Ventura Harbor Village

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Ventura Harbor Village at 1583 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura is home to 33 acres of harborside activities, shopping and restaurants.  The weather is always so cool over there it makes for a nice retreat.

There is a 36 horse carousel and arcade for the kids and plenty of outdoor activities available like kayaking, sailing, pedal boats, sport-fishing and cruises. Ventura Harbor Village hosts events and activities year-round, including music performances, kids' activities, themed events, festivals and more.

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Eateries at Ventura Harbor Village include 805 Bar & Grilled Cheese, Alexander's, Andria's Seafood Restaurant, Baja Bay Surf N' Taco, Boatyard Pub, Brophy Bros. Restaurant and Clam Bar, Coastal Cone (ice cream shop), Coffee Dock & Post, Copa Cubana, Fratellis Pizza & Brew, Harbor Cove Cafe, Le Petit Cafe, Bakery & Restaurant, Margarita Villa Mexican, Water’s Edge Restaurant & Bar, The Greek Mediterranean Steak & Seafood and The Parlor. You won't go hungry here.

The Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center is located adjacent to Ventura Harbor Village. Free admission and an awesome resource for learning more about the Channel Islands and its protected habitat.

Island Packers at the Harbor has numerous boat rides and is the only authorized concessionaire to transport folks to Channel Islands National Park. 

Ventura Boat Rentals rents out electric boats, paddle boats, kayaks, power boats and charters cruises in the Ventura Harbor.  So much fun to be had!

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Across the street from Ventura Harbor Village is beach access at Harbor Cove Beach (a safe beach protected by jetties) and Surfer's Knoll Beach. Local area beaches at THIS LINK.

More information at www.venturaharborvillage.com or call 805.642.8538 (or 877.89.HARBOR).

America's Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College

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Don't want to drive 45 minutes to the nearest zoo?  Well then, stop by local Moorpark College to visit the student-run America's Teaching Zoo

This five acre zoo housing nearly 200 exotic animals is part of the college's Exotic Animal Training and Management Program and is open each weekend from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (excluding holidays).  This interesting collection has included all sorts of animals, like alligators, geckos, monkeys, tigers, camels, snakes, ocelots and more. Animal show times at 12 pm and 2 pm. Animal demonstrations from 3:30-4 pm.

Galapagos Tortoise at America's Teaching Zoo

Galapagos Tortoise at America's Teaching Zoo

Students in the program are required to work most days and weekends.  For a truly unique wild animal experience, stop by and check it out. Don't expect anything fancy. This is a very low key place, but lots of fun as it is usually not very crowded and you can get really close to the animals. This huge Galapagos Tortoise is Clarence. Learn more about him here.

Admission (as of July 2019) $9 for adults and $7 for kids and seniors (checks and cash only). Under age 2 is free.

Visit zoo.moorparkcollege.edu or call 805.378.1441 for more information.

Another handsome occupant of the zoo - “Ghost,” the bald eagle.

Another handsome occupant of the zoo - “Ghost,” the bald eagle.

The Zoo is located at 7075 Campus Road in Moorpark.  Take the 101 North to the 23 North to the 118 East.  Exit Collins and turn left at the stop sign.  Go through 2 stoplights and turn right into the 2nd entrance past the stoplights.  Turn right in the parking lot and continue up the short hill to the right.

A zoo volunteer feeding the lion.

A zoo volunteer feeding the lion.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

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Founded in 1916, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History 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.

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 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 July 2019, admission is $15 for adults, $12 for 65+ seniors and teens (13-17) and $9 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. Tax-deductible family memberships are currently $99/year.

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.

Janss Marketplace in Thousand Oaks

Janss Marketplace in Thousand Oaks

Janss Marketplace at 275 North Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks (corner of Moorpark Road and Hillcrest) is an open air mall that has a large outdoor eating area, interactive water fountain, monthly Kids Fun Zone and outdoor kids play area.

Retailers and other businesses at Janss Marketplace include Gold's Gym, Ulta Beauty, Old Navy, Burlington Coat Factory, Nordstrom Rack and others.

Eateries include Buca di Beppo, Panera Bread, Karma Indian Cuisine, Crazy King Kong Sushi, Lucky's Dog House, Subway, Sunset Terrace Restaurant, Greco's New York Pizzeria, Cold Stone Creamery, Sharky's, The Dudes' Brewing Company, Matcha Tea and Boba and Janchi Korean BBQ.

And for entertainment, there’s Regal Cinemas, Dojoboom Extreme Sports, Dave & Buster’s and the Conejo Valley Art Museum.

Visit www.janssmarketplace.net/coupons for special offers/coupons at Janss merchants.

For more information visit www.janssmarketplace.net or call 805.495.4662.

In 2009 the Janss Marketplace added a NEOS Wall, a fun interactive game right outside the Golds Gym.  This game is free. 

