20 Things You’d be Wise to do in Ventura in 2020

ventura electric bike mission

by Visit Ventura

Sure, it’s only mid-December, and perhaps a tad early for New Year’s Resolutions. But why not start 2020 with a ground-breaking resolution? Stop adhering to the calendar or the status quo. These 20 Ventura charms fly in the face of convention (This year I’ll eat more Brussel sprouts and be nicer to my mother-in-law), AND they’ll see you getting a jump on all the hemmers and hawers.

In 2020, carpe diem Ventura-style…

#1 – Take a Historic Walking Tour

Travel through time in Ventura courtesy of the historical sites that have contributed to Ventura’s past and present. From the San Buenaventura Mission, to the historical murals scattered about town, to the Museum of Ventura County (your go-to site for art and historical facts about Ventura County), the past is your oyster — and a fun window on the present.

Step through Ventura’s 150-year history by picking up a free “Historic Walking Tour Guide” at the Ventura Visitors Center.

elizabeth bard memorial hospital historic walking tour

#2 – Discover Ventura’s vibrant art

Ventura is, and always has been, home to a thriving arts community — and it’s visible almost literally everywhere you turn. Murals in the Santa Clara Street Post Office, on the sides of buildings, even on the utility boxes scattered about the city; paintings adorning the walls of our City Hall (take your own self-guided tour); art galleries and artist enclaves — on the First Friday of the month, the artists at the Bell Arts Factory open their studio doors to the public. You might even spot impromptu art as you walk along the beach. If it’s an improbably ornate rock balancing act, it might be the handiwork of Juan Manuel Cisneros.

Ventura has the gift of finding beauty in the ordinary — and the extraordinary.

art rock on the beach

#3 – Find amazing bargains in Ventura’s thrift and antique shops

Antique junkies and thrift shoppers, Ventura has your fix. Take a sail through the past — and find terrific sale items — in any of Ventura’s thrift stores and antique shops. Uncover great finds and walk all the while — most of the stores are clustered together along Main Street (though if you find a steal of an antique credenza, you might want to have your car), at stores like the Coalition Thrift Store and Jacqueline Jarrot Treasure Chest Thrift Store.

#4 – Throw yourself into a fun fitness class

Okay, it’s a stereotype — but it’s a healthy one. Check out classes with Fit Buddha, Club Pilates or Yoga Jones to get you in shape. Plus, it’s a lot of fun. Really. And keep an eye out for Pop up Yoga classes — they’re often held outside in the Ventura sunshine. They charge a small fee, but it’s a small price to pay for flexibility and serenity. All levels and all ages are welcome.

grant park pop up yoga ventura

image by Heliconia Press – Paddle 365

#5 – Learn to surf

Keeping it simple, Ventura is surfing. Plenty of great folks offer surf lessons in Ventura. Some surf shops offer lessons, too (or they can put you in touch with folks who do). You can’t go wrong with Ventura Makos Surf Camp, Mary Osborne Surf, or Surfclass.com, the latter run by the always-infectious “Chipper Bro” Bell.

From the second you stand, you’ll know the magic.

surf ventura

image by Tana Hayes

#6 – Rent a bike and wheel off to adventure

Near, far, wherever you want to go — your route (along the coast; up into the hills) and equipment (Tandem with a friend? Electric bike for ease?) options are pretty much limitless. Plenty of great places rent all manner of bikes (Wheel Fun Rentals, Cycle Dynamics, Ventura Bike Depot) — and some, like Ventura Bike Depot, offer guided tours.

Head for the hills. Or the flats.

ventura fun wheel rentals pier

image by Maya Sacks

#7 – Yummmmmmm. Sample gelato at Palermo

Maybe a good one after you ride. Stretch your legs out at a patio table in the sun and methodically work your way through their myriad gelatos. Maybe start with their yummy affogato (gelato, yummily drowned in espresso) so you can stay alert for the long haul.

palermo main street coffee

#8 – Visit Ventura’s tasty Taco District

You won’t find more real-deal Mexican food than you will in the 14 restaurants that more or less line Ventura Avenue. Each has its’ specialties and you should try as many as you can. We’ll just address one. You haven’t lived until you’ve sampled Taqueria Ventura Doña Raquel’s fish tacos.

Soft, fresh homemade tortillas, a sublime creamy sauce, just the right amount of cabbage and cilantro filling, topped with juicy fish and a squirt of lime. What? You’re not going to read the rest of this blog?

ventura taco district

#9 – Hit up the happy hours

We are a happy town, and so have the requisite number (dozens) of happy hours — and that means drink and food. Things change, but we have a solution. Stop by the Ventura Visitors Center (101 South California Street) to get your free Happy Hour handout. To wet your whistle, Cafe Fiore has a delectable cucumber and jalapeno mojito, Casa Bella has a great happy hour that lasts all day on the weekends (visualize mouthwatering Kobe Steak nachos and chile rellenos with pulled pork). Like your happy hours a little later? Every night from 10 pm until closing, Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant celebrates “Irish Hours”: get any draft beer for $1 off and add a shot of Tullamore Dew for $3.

rumfish y vino ventura happy hour drinks and cocktails

image by Noel Russell

#10 – Crunch into a Fish Cone at Coastal Cone

Have you ever had a fish-shaped ice cream cone? Coastal Cone, in Ventura Harbor Village, is famous for its homemade Taiyaki cones. And flavors even Da Vinci couldn’t have invented.

coastal cone ventura harbor village

#11 – Shuck your own beside the beach at the Jolly Oyster

Operating out of a trailer parked in San Buenaventura State Beach Park, The Jolly Oyster sells fresh, sustainably grown oysters and clams still in the shell, and you can eat them, dripping fingers and all, right there on picnic tables with an ocean breeze.

