders and said no such guidebook existed. They handed me a fold out map, which was of no use to me as I wanted to know exactly how to get to these beaches, if they have restrooms, parking, etc.

Then I started searching around for information and found bits and pieces in various locations that were marginally useful. So I decided to consolidate this information into one place where I could find out about where to go to the beach around Ventura County on up the coast to Carpinteria and Santa Barbara and down to Malibu. So I hope you find the following links helpful in finding local area beaches in Ventura County and surrounding areas!

Carpinteria to Ventura

Oxnard to Malibu

Santa Barbara Area Beaches

This took a lot of time to compile over 50 local area beach areas, so I truly hope you benefit from these lists! So enjoy and provide feedback if you have comments and/or additional information.

If you have a great photo you'd like to share, perhaps post it to the Conejo Valley Guide Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ConejoValleyGuide!

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Bowlero Woodland Hills

Bowlero Woodland Hills, formerly AMF Woodlake Lanes, opened at 23130 Ventura Blvd. in March 2016. Bowlero is a high-end, retro-modern spin on classic bowling fun. The renovated venue features 32 lanes of blacklight bowling, state-of-the-art arcade with over 30 games, floor-to-ceiling video screens at the end of each lane, full bar and more.

Learn more at www.bowlero.com or call 818.225.7181.

Rocky Peak Park in Simi Valley

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The 4,800 acre Rocky Peak Park is located in the Santa Susana Mountains, adjacent to the 118 freeway between Yosemite Avenue and Rocky Peak Road in Simi Valley. It is visually stunning to see as you drive up the 118 grade east towards the San Fernando Valley.

View of Rocky Peak Park from Highway 118 driving eastbound

View of Rocky Peak Park from Highway 118 driving eastbound

There are large sandstone structures, unusually balanced rocks, caves and other interestingformations throughout Rocky Peak Park. Plenty to explore and views abound!

The main entrance to the park is the Rocky Peak Trail, which runs north/south over about five miles of fire roads. It is moderately strenuous, with lots of hard, rocky surfaces, so make sure to wear solid shoes for this trail. Be prepared for panoramic views of Simi Valley and the San Fernando Valley as the trail is nearly on the Ventura/Los Angeles County line.

To get there from the west, take the 118 east to Kuehner Drive, turn right where after a few miles it becomes Santa Susana Pass Road, until you see the Rocky Peak overpass. The trailhead is across the freeway, but parking is very limited, so plan to park on Santa Susana Pass Road, where plenty of street parking is available.

Lots of rocky surfaces on the Rocky Peak Trail as you can see

Lots of rocky surfaces on the Rocky Peak Trail as you can see

Trails that intersect the Rocky Peak Trail going east/west include the Hummingbird Creek Trail, Chumash Trail and Las Llajas Canyon Trail. Not far into Rocky Peak Trail you'll see a sign that indicates the Hummingbird Creek Trail.

No about it...you'll have some really nice views of Simi Valley from up here!

No about it...you'll have some really nice views of Simi Valley from up here!

After reaching the 2,715 foot Rocky Peak and taking in the views, if you're up to it you can continue north where you will pass by the Chumash Trail and Las Llajas Canyon Trail.

The Rocky Peak Trail terminates north of Blind Canyon in Las Llajas Canyon. You must then double back to return to the trailhead, or take the three mile Chumash Trail down to the westernmost boundary of the property at the end of Flanagan Drive in Simi Valley.

Chumash Trail is about 3 miles of steady climb from Flanagan Drive. To get to the Chumash Trail trailhead, take the 118 to Yosemite, go north, turn right on Flanagan to the end. Park on the street.

The Hummingbird Trail was built by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, starting near Kuehner Drive and the 118 Freeway. The trail leads up to the main Rocky Peak Trail. During and just after the rainy season, the trail passes cascades flowing down the sandstone boulders and cliffs. It is about 2 miles or so each way. Take the 118 to Kuehner, go north to the parking area about a quarter of a mile away.

Clearly marked sign on Rocky Peak Trail showing the Hummingbird Trail turnoff

Clearly marked sign on Rocky Peak Trail showing the Hummingbird Trail turnoff

Rocky Peak Park is maintained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Learn more at lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=51. Dogs are allowed on these trails on leash.

Peering down upon the northwest San Fernando Valley from Rocky Peak.

Peering down upon the northwest San Fernando Valley from Rocky Peak.