Some former occupants of Janss Marketplace: Toys R Us (summer 2018) Wachovia Banking Center (closed April 2011), Akio’s Sushi (Oct 2012; now Crazy King Kong Sushi), Sizzler/Fuddruckers/Hooters (currently vacant), TGI Fridays (2012)/DISH (Nov 2013) (now Janchi), Aaron Brothers (2018), Tuesday Morning (June 2012), Radio Shack, Marshalls, Mervyn’s, Mann 9 Theatres/Regency Theatres (now Regal Cinemas), Burger King/Salad Gourmet (2016)/Poke Tiki (Apr 2019).

CReATE STUDIO in Westlake Village

CReATE STUDIO at 31840 Village Center Road in Westlake Village is a welcoming, walk-in, help yourself art studio geared toward creative exploration using a varied array of recycled, artistic and crafty materials. All ages can create treasured masterpieces using many interesting and everyday household materials to build, tape, glue, paint and invent! No two creations are alike. Stop in and enjoy the fun! To learn more, visit www.createstudiofun.com or call 818.575.9566

The studio is currently open Wednesday through Friday 11am-6pm and Saturday/Sunday from noon to 4pm.

Fees as of July 2019 are: $10.50 for ages 10 and under, $12.50 for age 11 and up. Studio fee includes up to 2 hours of studio time, including all materials used. Credit cards are accepted.

CReATE offers open studio time, Birthday Party Packages, Monthly Parents Night Out Nights, Machine Sewing Classes, Girls Confidence Classes, Messy Toddler Art Classes and special rates for school groups, scouts and homeschoolers.

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Dog Parks In and Around Ventura County

Here's a compilation of parks in and around Ventura County as well as adjacent areas that have off-leash opportunities for your pooches. The days and times indicated below are subject to change; links to the local recreation and park districts have been provided below.

Thousand Oaks

Conejo Creek Dog Park at 1350 E. Avenida de las Flores is a 3 1/2 acre dog park with separate sections for large and small (30 lbs or less) dogs. Open daily 7 am to 8:30 pm; closed Thursdays 7-9 am and all day the 3rd Thursday of each month. crpd.org/parkfac/dogpark

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A bit brown at the Conejo Creek Dog Park due to the drought. But there are grassy sections too.

A bit brown at the Conejo Creek Dog Park due to the drought. But there are grassy sections too.

Additionally, Conejo Recreation and Park District opened three smaller off-leash area dog parks in 2015 at Estella Park, 300 Erbes Road, Thousand Oaks, Kimber Park, 3295 Bear Creek Road, Newbury Park and Walnut Grove Park, 400 Windtree Avenue, Thousand Oaks. These areas do not have grass. More details at www.crpd.org/parks-reservations/dog-parks.

Westlake Village

The 1.2 acre Westlake Village Dog Park opened to the public on July 21, 2018. The park features small and large dog areas, shade shelter with seating, pet wash stations and more. Located at the southwest corner of West Oak Crest Drive and Agoura Road. On street parking available. More info at www.wlv.org/420/Westlake-Village-Dog-Park.

Camarillo

The Friends of Camarillo Dog Parks is a volunteer organization that looks out for the needs of pooches and their owners in the Camarillo area. Learn more at www.camarillodogparks.com. They work with the Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District to support dog parks in the city, which include:

Mission Oaks Park at 5501 Mission Oaks Boulevard has a designated off-leash area open the following time frames: Monday - Friday: 4pm-Dusk; Saturday - Sunday: Dawn-Dusk. Learn more at www.pvrpd.org/parks/park_list/mission_oaks_park.asp.

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Camarillo Grove Park at 6968 E. Camarillo Springs Road has a dedicated dog park that is open daily from 7am to dusk. The entire park is also an off-leash park Mon-Fri. On Sat/Sun, dogs are allowed off-leash only in the enclosed dog park area. You must pay to park here; $3/day weekdays, $5/day weekends and $55 for an annual permit. www.pvrpd.org/parks/park_list/camarillo_grove_park.asp.

The Springville Dog Park opened in September 2012 at 801 Via Zamora, Camarillo. Open 7 am to dusk daily; closed Fri mornings until 10:00 am for lawn maintenance.  www.pvrpd.org/parks/park_list/springville_park.asp

Simi Valley

The Simi Dog Park at 2151 Lost Canyons Drive is open daily from 7 am to dusk and is closed for maintenance on Thursdays from 7 am to 10 am. There's a separate area for large and small dogs. To get to the dog park, enter through Big Sky Park. www.rsrpd.org/simi_valley/parks/simi_dog_park.php

Oak Park

The Oak Canyon Dog Park is located towards the top of Oak Canyon Community Park, 5600 Hollytree Drive. Open 7 am to dusk daily; closed 7 am to 10 am Fridays for maintenance. There are areas for large and small dogs. www.rsrpd.org/oak_park/parks/oak_canyon_dog_park.php.

