Gardens of the World - Thousand Oaks

Gardens of the World at 2001 Thousand Oaks Boulevard is a 4 1/2 acre garden across from the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks.  It is free and open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Gardens of the World is a gift from the Hogan Family Foundation.

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GOTW is a stunning oasis of beauty, smack dab in the middle of Thousand Oaks. There is a large bandstand in the center of the Gardens that is a perfect venue for outdoor music.  And the array of plants, flowers, waterfalls (including a stunning fountain that looks out toward the Civic Arts Plaza) and a serene koi pond next to an authentic Japanese Pagoda.

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There is a Japanese garden, a French garden and waterfall (shown above), a Mission Courtyard, an English perennial and rose garden and an Italian garden.  A beautiful place to visit and relax for a bit, right in the heart of Thousand Oaks.  Also a great place for a picnic lunch, with plenty of tables, benches and grassy areas. More info at www.gardensoftheworld.info or 805.557.1135.

I never promised you a rose garden...but here's a beautiful one to check out!

I never promised you a rose garden...but here's a beautiful one to check out!

Koi pond in the Japanese Garden

Koi pond in the Japanese Garden

Shaded picnic area

Shaded picnic area

Since 2003, Gardens of the World has hosted a great Jazz Series on Sunday afternoons in August in this traditional American Bandstand area.

Since 2003, Gardens of the World has hosted a great Jazz Series on Sunday afternoons in August in this traditional American Bandstand area.

Camarillo Ranch House

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The Camarillo Ranch House is a 3-story, 14 room, 6,000 square foot Victorian home built by Adolfo Camarillo in 1892.  Adolfo is the son of Juan Camarillo, who purchased the land in 1866.  Adolfo operated the ranch from the time of Juan's death in 1880 until 1948.  Adolfo's name proliferates in Camarillo and the local high school was named after him after he gave 50 acres of land for that use.

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The 4.5 acre ranch was given to the City of Camarillo by the Centex Company in 1997.  Today the property includes the house, a historic red barn and a stable.  In 2001, the City of Camarillo completed a $1.5 million restoration of the beautiful home to exhibit what it looked like during the 1914 to 1930 time frame. The Camarillo Ranch was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

The Camarillo Ranch is open to the public 7 days a week, 9am-5pm, unless there is holiday or special event. There is no charge to visit the property and walk the grounds during normal hours. The gardens have interpretive signs and there are also picnic benches available for use at lunchtime.

Docent-led tours of the house are currently (as of June 2017) offered on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (last tour starts at 2 p.m.) but effective 7/1/17 will noon to 3 p.m. Donation of $5 per visitor is requested.

The property is used for many special events and can be reserved for private events like weddings and receptions.

The Camarillo Ranch House is located at 201 Camarillo Ranch Road.  Visit www.camarilloranch.org or call 805.389.8182 for more information.

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Morton Bay Fig Tree

Morton Bay Fig Tree

Westlake Lake in Westlake Village

Westlake Lake is a 125 acre lake with 8 miles of shoreline in Westlake Village. Over 1,300 homes are located on the lake or are within access of it. It is a man-made lake that was completed in 1969 at a cost of $3.5 million.  A number of homes are located on an island in the lake that is connected by La Venta ("The Bridge") Road.

View of Westlake Lake from southwest side on Triunfo Canyon Road. The Landing is on the left side.

View of Westlake Lake from southwest side on Triunfo Canyon Road. The Landing is on the left side.

While Westlake Lake is a private lake maintained for Westlake Village residents by the Westlake Lake Management Association, you can still enjoy its beauty in many ways. Running, cycling and walking around the lake via Triunfo Canyon and other adjacent streets is quite popular. Or visit The Landing (32129 Lindero Canyon) on the southwest side of the lake to enjoy a meal at one of several lakefront restaurants (such as Boccacio's and Zin Bistro Americana). Or just stroll around, taking in the sweeping view and serenity.

View from the southwest side of the Lake while cycling on Lindero Canyon Road.

The lake is stocked with bass but fishing and boating is restricted to Westlake Village residents with guests and permits. So if you don't live there, start making some Westlake Village friends!

