The Conejo Valley
By Misty Hall
The Conejo Valley is sandwiched between Los Angeles and the ocean, in the easternmost portion of Ventura County. It’s comprised of Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Westlake Village, Oak Park, Agoura Hills, Lake Sherwood, and a portion of Calabasas. And though it’s bisected by two freeways (US-101 and SR-23), it is so much more than a pass-through community.
With lakes (Sherwood, Eleanor, Westlake), several golf courses (Los Robles, Lindero, Westlake, Tierra Rejada), and tons of hiking trails (too many to list!), there’s plenty of outdoor adventures to be had. But there’s ample fun indoors, as well. Conejo Valley has a vibrant cultural scene, with fantastic music and performing arts venues like the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Center, Hillcrest Center for the Arts, and the Canyon Club. Due to the valley’s proximity to Los Angeles, its venues see more than its share of performances from world-class artists.
Conejo Valley also boasts a huge variety of restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries, incredible shopping (The Oaks, The Lakes, Janss), and excellent public and private schools (including a university, Cal Lutheran); there’s even a presidential library (Ronald Reagan’s) a stone’s throw away in Simi Valley.
Not too hot, not too cold, Conejo Valley is the Goldilocks of climate, averaging less than 90 degrees in the summer and rarely dipping below 40 in winter. It’s close to L.A., but has ample opportunities to get lost in nature. It’s got plenty of housing within walking distance of city centers and great small communities to raise kids, with Oak Park topping the list of best places to live in Ventura County (niche.com). But Conejo Valley also boasts some absolutely stunning — and exclusive — communities, like Lake Sherwood, North Ranch, Hidden Valley, and The Oaks of Calabasas.
It’s no wonder the region’s communities are regularly ranked as some of the best places to live in California. Here are some of our favorite reasons why we wholeheartedly agree.
• Explore pretty places and great gardens
There’s so much beauty in Conejo Valley, but you’ve got to get off the freeway to really experience it. Want to feel some serious garden envy? Head to Gardens of the World (gardensoftheworld.info) in Thousand Oaks. You’ll find 4.5 acres of specialty gardens highlighting different locations all over the world, from Spanish to Japanese, English to Italian. The Hogan family went all-out in creating these extensive, carefully maintained and exquisitely beautiful gardens, which are open to the public free of charge. More free garden envy can be found at the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden, also in Thousand Oaks. It boasts 33 acres and 18 different gardens, highlighting geographic regions (California and Australian native plantings) as well as tributes to specific types of plants like herbs, salvias, and those that attract butterflies and birds.
• Get out and hike
If you’re after more natural beauty, check out Conejo Valley’s myriad trails. Newbury Park’s Boney Mountain Overlook Trail is a tough-but-worth-it hike with fascinating geology and killer views extending out to the Channel Islands on a clear day. Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks is a bit easier (if more heavily trafficked), with a loop that clocks in well under three miles. Not surprisingly, its highlight is a waterfall, but don’t bring your bathing suit; swimming isn’t permitted. Great views of the entire Conejo Valley can be seen by hiking China Flats (Oak Park) and Bowfield (Westlake Village). The Conejo Valley also provides easy access into the Santa Monica Mountains for some fantastic Malibu-area hikes.
• Go shop-hopping
As a kid, The Oaks was like the Holy Grail of shopping. It blew my mind how many different kinds of stores there were in this Thousand Oaks mall. And I gotta admit, I still feel that way (especially about the Godiva chocolate store). With more than 180 shops, a movie theater, tons of restaurants, and even an awesome art museum (The California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks), you’re going to want to plan a full-day trip here. Also in Thousand Oaks is the Janss Marketplace. This outdoor mall also boasts a huge variety of shops and restaurants, including Ulta Beauty, Nordstrom Rack, and Dave & Buster’s. Not to be outdone by The Oaks, Janss also has a movie theater and a museum (Conejo Valley Art Museum). There’s also The Lakes at Thousand Oaks. In addition to great shopping and food options, it has a gorgeous pond and lots of events on the calendar that take advantage of its outdoor beauty (including special kids’ activities every Wednesday). Still not enough for you? Check out The Promenade at Westlake. Although fair warning, home décor friends — they have Restoration Hardware AND Sur la Table.
• Get your dine on
Boccaccio’s Restaurant in Westlake Village sits right on Westlake Lake. The location is stunning (watching the sun set, lake-side, over the Santa Monica Mountains is hashtag-amazing), and they’ve got the food and service to match. Mastro’s Steakhouse and Lure Fish House are other local favorites for American fine dining. For something a little different, try Moqueca (Brazilian), Mouthful Eatery (Peruvian), Sesame Inn (Asian), and Ali Baba’s Kitchen (Middle Eastern).
• Learn something new
The Chumash Indian Museum (chumashmuseum.org) in Thousand Oaks preserves and celebrates the local Native American culture. Along with artifacts and hands-on exhibits, the museum also includes a replica Chumash village complete with Chumash huts, known as ‘ap. Learn about the history of the people who have lived in and cared for this area for thousands of years. Check the website for events including periodic talks from members of the local Chumash tribes and special crafts days for kids.
Delve into American history and beyond at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, located just north of Conejo Valley in Simi Valley. It is home to a large library, as well as permanent exhibits like Reagan’s Air Force One (yes, you can go inside!) and a piece of the Berlin Wall. There are also rotating exhibits, from the recently completed Leonardo Da Vinci Exhibition to the Egypt’s Lost Cities Exhibit, which opens Oct. 5. Check out reaganfoundation.org for more.