Simi Valley Town Center

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The Simi Valley Town Center is a 600,000 sq ft open-air shopping, dining and entertainment center in the heart of Simi Valley, off the 118 freeway between First Street and Erringer Road at 1555 Simi Town Center Way.  This mall opened in fall 2005. 

Eateries at the Town Center include Corner Bakery Cafe, California Pizza Kitchen, Coconut Crab, Larsen's Grill, Red Robin and Buffalo Wild Wings. Macy's anchors the west end of the mall (the east end, also previously a Macy’s is vacant as of December 2018). There’s also Jamba Juice, Go Fish Sushi, Starbucks, Sweetie’s Sweet Shop, Chocolate Savvy, Dip It! Chocolates and Simi Valley Home Brew.

The 41,211 sq ft Studio Movie Grill opened at the Town Center on October 22, 2015, with nine screens and over 950 seats. It is a beautiful theater offering stadium seating and fixed lounge seats with individual dining tables and service.

This is also a nice mall for the kids, as there is plenty of room to run around and explore in the open air setting.  There is a kids' play area, oak trees, mosaic dragon, outdoor fireplace, koi pond and gardens to explore.  There are also train rides available for $2 per child at Center Court.

Lot of shops geared towards the kids, including Black Belt USA Tak Kwon Do, Gotta Dance, Inspire Dance Studio, As You Wish Pottery Painting Place, Kid Gloves Boxing, Rockin’ Kids Play Center and the new Skateboarding Hall of Fame Museum and Skate U across from the Vans store opening December 15, 2018.

Other shops include the Five Below discount store that opened on October 12, 2018, Marshalls, Tilly’s, Lewis Galleries, Gymboree, Victoria’s Secret, Brighton Collectibles and more.

There’s also the Museum of Military History Posters and Memorabilia. Quite an impressive array of military posters and artifacts on hand.

 Small outdoor kids' play area (geared towards little ones)

Small outdoor kids' play area (geared towards little ones)

Visit www.shopsimivalleytowncenter.com for more information.

Previously at the Simi Valley Town Center:

A lot of businesses have come and gone from the Simi Valley Town Center in years past. Here are some of them.

Apple Store (9/15/17), Urban Home, Limon Latin Grill, Souplantation (9/25/16), Anthopologie, Brookstone, Chico’s, Coldwater Creek, Eddie Bauer, Forever 21, Gamestop, Haagen-Dazs, Gymboree Play & Music, Hot Dog on a Stick, Hot Topic, J. Stephens, Jos. A Bank, Lane Bryant, Lucky Brand Jeans, Nine West, The Body Shop, Things RememberedUrban Outfitters, White House Black Market, Z Gallerie, Zales and Zumies, among others.

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, elephants, emus, 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.

The zoo is open on weekends with an admission fee of $8 for adults and $6 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.

Malibu Creek State Park

Malibu Creek State Park is closed until further notice due to the November 2018 Woolsey Fire. State Parks lost some structures, such as employee residences, the historic Sepulveda Adobe, Red House, White Oak Barn and Reagan Ranch. For the latest information on how the wildfires have impacted state parks, visit www.parks.ca.gov/newsroom

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Malibu Creek State Park is accessible in Calabasas, at 1925 Las Virgenes Road, south of Mulholland. The park contains 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!

Century Lake Hike at Malibu Creek State Park

Chumash Indian Museum / Oakbrook Regional Park

NOTE: MUSEUM AND PARK TEMPORARILY CLOSED AS A RESULT OF DAMAGE SUSTAINED FROM THE WOOLSEY FIRE IN NOVEMBER 2018. CHECK THE WEBSITE AND FACEBOOK PAGE FOR UPDATES.

Reported 11/11/18: Oakbrook Park sustained fire damage and the replica Chumash village was completely lost. However, a majority of the oak trees survived.

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Located in Lang Ranch at the top of Westlake Boulevard near Avenida de los Arboles at 3290 Lang Ranch Parkway, Thousand Oaks, the Chumash Interpretative Center / Chumash Indian Museum contains Chumash artifacts and historical items, nature walks and tours of the beautiful local Oakbrook Regional Park area.  The museum is open Saturdays from 10am to 4pm. Admission price is $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors 65+ and $3.00 for children under 12. There is no charge to walk the trails in the park.