Tarantula Hill in Thousand Oaks

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Tarantula Hill is located off of West Gainsborough Road in Thousand Oaks, between Grand Oak Lane and Camino Manzanas. Just park your car by the prominent oak tree and little green sign. The hill is named after the spiders that inhabit this peak that happens to be the highest point within the Conejo Valley, at about 1,057 feet.

I've seen people run, walk and cycle up the paved service road to the top, where you get treated to panoromic views of the entire Conejo Valley. The cyclist was working it pretty darn hard to get up there...the hill it pretty steep...about a 250 foot climb.

There's a single bench on the west side at the top and a water reservoir fenced in with barbed wire is quite prominent. For a quick dose of views, Tarantula Hill aims to please.

The bench at the top of Tarantula Hill faces west towards Newbury Park.

The bench at the top of Tarantula Hill faces west towards Newbury Park.

Tarantula Hill is dedicated open space that is protected by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency. Visit www.conejo-openspace.org for more information.

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The hill itself is fairly non-descript from Gainsborough Road

The hill itself is fairly non-descript from Gainsborough Road

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The Shoppes at Westlake Village

The Shoppes at Westlake is a 240,000 sq ft retail shopping center that opened at 30770 Russell Ranch Road, Westlake Village in the summer of 2014. It is anchored by a large Target store on the east side of the center with three dozen other shops and eateries, including a uniquely appointed In-N-Out Burger on west side. This an outdoor center with plenty of parking, outdoor eating spaces and a nice fountain. 

Retail stores include Guitar Center, BCBC Nail Spa, Lighthouse Salon Suites, Tilly's, The Walking Company Rx, Kirk Jewelers and others. There's also a Total Woman Gym & Spa.

Eateries include Jeannine's Gourmet Food Hall, Olio e Limone Ristorante, Olio Pizzeria, Gallery Seafood, Hook Burger, Greens Up, Los Agaves Restaurant, Bowl of Heaven, Tifa Chocolate & Gelato, Which Wich, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, Pick Up Stix and Q Sushi (opening April. 14, 2016).

Learn more at shoppesatwestlakevillage.com.

Skatelab Museum and Skate Park - Simi Valley

The world's largest and best skateboard museum resides in Simi Valley at Skatelab.  There are over 5,000 vintage skateboards, scooters and skateboard memorabilia at this 20,000 square foot facility from the 1960s to present day.  The museum is open to the public seven days a week and is free.  You really have to see this in person to get the full effect. This is a downright AMAZING collection! Check www.skatelab.com or call 805.578.0040 for hours.

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Read more about the world's largest skateboard collection on display at www.skateboardman.com

Skatelab has a large indoor skate park that your kids will love.  It is located at 4226 Valley Fair Street, Simi Valley.  Visit www.skatelab.com or call 805.578.0040 for more information. They offer skateboarding classes on Saturdays and Sundays for beginners and novices too!

The Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks

The Oaks in Thousand Oaks is located between the 101 Freeway and Lynn Road at 350 West Hillcrest Avenue, running east to Wilbur Road. Originally constructed in 1978, the 1.3 million square foot shopping mall was renovated in 1993 and again in 2008. In total, there are over 170 stores and services at The Oaks.

Well known brands at The Oaks include Nordstrom, Macy’s Women’s, Macy’s Men’s & Home, JCPenney, Muvico Theaters, The Apple Store, Coach, Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma and J.Crew. Restaurants include Cheesecake Factory, STACKED Food Well Built, The Lazy Dog Café, Red Robin, Olive Garden, Bogart’s at Muvico, and Blue Stove at Nordstrom.

The 2008 remodel brought a multi-level parking structure with over 1,300 parking spaces and digital signs that tell you how many spaces are available. There's a beautiful newer outdoor shops area on the east side of the mall that leads to Muvico and adjacent restaurants.

For more information, visit www.shoptheoaksmall.com or call 805.495.2032.

Long Canyon Trail in Simi Valley

Long Canyon Trail is an easy to hike trail in the Wood Ranch section of Simi Valley, located at the corner of Wood Ranch Parkway and Long Canyon Road (take Wood Ranch Parkway south until it ends, and turn right into the parking lot). It is quite a peaceful place to do some light hiking with the family. And the views as you can see are beautiful.

About a .7 mile hike to the top of the canyon connects you with the Lang Ranch / Woodridge Open Space in Thousand Oaks. Great views from the top towards Simi Valley,  Thousand Oaks and beyond, towards the Channel Islands on clear days.