Bring your own beer and wine (the Park allows it); the Jolly Oyster folks sell sauces, shuckers, and even charcoal, should you opt to grill your mollusks.

They are open on weekends, from 11 am to 5 pm.

the jolly oyster san buenaventura state beach

#12 – Watch the sunset (or sunrise) at any of our beaches

Hmmmmm. Might want to pair this one with the one above. Each day guarantees a uniquely spectacular show. And, in this quiet town, often a chance to reflect in solitude (see Number Twenty).

sunset ventura beach

#13 – Hunt for sea glass

Now and again, take your eyes off the horizon and look to the sand. Possibly a sparkle will catch your eye as the waves retreat. Sea glass is the small gift the ocean shapes from pieces of broken glass, meticulously worn down by water. From trash sometimes rises jewelry (though please put your own glass trash into Ventura’s bins, as there’s already enough glass circulating). Especially fun for kids (and kids at heart) — think pirate treasure. San Buenaventura State Beach is a fine place to start.

You can also check out Betty Belts to see sea glass jewelry in its’ finest form …

ventura betty belts

#14 – Visit the Channel Islands

There is no place like the five islands — Santa Barbara, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel — that comprise Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary.

Where else can you spot the world’s smallest fox and kayak in one of the world’s largest sea caves?

Be advised; if you’re jumping on this one early in 2020, there are some temporary closures you need to be aware of. But these closures are also offering unique opportunities. For information on both sides of the coin, please click here. And Island Packers Cruises will take you to the magic.
ventura channel islands national park kayaking

#15 – Go whale watching (and feel your heart soar)

Ventura offers world-class whale watching, without a doubt. You never know what you’ll see in the waters off Ventura’s coast — Nature isn’t a Disney exhibit — and that mystery is part of the thrill and the joy. But here’s a rock-solid fact: the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel and the (protected) Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are filled with life, much of it very, very large, and, quite possibly, very, very life-changing. When anticipation collides with realization and some of the largest creatures on this planet roil to the surface — and sometimes leap free of it — you have to be there to understand. Island Packers offers whale watching trips.

Humpback Whale Tail_Lotti Keenan_D6A2855

image by Lotti Keenan

#16 – Go for, well, pretty much every kind of hike

If you like to take a walk on the wild side, Ventura is your arena. On the mainland, if you want fun hiking and sweeping panoramic views, Arroyo Verde Park and the Ventura Botanical Gardens are two great options. And you should, without doubt, head out to any of the five islands of Channel Islands National Park. To really experience the magic, bring a tent. Honestly, the islands offer months worth of hiking.

ventura channel islands national park family hiking

#17- Test your wits in an Escape Room

What if you were locked in a room and had to use your wits to escape? For some of us, it could be a long stay. But it’s more fun (and help) with friends. So head to The Ultimate Escape Rooms at Ventura Harbor Village or Two Trees Escape Rooms on Johnson Drive, where fun puzzles test your knowledge and wits, and, possibly, make way for escape. Rooms like the Wizard’s Lair, the Mermaid’s Curse Room, Mystery at the Manor and The Runic Ritual hint at the fun.

#18 – Overnight beside the sea (or within salty sniffing distance)

Assuming you’re not overnighting in the Escape Room, Ventura has a host of oceanfront and close-to-oceanfront places to stay, including wholly unique Waypoint Ventura Vintage Trailer Hotel & Campground, the recently renovated Ventura Beach Marriott and the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach. There’s nothing like staying near the sea.

#19 – Come by the Ventura Visitors Center for inside tips of all kinds (plus great swag and a free sticker)

We welcome visitors, but we’re not just here for visitors. It’s always a joy to see locals come into the Visitors Center too — to maybe learn something new about the town we are so lucky to call home, or pick up a free Ventura ambigram sticker or Inspiration Guide, or score a great deal on a Ventura-branded Patagonia jacket. Patagonia gear? Yep. And other surprises and specials. We have a great team that loves this town. We look forward to helping you!

ventura visitors center

#20 – Take a moment, visitor or resident, to realize how very lucky we are to be here

Ventura is a town like no other. A town tousled by sea breezes, a town that drifts sea breeze easy under the radar, a town where the days end with the sun slipping behind purpling islands, a town where play matters as much as (more than) work. It’s a nice feeling. Stop right where you are and breathe it in.

It’s this moment that matters.

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