Rabbit Hill (Knoll Open Space) in Newbury Park

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The Knoll Open Space is a 21 acre plot of land owned by the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency located at the corner of Reino Road and Old Conejo Road in Newbury Park (across the street from Peppertree Playfields). This plot of land is more affectionately known as Rabbit Hill. While it doesn't take too much effort to get to the top of Rabbit Hill, you will definitely be rewarded with a nice, panoramic view towards Boney Mountain, Thousand Oaks and Conejo Mountain. This hill is somewhat less challenging than the steeper Tarantula Hill in Thousand Oaks, so if you're looking for a nice after-dinner stroll, this is a fine choice. While not the most exciting hill to look at, the views make it worthwhile! You can park on Reino Road to start your short journey.

You can either take a straight shot up the hill or a more gradual curved trail. 

You can either take a straight shot up the hill or a more gradual curved trail. 

Views toward Boney Mountain.

Views toward Boney Mountain.

Views towards Thousand Oaks

Camarillo Grove Park

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Camarillo Grove Park is located at the bottom of the Conejo Grade at 6968 E. Camarillo Springs Road (Camarillo Springs exit). This is kind of an off the beaten path park that has a variety of interesting activities. There is an off-leash dog park where you can bring your pooch. There is a small playground area for the kids. There are several large outdoor covered group picnic areas that are popular for parties.

Additionally, the park has some fun trails for roughly a mile** or so of hiking and exploring. At the back (east) end of the park you'll see the trail sign. the lower loop is fairly short, with some interesting, large rock formations. The upper loop is more significant and steep and provides for some nice views.

Two miles of new trails were added in January 2017 with over 20 new interpretive signs located along the trails!

This park offers multiple options for hiking. The lower loop is an easier gently sloping trail with oak trees, sage, volcanic rock formations, and more.  You can even take dogs off-leash on weekends Saturdays and Sundays before 10 a.m.

The park opens at 7:30 a.m. until dusk. There are parking fees at this particular park to help pay for the upkeep of the park. As of January 2018 these fees are $3 on weekdays, $5 on weekends and $10 for oversized vehicles (RVs, etc.) on weekends. Or buy an annual pass for $55.

Learn more at www.pvrpd.org/parks/dog/grove.asp.

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Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center in Calabasas

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The Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center is located at King Gillette Ranch, 26800 Mulholland Highway, Calabasas. It opened to the public in June 2012.

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The Visitor Center is jointly operated by the National Park Service, California State Parks, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

It features exhibits and interactive displays, the work of local artists, tours of sustainable features and a native plant garden. There is a tremendously comprehensive exhibit covering things to see and do within the Santa Monica Mountains.

The Visitor Center was formerly the horse stable for the Gillette Mansion. It retains some of its original design while achieving LEED Platinum certification as the first "net zero" visitor center in the National Park Service. Cool! (literally and figuratively)

Visitor Center staff and volunteers are very friendly and helpful and have a ton of information to share to help you enjoy what we have in our backyard.

There's also gift shop in the center with a variety of items including books, handmade items, kids' items and more.

Call 805-370-2301 or visit www.nps.gov/samo/planyourvisit/visitor-center.htm. Open 9am to 5pm year-round, except Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

Nearby hiking is plentiful, including the Inspiration Point hike at King Gillette Ranch and across the street at Malibu Creek State Park.

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King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas

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The 588-acre King Gillette Ranch (26800 West Mulholland Highway, Calabasas) is situated adjacent to Malibu Creek State Park. This scenic parkland at the lower end of the Las Virgenes Valley is a haven for larger mammals of the Santa Monica Mountains and offers a rare unspoiled view of California’s rich archaeological, cultural, and historic resources, including a Chumash settlement, and nationally significant structures designed for razor magnate King C. Gillette in the 1920’s by Wallace Neff, architect of California’s Golden Age.

View of King Gillette Ranch from Inspiration Point, south of the Gillette Mansion

View of King Gillette Ranch from Inspiration Point, south of the Gillette Mansion

A short, somewhat steep roughly 1 mile hike from the parking area south of the Gillette Mansion leads to a knoll with 360-degree views—including the famous rock formations of Malibu Creek State Park. This is referred to as Inspiration Point. You will love the spectacular views from up there.