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Technically I believe this bench is in the Lang Ranch / Woodridge Open Space in Thousand Oaks, which connects with the Long Canyon Trail. Nice view here towards Simi Valley

Technically I believe this bench is in the Lang Ranch / Woodridge Open Space in Thousand Oaks, which connects with the Long Canyon Trail. Nice view here towards Simi Valley

Lizard Rock Hike in Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks

Lizard Rock is just over a mile from the main entrance to Wildwood Park at the west end of Avenida de los Arboles. Walk/run/hike over Mesa Trail towards Lizard Rock and you will be treated to beautiful views of the surrounding spaces where shows like Gunsmoke and The Rifleman were filmed.

The entrance area and dirt parking lot at the Wildwood Park main trailhead.

The entrance area and dirt parking lot at the Wildwood Park main trailhead.

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Lizard Rock in the distance

Lizard Rock in the distance

View from on top of the lizard

View from on top of the lizard

Trail sign south of Lizard Rock indicating Lizard Rock Trail to Wildwood Canyon Trail

Trail sign south of Lizard Rock indicating Lizard Rock Trail to Wildwood Canyon Trail

You can make this hike a 4 1/2 mile loop past Paradise Falls and the Indian Creek Trail by reviewing the map on the Conejo Open Space Foundation website at www.cosf.org/website/html/lizard-waterfall-creek.html.

Malibu Creek State Park

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Malibu Creek State Park is accessible in Calabasas, at 1925 Las Virgenes Road, south of Mulholland. The park has over 8,000 acres of rugged, beautiful hills, trails and scenery. It stretches from Agoura Hills down to Malibu, down to Malibu Lagoon State Beach, covering much of the 25 mile Malibu Creek that flows from Boney Mountain down to the Lagoon. Malibu Creek is the only stream channel that crosses through the Santa Monica Mountain range.

There are three natural preserves in the park, Liberty Canyon, Udell Gorge and Kaslow, which protect Valley Oaks, rare plants and volcanic formations.

Things to do in Malibu Creek State Park include hiking, running, biking, camping, picnicking, fishing and checking out the wildlife. There are over 35 miles of trails and fire roads throughout the park. A fun added bonus is the old M*A*S*H series set, filmed from 1972 to 1983, that resides there.

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Malibu Creek SP contains roughly three dozen different trails, many easy, and some...extraordinarily challenging. such as the Bulldog trail, taking you to 2,500 foot peaks with panoramic views out to the ocean and surrounding peaks and valleys.

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Parking for the day at Malibu Creek State Park is currently $12, or you can park at the corner of Mulholland and Las Virgenes and make your way into the park via the Grassland Trail. The park has 62 campsites and 4 RV sites. Visit www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=614 for more information.

The old M*A*S*H site is about 2 1/2 miles from the parking area.

The old M*A*S*H site is about 2 1/2 miles from the parking area.

M*A*S*H site with plenty of picnic tables

M*A*S*H site with plenty of picnic tables

The Visitor Center is only a 10 minute walk from the parking lot and is generally open from noon to 4pm on weekends.

The Visitor Center is only a 10 minute walk from the parking lot and is generally open from noon to 4pm on weekends.

There's also an interesting visitor center about 1/2 mile from the main entrance to the park. It is open on Saturday/Sunday from noon to 4pm, subject to availability of docents. Worth a stop as there are some neat things to see in there, including wildlife and rocks/artifacts and other useful information. You can also purchase drinks in there as well as a small assortment of other items.

Hike to the Rock Pool at Malibu Creek State Park!

Charmlee Wilderness Park in Malibu

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Charmlee Wilderness Park is a 532 acre park located at 2577 Encinal Canyon Road in Malibu, just 15 miles from the Conejo Valley. It is located within the Santa Monica Mountains. There are over eight miles of hiking trails, a nature center, picnic areas and more. Park hours are 8 a.m. to sunset and the nature center is open on weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or dark, whichever comes first). Parking is available for $4.

Visit the City of Malibu website at www.malibucity.org/Facilities/Facility/Details/Charmlee-Wilderness-Park-8 for more information, trail maps and more or call 310.457.7247.

To get there from the Conejo Valley, take the 23 (Westlake Boulevard/Decker Canyon Road) toward the ocean and turn left on Lechusa Road. Continue on Encinal Canyon Road and look for the sign on the right.

Photos below courtesy of Suzy Demeter Photography.

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