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The Chumash Indian Museum is located on a historical Chumash village site and contains a large collection of Chumash artifacts.

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Stroll around the 436 acre Oakbrook Regional Park, a Ventura County historical landmark #90 (designated in 1983). 

Contact the Center for more information about these and other events, field trips, weddings and birthday parties at www.chumashmuseum.org or 805.492.8076.

To protect the wildlife, dogs are not allowed here.

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Golf N' Stuff Ventura

For hours of amusement check out Golf N' Stuff off of Highway 101 in eastern Ventura. Golf N' Stuff features two 18-hole miniature golf courses, Indy style race cars (go-karts), bumper boats, bumper cars, laser tag and a large arcade. You must be 4' 8" tall to drive the go-karts and at least 4' tall to drive the bumper boats and bumper cars.

 The famous Golf N' Stuff Castle seen from Highway 101 in Ventura.

The famous Golf N' Stuff Castle seen from Highway 101 in Ventura.

Wow, talk about a fun venue for a kid's birthday party! Parties include pizza, cake, golf, rides, etc. Lots of things to do for everyone at Golf N' Stuff. The arcade is one of the largest around town.

Golf N' Stuff is open 365 days per year! Yes, it is even open Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day! There is also a snack bar that serves an assortment of items, like mini pizzas, hot dogs and pretzels. Enough to provide plenty of carbs for your activities.

Sign up for their email club and receive periodic special deals, like 2 for 1 mini golf, etc. A no brainer. There are also printable coupons on the Golf N Stuff site at golfnstuff.com/ventura/coupons.html.

Golf N' Stuff is located at 5555 Walker Street, Ventura. More info at www.golfnstuff.com or call 805.644.7131.

Exit the 101 off Victoria, head North to Moon Drive, which turns into Walker, and turn left. The park is on the right hand side.

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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, 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, Rhumb Line, 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).

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, JCPenney, The Apple Store, Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma and J.Crew.

Restaurants include The Cheesecake Factory, STACKED Food Well Built, The Lazy Dog Café, Red Robin, Olive Garden, Urban Plates, Chipotle and PizzaRev as well as numerous options in the food court area.

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 outdoor shops area on the east side of the mall that leads to AMC Thousand Oaks 14 and adjacent restaurants.

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

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.

Color Me Mine Ceramics Studio in Calabasas

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Are you looking for a creative way to spend quality time with the ones you love? Paint ceramics with your friends and family at Color Me Mine at 23641 Calabasas Road, Calabasas! Pick from hundreds of ceramic pieces for kids, the kitchen, bath, pets and more. Design and paint them any way you like. We have over 70 underglaze colors to choose from. Not an artist? Not to worry! We have talented and friendly staff to help you. We'll fire your one-of-a-kind ceramic masterpiece for you to take home and enjoy.  More information at www.calabasas.colormemine.com or call 818.222.4922.

Color Me Mine Paint Your Own Ceramics Studio in Oxnard

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Are you looking for a creative way to spend quality time with the ones you love? Paint ceramics with your friends and family at Color Me Mine Paint Your Own Ceramics Studio located at The Collection at Riverpark, at 2710 Portico Way, Oxnard!

Color Me Mine is a ceramic painting studio where you drop by anytime and paint a pre-made bisque pieces. 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 then glaze and fire your work in a kiln and your work of art will be available in 5 to 7 days.

In addition to a vast array of tableware, painters can select from a variety of vases, frames, jewelry boxes, figurines, and more!

More information at www.oxnard.colormemine.com or call 805.981.8631.

As You Wish Pottery Painting Place in Simi Valley

As You Wish Pottery Painting Place is located at the Simi Valley Town Center. This is a large, nicely appointment ceramics/painting studio where you select a piece of pottery off the shelves, paint it and a few days later pick up your beautiful, glazed work of art!

Great place for birthday parties, team building, family nights, fundraising and more. Visit www.asyouwishpottery.com or call 805.520.9500 for more information. Open seven days a week.

Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls in Malibu

 Trailhead on Winding Way

Trailhead on Winding Way

The Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfalls is located off of Winding Way in Malibu.  It also also referred to as Escondido Falls.