A view from above of the nicely appointed Oak Canyon Dog Park in Oak Park.

A view from above of the nicely appointed Oak Canyon Dog Park in Oak Park.

Ojai

The County of Ventura maintains the Mitchell Edelson Dog Park at Soule Park, 1301 Soule Park Road, Ojai. Open at 7:30 am daily and closes at 5 pm Nov-Feb, 6 pm Mar and Oct, 7:30 pm Apr, May, Sep and 8 pm Jun-Aug. Parking is $2 per vehicle on weekday; $4 on weekends/holidays. There are areas for larger dogs and dogs under 20 lbs. www.ventura.org/gsa/parks/mitchell-edelson-dog-park-at-soule-park

Oxnard

There is a designated dog park at College Park, 3250 South Rose Avenue, Oxnard. It is open 7 am to dusk daily. An additional dog park is at Campus Park at 5th and H Streets. Also open dawn to dusk daily.

Ventura

There is a non-gated off-leash dog park area at Arroyo Verde Park at the corner of Foothill and Day Roads in Ventura. It is available for off-leash use Tuesday through Sunday from 6 am to 9 am. 

There's a fenced in dog park at Camino Real Park at Dean Drive and Varsity Street in Ventura. Open every day from dawn to dusk.

More information at THIS LINK.

Calabasas

The Calabasas "Bark Park" is located at 4232 Las Virgenes Road. Open 5 am to 9 pm daily. www.cityofcalabasas.com/recreation/barkpark.html.

View of the Calabasas Bark Park from the Bark Park Trail.

View of the Calabasas Bark Park from the Bark Park Trail.

Arroyo Simi Bike Path in Simi Valley

The Arroyo Simi Bike Path is a two lane bike path in Simi Valley that runs from Madera Road, just south of Easy Street on the west, ending at Cochran Avenue between Fig Street and Ralston Street on the east. Roughly 6 to 7 miles. It is also referred to as the Arroyo Simi Greenway.

The Arroyo Simi is a waterway that begins at Corriganville Park in east Simi Valley and extends west all the way through Simi Valley until into merges into Arroyo Las Posas and Conejo Creek into Calleguas Creek. It is managed by the County of Ventura but the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District has access to the pathway for recreational use.

While this path is nowhere near as visually appealing as bike paths along Ventura Beach and such, the Arroyo Simi Bike Path is almost entirely flat and allows passageway along much of Simi Valley from east to west. You can really do a lot of exploration from this artery. We like to park at the East Street entry point and bike to Rancho Simi Community Park (2.2 miles one way), Rancho Santa Susana Park (6 miles one way) and various other areas.

Because this path is so long and flat (and not crowded), it is a nice destination for learning to ride. However, do be aware that there are a number of street crossings where you are asked to walk your bike across. They are protected by lights and signs, however.

Arroyo Simi bike path entry point at Easy Street and Madera.

Arroyo Simi bike path entry point at Easy Street and Madera.

Arroyo Simi Bike path may not be the most picturesque path but is nicely flat and goes a long way!

Arroyo Simi Bike path may not be the most picturesque path but is nicely flat and goes a long way!

There are numerous entry points to the path, which largely parallels Los Angeles Avenue; this one is just east of Ralston off of Los Angeles Avenue.

There are numerous entry points to the path, which largely parallels Los Angeles Avenue; this one is just east of Ralston off of Los Angeles Avenue.

Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Islands National Park

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The Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Islands National Park features a bookstore, a display of marine aquatic life, including a tidepool, and exhibits featuring the unique character of each park island. Visitors also can enjoy the 25-minute park movie, “A Treasure in the Sea,” shown throughout the day in the auditorium.

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The visitor center is located at 1901 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura at the end of Spinnaker Drive, past Ventura Harbor Village and across the street from the kid-friendly Harbor Cove Beach. It is open 8:30 am until 5 pm daily. The visitor center is closed on Thanksgiving and December 25th.

On weekends and holidays at 11 am and 3 pm rangers offer a variety of free public programs about the resources of the park. Learn more on the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/chis/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm or call 805.658.5730.

Who is Robert J. Lagomarsino, you ask. He was born in September 1926 in Ventura County. He served in the California Senate from 1961 to 1974 and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1974 until 1992. He is also a former mayor of Ojai. from 1958 to 1961. As a State Senator, he introduced the first legislation authorizing a public university for Ventura County.

Conejo Valley Botanic Garden - Thousand Oaks

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The Conejo Valley Botanic Garden is a 33 acre retreat of hiking trails and natural habitat adjacent to Conejo Community Park off of Lynn Road and Gainsborough. 

