Don’t argue with me: Ventura County is pretty much the best place to live.
By Misty Hall
Coming from a VC native, I’m sure that sounds a little biased, but there are myriad stats to prove my point.
It’s on numerous “Best Of” lists. The U.S. Department of Agriculture named Ventura County the most desirable place to live in America in 2015, and VC consistently comes up on the country’s “safest places to live” lists. Whether you’re indoorsy or outdoorsy, a drinker or a thinker, artsy or agricultural, VC has you covered.
In Ventura County, you can camp right on the beach (Emma Wood, Hobson, Faria), hike in the mountains to secret waterfalls and swimming holes (Rose Valley, Punch Bowls), explore vast outdoor malls (The Collection, Camarillo Outlets), or even peruse a presidential library (Ronald Reagan’s, in Simi Valley).
While we can’t possibly list all of our VC loves in this article alone, here’s a few reasons why living Ventura County life = living your best life.
It’s the stereotypical California life, but for us VC residents, life at the beach is just business as usual. If you’re used to the Los Angeles beaches — or any metropolitan area beaches — then you’re in for a shock at the VC beaches. With so many miles of sand, you’re sure to find plenty of space to lay your blanket. My favorite: Head up the 101, get off at the State Beaches exit, and keep driving till you find your little piece of paradise. There are also some killer breaks for surfers, like Surfer’s Point, and other spots that are great for groms, like Mondo’s. Just be sure to bring a trash bag and pick up after yourself!
Get your culture fix
Maybe it’s Ventura County’s proximity to L.A., but live music is huge around here. Cruise downtown in almost any town on a weekend, and you’ll find everything from experimental jazz to mariachi, EDM to bluegrass. If you’re looking for a more formal venue to explore music, there’s the decades-old Ojai Music Festival (
early June) and the Ventura Music Festival (July). You’ve also got a county fair every summer, which consistently attracts some of music’s most popular groups (from Styx to Collective Soul, Martina McBride to Salt-N-Pepa, Sublime with Rome to Brothers Osborne).
If art is more your thing, head up to art-central Ojai, where there’s an art gallery for every taste in practically every corner (and if you’re there in October, check out the Ojai Studio Artists Tour). In Ventura, we love Latitudes for its nature photography, and Vita Art Center for its diversity of offerings as well as its year-round classes.
Theater fans will love the Ojai Art Center, Ventura’s Rubicon, the Santa Paula Theater Center, the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, and others. For comedy fans, be sure to check out the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club and Oxnard Levity Live — both of which attract top names you’ll see on Netflix specials, Comedy Central, and beyond.
Ventura County is home to two beautiful harbors: the Ventura Harbor and the Channel Islands Harbor. Both offer restaurants, shopping, bars, activities, and boat trips to the Channel Islands National Parks for maritime tours, island adventures, sport fishing, scuba diving, kayaking, whale watching, and more. In Ventura, there’s also a carousel and video games, an escape room, and the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center. In the Channel Islands Harbor, be sure to check out the Maritime Museum, the Scarlett Belle Paddlewheel Riverboat, the weekly farmer’s market, and seasonal festivals.
Museums or bust
Santa Paula has some surprisingly fascinating museums, like the California Oil Museum, the Aviation Museum, and the VC Museum of Agriculture. Ventura has Mission San Buenaventura — one of California’s many historic missions — and the Museum of Ventura County. Of course, there’s the not-to-be-missed Ronald Reagan Library out in Simi Valley, too. There are also military museums, science museums, maritime museums, Chumash museums, and more. It’s pretty amazing, the amount of history this area possesses, and the passion its residents have for preserving and protecting that history.
Tastings. All. The. Tastings.
VC is home to countless wineries and breweries, and an increasing number of companies manufacturing spirits, too.
In Ojai, you’ll find a hot-spot of wineries and tasting rooms, like Old Creek Ranch, Ojai Vineyard, Majestic Oak, Casa Barranca, Topa Mountain Winery, and Boccali’s (among others). Head down to Ventura and you’ll find a growing list of breweries, like Topa Topa Brewing Co, MadeWest, Anacapa, Ventura Coast, and Poseidon (among others). In Oxnard’s industrial area, you can find gems like Herzog that has a rich history of producing incredible kosher wines and a fab restaurant, Tierra Sur, which serves local, seasonal fare that pairs perfectly with their wines. In East County, you’ll want to check out Sunland Vintage, Alma Sol, and Epona Estate (among others).
Ventura Spirits and Channel Island Spirits are churning out some incredible, hyper-local gins, vodkas, brandies, rums, tequilas, and more. (Yeah — among others!)
Look, the point is, there’s a TON to taste, and we can’t possibly list them all, so get out and explore!
Are. You. Kidding. Me. Between the Los Padres National Forest on one side and the Channel Islands on the other, Ventura County offers some of the best hikes in the country. Roughly half of the county — the north western half — is rugged, largely untouched terrain, making it ideal for the outdoorsman. Go rock climbing on Pine Mountain, soak in the Sespe Hot Springs, take a dip in Paradise Falls, explore the solitude on Santa Cruz Island (look for the tiny island fox!) … you’ll never run out of spots to fall in love with. For online maps we like hikelospadres.com, but nothing compares to a good old-fashioned paper map and a call to one of the local Forest Service Ranger Stations. Conditions and road closures vary, and you probably won’t have good cell service, so be sure to know what you’re getting into before you head out.
Ventura County is perfectly situated to take advantage of everything awesome in California. Its miles of coastline and vast mountain ranges may feel a million miles away from the city, but Los Angeles is less than a 2-hour drive from almost anywhere in VC. It’s also about 3 hours to San Diego, and less than 6 hours from San Francisco, Las Vegas, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Are you convinced yet? Keep your eye on future California 101 editions for more insider secrets into the very best of Ventura County.