Train Rides at Fillmore and Western Railway - Fillmore

Take a vintage train ride at the historic Fillmore and Western Railway in Downtown Fillmore, only 30 miles from the Conejo Valley. Trains here date back to the 1930s. Most were acquired from MGM, Paramount and 20th Century Fox studios in the late 1960s and have been used in numerous Hollywood films.

Trains at Fillmore and Western Railway
Trains at Fillmore and Western Railway

There are dinner rides throughout the year with names like Margarita Madness, The Wine Train, Mardi Gras Train, Chinese New Year Train and a New Year’s Eve party train. There are event rides including scenic tours to Santa Paula and a Murder Mystery Ride. There are kids events like Day out with Thomas the Tank Engine, Dinner with Santa, North Pole Express and a Pumpkin Patch ride.

Fillmore and Western Railway is located at 351 Santa Clara Street in Fillmore.  Visit www.fwry.com for a full schedule of events or call 805.524.2546.

Strathearn Historical Park and Museum in Simi Valley

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Strathearn Historical Park and Museum is located at 137 Strathearn Place, Simi Valley (off of Tierra Rejada Road, just east of Madera). The Park is operated jointly by the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District and the Simi Valley Historical Society.

This is a six acre site that houses numerous historical Simi Valley area artifacts and structures. The namesake of the Park is Robert P. and Mary Gray Lamb Strathearn. Originally from Scotland, they purchased 15,000 acres of the old Spanish Rancho and built their Victorian-style farmhouse onto the front of the Simi Adobe.

Stroll through history at the site, which includes the original Saint Rose of Lima Church built in 1902, the Simi Adobe, Strathearn House, Colony House (the first historic building to be relocated to Strathearn Park in 1970), the original Simi Library built in 1930 and used until a new library was built in 1962, two original Wood Ranch barns from the 1940s, the Simi Store gift shop, the Banaga Barbershop and more.

As of January 2017, the park is open 9 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday and 1-4 pm Saturday/Sunday. Hour and a half long docent-led tours inside of the buildings take place, for a $3 donation, on Sat/Sun from 1-4pm and at 1pm on W/Th/F. The Visitor Center and park grounds are open for self-guided tours.

For more information, visit www.simihistory.com or call 805.526.6543.

The Strathearn House

The Strathearn House

The precursor to Simi Valley Town Center

The precursor to Simi Valley Town Center

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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 $8 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 August 2016) are Adults 13-64: $17, Children 2-12 $10, Seniors 65+: $13 and Children under 2: Free. Parking: $7 (free with SB Zoo Membership)

Santa Barbara Audubon Aviary

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Eyes in the Sky (EITS) is an education program with the Santa Barbara Audubon Society (SBAS) that brings a variety of programs to children and adults in the Santa Barbara area. EITS features wildlife messengers - birds of prey native to the area that are no longer capable of surviving in the wild. 

The SBAS has teamed with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (2559 Puesta del Sol, Santa Barbara) to build the Santa Barbara Audubon Aviary, a physical structure located in the "backyard" area of the Museum. The Aviary is open every afternoon between 2 and 4PM. During this time, volunteers bring the birds out for exercise, sunshine, misting/baths and close up encounters with visitors.  We have seen these animals up close and they are quite impressive!

For more information, visit www.eyesinthesky.org.

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Kisa the Peregrine Falcon

Kisa the Peregrine Falcon

Reyes Adobe Historical Site - Agoura Hills

Reyes Adobe Historical Site in Agoura
Reyes Adobe Historical Site in Agoura

The Reyes Adobe Historical Site at 5464 Reyes Adobe Road, Agoura represents the first home built in Agoura Hills back in 1850.  The City of Agoura Hills purchased the site from Los Angeles County in 1983 and maintains the adobe structure as a museum and cultural center.  The home was built by Jose Paulino Reyes, son of Jose Jacinto Reyes, the second son of Juan Francisco Reyes, a Mexican soldier on the Portola expedition that was granted local land in 1837.

Check out the house, courtyard, barn and various artifacts preserved at the site by taking a tour.  And don't miss the annual Reyes Adobe Days celebration that takes place every fall (usually early October) at the site.