The most unique aspect to Escondido Falls is that it is home to the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains at over 150 feet, making it a wonderful place to visit. 

That said, in drought years, there is often no sign of waterfall, other than a sparse trickle into Escondido Canyon Creek. But even when that is the case, this is a wonderful, moderate hike, good for all ages. 

To get to Escondido Falls from the Conejo Valley/101, take Kanan south to PCH and turn left. You'll be driving just under 2 miles, past Paradise Cove, to the small parking lot on Winding Way and PCH. Turn left onto Winding Way and an immediate left into the parking lot. There's a sign; you can't miss it. The lot has spaces for only around 16 vehicles; it is full, you'll have to find a spot on PCH and make you way from there...but be careful and watch for the plentiful "no parking" signs on PCH.

(NOTE: Recently - summer 2018 time frame - an $8 per car parking fee was initiated at this parking lot. It takes both cash and credit cards. Parking fees contribute to the ongoing maintenance of the trails, including porta potty cleanings, graffiti and trash removal and partial staffing.)

 The parking area is on Winding Way and PCH. The initial section of the hike is along Winding Way is called the Winding Way Trail.

The parking area is on Winding Way and PCH. The initial section of the hike is along Winding Way is called the Winding Way Trail.

The hike is about 4 miles round trip and can be done in as fast as an hour (if you speed walk and don't hang out) or for most, a couple hours.

The first 8/10ths of a mile is along Winding Way to the trailhead. It has a moderate hill but is not that bad. Near the peak of the initial hill, you will need to cross from the left side of the street to the right side as you make your way up. There are signs that ask that you walk on the dirt trail rather than on the street, so try to abide by that. You will be treated to views of beautiful homes and ocean views along this portion of your trek.

After a short final downhill section, you'll reach the trailhead. After an initial left turn that takes you briefly west, most of the rest of the trail to Escondido Falls is a northeast to northerly direction. You'll be treated to lush oak woodlands and greenery year-round.  

 Much of the trail looks like this; canopied by oaks and shrub.

Much of the trail looks like this; canopied by oaks and shrub.

Hikers, equestrians and bikers are all welcome on the trail. Dogs too, on leash of course. I have not seen bikers on this trail, however. There are no restrooms, other than a porta-john at the parking lot. No drinking fountains, so bring water. There are trash cans at the trailhead. 

The waterfall is a treat to see but the rest of the hike is quite nice too, largely shaded and not too hilly or technical. There is a net elevation gain from 150' at the trailhead to 325' at the Falls over about a mile, which is not bad.

After the rainy season, you may have to cross the creek a few times as it criss-crosses the trail. There are a couple forks in the road where you may wonder which way to go. Generally speaking, turn left on your way to the falls and that will get you there.

 Believe it or not, this is the end of the trail, where the waterfall flows after the rainy season. In late August pictured here, there is a dribble of water flowing into the creek.

Believe it or not, this is the end of the trail, where the waterfall flows after the rainy season. In late August pictured here, there is a dribble of water flowing into the creek.

The parkland ends at the multi-tiered waterfall area and the trail basically ends. Except, there are paths that can get you to the upper falls. Technically you are not supposed to do this because you are no longer on public land, not to mention you are literally rock climbing your way up there and it can be dangerous. But (shame on me) yes, we did check it out and wow is it neat to see, even when there is zero water flow.

This is a fun, family-friendly hike that is worth a try. Quite popular, one could argue, too popular, on weekends.

 There's one side trail to the east that will give you views of the waterfall when it is flowing. The white-ish area in the upper right hand of this photo is where the waterfall resides.

There's one side trail to the east that will give you views of the waterfall when it is flowing. The white-ish area in the upper right hand of this photo is where the waterfall resides.

Why is it named after Edward Albert? Well, Edward Albert is the only son of actor Eddie Albert, well known for his role on TV sitcom "Green Acres." Edward died at age 55 in 2006. Prior to his death, he was a tireless advocate for preserving Escondido Canyon. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy named the area in honor of him several months prior to his death. (1)

Escondido Canyon Park map at THIS LINK. Visit the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy site at www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=12.

(1) Los Angeles Times obituary dated 9/27/06 at this link.