View from Inspiration Point west towards Malibu Creek State Park.

View from Inspiration Point west towards Malibu Creek State Park.

Other activities include strolling, bicycling, photography, and picnicking. King Gillette Ranch is owned and managed by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority in cooperation with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area unit of the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and California State Parks.  More information at lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=670 or call the Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center at 805.370.2301.

Directions from the Conejo Valley: Take Hwy 101 (Ventura Freeway) to the Las Virgenes/Malibu Canyon exit. Head south on Las Virgenes Road and continue to Mulholland Hwy, about two miles. Turn left onto Mulholland Highway and immediately look for the King Gillette Ranch entrance on the right.

The Ultimate Escape Rooms at Ventura Harbor Village

The Ultimate Escape Rooms are a recent addition to Ventura Harbor Village. There are four different themed rooms that a group of up to eight people are have to escape within a 60 minute time frame.

But how? The room is full of puzzles, riddles and props that the group must decipher to come up with the ultimate "code" to escape the room. Using the combined efforts of your group, you must review the clues and solve a series of puzzles to make your way out of there.

Yes, I have tried it with a group of 11 to 14 year old kids and we had a fun time trying to get out of there. Although we were unable to figure out the final piece to our puzzle, we enjoyed it. And don't worry...if the group needs clues, you can all raise your hands and you will be given a bit of help.

They do not allow you to bring personal belongings like cell phones into the rooms, but lockers are provided. 

The current room themes as of January 2018 are: The Wizards Lair, We Are All Mad Here, The Attic and Adrift. Pricing is $39 per person but do check for special deals. We booked the entire room for a birthday party via a Groupon deal.

We tried "We Are All Mad Here." Quite an interesting assortment of items on display in the room. This was an experience that none of us have ever had and the kids and I worked together to ultimately fail to get out of the room...but succeed in having fun!

Learn more at www.theultimateescaperooms.com.

Color Me Mine Thousand Oaks

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Color Me Mine is a ceramic painting studio where you drop by anytime and select from over 400 ceramic pieces to design and paint. . For the price of a studio fee and the item you choose to paint, you can paint all day using 60+ colors and supplies! They glaze and fire your work in a kiln and your work of art will be available in 5 to 7 days.

The Thousand Oaks Color Me Mine location is at the Paseo Market Square in Thousand Oaks at 3707 E. Thousand Oaks Boulevard, near Al Mulino Eatalia and The Melting Pot.

More information at thousandoaks.colormemine.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!

Hours as of January 2018 are 4-10PM Mon, 3-10PM Tue-Thu, 3PM-Midnight Fri, 10AM-10PM Sat and 10AM-7PM Sun. Visit www.skatelab.com or call 805.578.0040 for more information.

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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!

Libbey Bowl and Libbey Park in Ojai

Libbey Bowl and Libbey Park are located in the heart of Ojai near the corner of Ojai Avenue and Signal Street. Libbey Bowl was originally built in 1957 and has been used for the annual Ojai Music Festival, Storytelling Festival, Ojai Day event, holiday celebrations and many other community events through the years. Beginning in 2008, the bowl was renovated and in 2011 was reopened with a new look and design. It accommodates 1,300 people. Learn more about Libbey Bowl at www.libbeybowl.org.

One view of Libbey Bowl

One view of Libbey Bowl

Both Libbey Bowl and Libbey Park are named after Ojai's greatest benefactor, Edward Libbey, a glass manufacturer from Toledo, Ohio. Libbey donated the park to the city in 1917. In front of the park is a shaded pergola along the main "arcade" section of Downtown Ojai.

The park contains a community playground that was designed and built with the help of over 500 volunteers in 2015. It contains a beautiful new play structure and other features that leapfrog what used to be a fairly outdated play area to one of the nicest ones in Ventura County. Visit THIS POST for more information.

This is a photo of the OLD play structure that was replaced in October 2015.

This is a photo of the OLD play structure that was replaced in October 2015.

The new playground!

The new playground!