CVBG now offers plant sales (weather permitting) every Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. featuring California native and drought tolerant plants. Reasonable prices! Enter at the Kids' Adventure Garden entrance (400 W. Gainsborough Road).

This is really a special place to bring the kids for low key hike.  There are numerous trails and a short walk/hike to the top of the mountain rewards you with sweeping views of the entire Conejo Valley, from Westlake Village to Thousand Oaks to Newbury Park.

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Here is what you'll find at the CVBG:

  • The Nature Trail is 3/4 of a mile long and meanders above the creek through oaks and willows. This is a moderate trail.

  • The Little Loop Trail leads you above the creek, through chaparral and around a meadow.

  • The Native Plant Section and Lower Meadow feature southern and northern California plants.

  • Lillian's Meadow showcases perennials, shrubs and trees that thrive with minimal water.

  • The Salvia Garden delights hummingbirds and butterflies.

  • The Butterfly Garden is a safe haven that provides nectar and food sources for butterflies and caterpillars.

  • The Nursery houses workspace for the plant propagation team and hosts plant sales.

  • The Herb Garden exhibits an extensive and unusual collection of medicinal, kitchen and aromatic herbs.

  • The Bird Habitat has a fresh water source and is planted with native plants that provide year-round food source for birds.

  • The Australian Section features collection of plants from down under.

  • The Desert Garden hilltop landscape features cacti, succulents and desert trees and provides a panoramic view of the Conejo Valley.

  • The Rare Fruit Orchard holds an extensive collection of trees.

  • The Tranquility Garden is planted in the Japanese style featuring California native plants.

  • The Oak Tree Grove has many species of North American and other oak trees.

  • The Trail of Trees exhibits 50 trees with a variety of genera.

If you have small kids, they will love the Kids' Adventure Garden and treehouse, open on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  They'll enjoy hiking through the trails and exploring the streams and bridges.

Conejo Valley Botanic Garden is located at 400 West Gainsborough Road, Thousand Oaks.  For more information visit www.conejogarden.org.

Desert Garden at the top of the hill, featuring cacti, succulents, etc.

Desert Garden at the top of the hill, featuring cacti, succulents, etc.

Japanese style Tranquility Garden featuring native California plants

Japanese style Tranquility Garden featuring native California plants

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101 Escape Rooms in Westlake Village

101 Escape Rooms is located at 31139 Via Colinas #210, Westlake Village, across the street from the Four Seasons Westlake Village. Open 7 days a week. Offering interactive fun trying to escape from a room, using puzzles and clues. Current rooms (as of June 2019) include Starship Libra, Old Sparky and Altamira. Learn more at www.101escaperooms.com.

Disc Golf in Ventura County

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Looking for disc golf options in Ventura County? You’ve come to the right place. These are all available to the public, free of charge.

The newest disc golf option is at Sapwi Trails Community Park in Thousand Oaks. The course has 19 holes. Hole #1 is located off the parking lot on Avenida de los Arboles at Kensington Drive. The park and course opened in March 2019. and is managed by the Conejo Recreation and Park District (CRPD).

Rabbit Flats Disc Golf Course is located on the west end of Thousand Oaks Community Park, 2525 N. Moorpark Road (next to Thousand Oaks High School). This course opened to the public in May 2010. Park managed by CRPD.

Coyote Point Disc Golf Course is an 18 hole course located at Lake Casitas, 11311 Santa Ana Road, Ventura.

Chaparral Park, located at 217 N. Medea Creek Lane in Oak Park, has a newer 10 hole course. Course map at THIS LINK (that link also provides detailed instructions on how to play!). Park is managed by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District (RSRPD).

Also managed by RSRPD is a 12 hole disc Sycamore Park Disc Golf Course at Sycamore Park, 855 N. Planetree Avenue, Simi Valley. Detailed map and instructions at THIS LINK.

There is yet another disc golf course located at Sequoia Park, 2150 Tracy Avenue, Simi Valley. Also managed by RSRPD, this is a 9-hole course. Course map and instructions at THIS LINK.

Finally, there is a 9-hole disc golf course located at Lake Piru Recreation Area, 4780 Piru Canyon Road, Piru.

Lake Piru Recreation Area

Lake Piru Recreation Area

The 60 acre Lake Piru Recreation Area is located on the western shore of Lake Piru, an artificial lake in the Los Padres National Forest. Lake Piru offers 238 tree-shaded campsites, coin-operated hot showers and a store. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring and grill top.

The dam is owned and operated by the United Water Conservation District of Santa Paula and a third party operates the campsite; visit campone.com/campsites/lake-piru for more information. Boat rentals and fishing available as well as a newer children's playground area.  Make camping reservations by calling 805.521.1500.

Lake Piru in Summer 2015

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 June 2019 are: The Wizard’s Lair, We Are All Mad Here, Mermaid’s Curse and The Attic. Pricing is $39 per person.

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.