Adjacent to the site is Reyes Adobe Park.

Docent led tours on Tuesdays from 10am to 2pm and 2nd and 4th Saturdays from 1-4pm. Suggested donation is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors, $1 for ages 5-12 and free for 4 and under. More information at www.ci.agoura-hills.ca.us/visitors/reyes-adobe-historical-site or call 818.597.7361.

The Painted Cabernet in Oxnard

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The Painted Cabernet at The Collection at RiverPark in Oxnard offers guests an opportunity to show off their artistic side under the watchful eyes of a trained instructor, while having a glass of wine in the process, offering an upscale urban studio, in a friendly, hip and creative environment for an evening on the town, a bachelorette party, a bit of “me” time or an out-of-the-ordinary date night.

The classes are a stress-free group setting where an artist instructor will guide you step-by-step replicating the featured painting, while giving you the time to sip a little wine, visit with your neighbor, listen to some great music and have a fun night out. Guests will be sure to go home with a painting that is uniquely their own.

Painted Cabernet also is available for private events, perfect for bridal showers, birthday parties, baby showers, corporate events, church groups and more.

An online calendar is up at paintedcabernet.com and reservations can be made by calling 805-963-9979.

Wheel Fun Rentals - Bike Rentals - Ventura

With a number of locations in Ventura and Santa Barbara, Wheel Fun Rentals provides a nice assortment of bicycles, quads, coupes, surreys, tag-alongs and other 2 to 4 wheel human powered vehicles for rides along the beach. They also offer a wide assortment of water vehicles...boats, surfboards, boogie boards, etc.

Nearby locations as of June 2013 are:

Oxnard- Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort, 2101 Mandalay Beach Road, Oxnard (805.984.1994)

Oxnard - Channel Islands Marine Emporium Landing, 3600 S. Harbor Blvd, Oxnard (805.382.6233)

Ventura - Crowne Plaza, 450 E. Harbor Blvd (805.648.2100)

Ventura - Four Points by Sheraton, 1050 Schooner Drive (805.658.1212)

Ventura Pier 850 Harbor Blvd., Ventura (805.650.7770)

Ventura State Beach Picnic Area, 901 San Pedro, Ventura (805.650.7770)

Ventura- Marriott 2055 Harbor Blvd., Ventura (805.643.6000)

Santa Barbara - Fess Parker's Double Tree Resort 633 East Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara (805.966.2282)

Santa Barbara - Cabrillo, 23 East Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara  (805.966.2282)

Santa Barbara - State Street, 22 State Street, Santa Barbara (805.966.2282)

Santa Barbara - The Hyatt, 1111 East Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara (805.966.2282)

They also do group and teambuilding activities. For more information visit www.wheelfunrentals.com or call 805.650.7770.

The Derby Club at Ventura County Fairgrounds

The Derby Club at Ventura County FairgroundsBet the ponies from across the country in a beautiful setting by the Pacific Ocean.  And I'm not talking Del Mar.  The Derby Club located at Ventura County Fairgrounds features full service bars and restaurants combined with the ability to watch races and bet on them through satellite wagering. Have a snack, a drink or a meal while you watch your favorite horse at your favorite track. There is no membership.

Located at 10 W. Harbor Boulevard, Ventura. Visit http://venturacountyfair.org/pages/3780/ or call 805.653.2533 for more information.

Open Wednesday through Monday. Hours of operation and admission vary according to the area to be enjoyed, the type of racing to be simulcast (thoroughbred, harness, or quarter horse) and whether racing is during the day or the evening. Information and pricing below was last updated in Summer 2012:

The Island View Room is open for any racing on Saturdays, Sundays and special race days. Admission is $12 (seniors 62 and older and military personnel $10.00)

The Surfside Room is open for all southern host track thoroughbred racing. Admission is $8.00 (seniors 62 and older and military personnel $6.00)

The Shore Room is open for all racing, day and night. Admission is $4.00 (seniors 62 and older and military personnel $2.00)

Admission for nighttime quarter horse and harness racing is free, except when southern host track thoroughbreds are racing. No one under the age of 18 is permitted to the Derby Club.

Special Events: Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, Preakness Stakes, Breeder’s Cup