There are also plenty of benches and seating areas, restrooms, shade trees and tennis courts at Libbey Park. Learn more on the City of Ojai website at www.ojairec.com/?page_id=190.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center

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

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 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 December 2017, 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.

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.

Grant Park / Serra Cross Park in Ventura

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NOTE: Grant Park was devastated by the Thomas Fire of December 2017 and is closed to the public as a result.

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For some of the most spectacular views of Ventura you can ask for, stop by Grant Park / Serra Cross Park off of Ferro Drive in Ventura. Grant Park is a 107 acre park of mostly open space. Serra Cross Park is located at Grant Park. It is a one acre parcel that contains the wooden cross shown below.

The land and cross were sold to San Buenaventura Heritage, Inc. in 2003 in order to maintain the historic cross, which was placed on this spot in 1941 to replace the previous cross that was erected in 1912.

Visit www.serracrosspark.org to learn more about Serra Cross Park.

Get there via Brakey Road to the left side of Ventura City Hall or Ferro Drive off of Cedar Street. There are no restrooms, playground, drinking fountains, etc. at this park.

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California ScienCenter - Exposition Park

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My kids and I visit California ScienCenter in Exposition Park from time to time, roughly a 1 hour drive from Thousand Oaks. It is worth the drive. The ScienCenter is built in the location where the first State Exposition Building that opened in 1912.  The redeveloped building is modern and beautiful, with several floors of scientific exhibits of interest to all ages, including Ecosystems, Creative World, World of Life, Air and Space and Science Court. Entrance to the museum is FREE, although donations are greatly appreciated.  Parking is $12 (as of December 2017).

The "World of Life" exhibit on the third floor is a perennial favorite in our family, where we get to see everything from brains and lungs to live cockroaches, termites and animals. There's also a kids' "Discovery Room" with additional fun activities for the younger one.

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If you have more time and energy on your trip to Exposition Park, visit the adjacent Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California African American Museum as well as the Exposition Park Rose Garden (where they have 16,000 or so rose plants).

California ScienCenter is located at 700 State Drive at the corner of S. Figueroa and 39th Street in Exposition Park.  Visit www.californiasciencenter.org or call 323.SCIENCE (724.3623) for more information.

The Space Shuttle Endeavor went on a flyover trip to the West Coast atop a Boeing 747 on Friday, September 21, 2012. The Endeavor completed 25 successful space missions between its first mission on May 7, 1992 and its final mission in May 2012 to the International Space Station, now resides at the ScienCenter in the Samuel Oschin Pavilion. It is so popular that you must reserve a time slot to visit. There is a $2 convenience fee for reserving a spot at www.californiasciencecenter.org/GenInfo/PlanningYourVisit/Hours/endeavour/endeavour.php.

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NASA named California ScienCenter one of only three museums in the U.S. to permanently exhibit a retired space shuttle.  We have visited the Endeavor and the exhibit is extraordinarily impressive. Learn more about the Endeavor at www.californiasciencecenter.org/Exhibits/AirAndSpace/endeavour/Endeavour/Endeavour.php.

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Boney Mountain Trail to Hidden Valley Overlook, Danielson Monument and Waterfall

At Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa in Newbury Park is a nice assortment of trails that reward hikers with beautiful views and peaceful surroundings.  Find your way to the Satwiwa Native American Culture Center and from there walk up Big Sycamore Canyon Road where you'll reach a fork in the road. If you go straight you'll be taking Big Sycamore Canyon road about 6-7 miles down to Sycamore Canyon Campground and Sycamore Cove Beach. The road is paved for about 3 miles until it intersects the Backbone Trail, at which point it is dirt trails to PCH.

Benches at the top of Big Sycamore Canyon Road.

Benches at the top of Big Sycamore Canyon Road.

Views from the benches looking down Big Sycamore Canyon. Photo taken a few months before the Springs Fire of 2013.

Views from the benches looking down Big Sycamore Canyon. Photo taken a few months before the Springs Fire of 2013.

View of Big Sycamore Canyon after the Springs Fire of 2013.

View of Big Sycamore Canyon after the Springs Fire of 2013.

Getting back to the benches at the top of Sycamore Canyon, looking off to the east you'll find the Boney Mountain Trail sign that takes you towards the Hidden Valley Overlook, Waterfall and Danielson Monument, a .4 mile, 1 mile and 2.2 mile one way hike, respectively.

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Boney Mountain Trail sign in Rancho Sierra Vista post-Springs fire 5/5/13.

Boney Mountain Trail sign in Rancho Sierra Vista post-Springs fire 5/5/13.

Take the trail to the fork in the road. A sharp left takes you directly back to the Satwiwa Center, a "normal" left takes you on a trail towards Wendy Drive and/or back to the Satwiwa Center in a loop, and a right turn takes you up the hill towards the destinations mentioned above.

A short walk up the trail gets you to yet another bench that overlooks Sycamore Canyon from another angle. This is called the Sycamore Canyon Overlook.

This photo of the Sycamore Canyon Overlook was taken before the Springs Fire of 2013.

This photo of the Sycamore Canyon Overlook was taken before the Springs Fire of 2013.

Bench at Sycamore Canyon Overlook on 5/14/13.

Bench at Sycamore Canyon Overlook on 5/14/13.

The rocky trail from there takes you to a fork. Veer LEFT to the Hidden Valley Overlook trail or right to the Danielson Monument and Waterfall (as well as the Old Boney Trail).

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The Hidden Valley Overlook trail is rocky, pretty steep in some sections and a bit challenging. But...you will be rewarded with some nice views of Dos Vientos, Camarillo and eventually an "overlook" of Hidden Valley.

Endpoint of the Hidden Valley Overlook trail, peering into Hidden Valley. This photo was taken in April 2014, when it was nice and green back there!

Endpoint of the Hidden Valley Overlook trail, peering into Hidden Valley. This photo was taken in April 2014, when it was nice and green back there!

If you veer right at the fork in the trail, after a .4 mile jaunt down the hill you'll see a sign that tells you you're getting close the waterfall. There are lots of rocky sections as well as crevices as you make your way down this trail, so do be careful. But it is fairly wide most of the way.

Sign at bottom of hill indicating you distance to waterfall trail and danielson monument

Sign at bottom of hill indicating you distance to waterfall trail and danielson monument

There's a stream crossing that most of the year is easy to get across as there's not a lot of water in it, although in particularly rainy winters it can get more challenging in the winter/spring.

Mostly mud in the stream crossing that gets you to the Danielson Monument in mid-February 2013, but some years there's more water in there (like 2017, after the winter rainstorms).

Mostly mud in the stream crossing that gets you to the Danielson Monument in mid-February 2013, but some years there's more water in there (like 2017, after the winter rainstorms).

So after you cross the stream, you're off on a mostly narrow, single-track trail. Watch out for poison oak on the sides of the trails. I usually run up here in shorts, but you're much safer wearing long pants. The next juncture in the trail, you go straight to the waterfall, or veer right up to the Danielson Monument.

We've been to the waterfall when it had a lot of water flowing in it. This year (2013) there's barely a trickle. More recently (2015) it is pretty much completely dry.

We've been to the waterfall when it had a lot of water flowing in it. This year (2013) there's barely a trickle. More recently (2015) it is pretty much completely dry.

So if you take the sharp right hand turn, you're on your way to the Danielson Monument (a tribute to Richard Ely Danielson, Junior, who lived on land in this area for 32 years with his family, until it was sold to the National Park Service in 1980). Awesome views from several vantage points as you head up the trail. A bit of a climb. Be prepared! Check out other photos of the monument HERE and larger pics HERE.

Danielson Monument

Danielson Monument

About 4/5ths of the way from the bottom of the canyon to the Danielson Monument, you can veer right to the Old Boney Trail, an interesting, mostly single track trail that has great views of Boney and intersects with the Fossil Trail.

Here's the sign at the juncture of the Danielson Road trail and the Old Boney Trail turnoff, about .3 mile away from the Danielson Monument.

Here's the sign at the juncture of the Danielson Road trail and the Old Boney Trail turnoff, about .3 mile away from the Danielson Monument.