Posted: Tuesday, Nov 21st, 2023

By Visit Ventura

Your Guide to a Family-Friendly Holiday Escape in Ventura

Header Photo by Byba Sepit

Winter break is approaching and that means free time to get the family all together and head out on a new adventure. Ventura may be the best place to play outside, laugh over an amazing meal, and enjoy the beach in the middle of winter. 

If you’re looking for the perfect winter break vacation you’ve found the right place. Ventura is about as family-friendly as it can get (dog-friendly too!). Here’s a guide and itinerary to a family-friendly holiday escape in Ventura, California. You’ll find holiday events to add to your itinerary and fun things to do as a family in Ventura to help plan your trip and inspire you. Let the excitement and holiday spirit begin! 

Ventura Harbor Santa Paddle

Santa Paddle in the Ventura Harbor Village, Holiday Events happening in Ventura
Courtesy of Ventura Harbor Village

Kick off your holiday escape in Ventura on the water! You won’t want to miss this fun annual holiday event at the Ventura Harbor Village on December 17 *new date*. Santa exchanges his sleigh for a paddle board at the Ventura Harbor Santa Paddle. You can be one of his elves and rent your own kayak, paddle board, character peddle boat, or electric boat from Ventura Boat Rentals. Get there early to secure your rental because Santa steps on the scene at 11:30 am.

Downtown Ventura Tree Lighting

Downtown Ventura Christmas Tree Lighting

Ventura is home to the world’s largest Christmas trees, standing at 135 feet tall, right next to the historic San Buenaventura Mission. Each year the two “Star Pines” are lit up in hundreds of lights to kick off the holiday season. This is a fun local event where you can get decked out in all your holiday garb, have fun in faux snow, and listen to carolers. 

Sugar Lab Bake Shop Cookie Decorating Class

Sugar Lab Bake Shop  in Ventura, CA
Courtesy of Sugar Lab Bake Shop

Get a little sugary and messy at one of Sugar Lab Bake Shop’s cookie and cake decorating classes this season. At each class, you’ll learn how to use a piping bag and decorate sugar cookies — absolutely no experience is necessary. By the end of the class, you’ll walk away with six beautiful cookies, and, who knows, maybe you’ll be a pro cookie decorator too! Sign up for the waitlist if the class you’re waiting for is full. 

Good Tidings Market

Findings Market Fair
Courtesy of Findings Market

Do you love to support local artisans? Finding’s Market and Topa Topa Brewing Co. have teamed up to host this year’s Good Tidings Market on December 2 where you’ll be able to browse through 50+ local makers. Hello stocking stuffers! This makers market is a fun opportunity to spend some time in the sunshine and get some shopping done too. Guaranteed to be a fun time and a perfect event to add to your holiday escape in Ventura, you won’t want to miss out on this family-friendly holiday market.

Catch a Live Show

Live Music Ventura-live music at twist on main

Ventura is brimming with all things arts and culture. In fact, Ventura’s live music scene is bigger and better than ever. Better yet? You can catch a ton of live musical acts for FREE. Or take a look at the Majestic Ventura Theater (an iconic concert venue where the likes of Morrissey, Black Flag, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers) or Ventura Music Hall (a newer music venue that’s up and coming, great for music lovers of all ages) calendar for touring bands coming through town. 

If theater is more your vibe, check out shows at the Rubicon or NAMBA for amazing theater performances. 

Ventura Harbor Winter Wonderland & Holiday Market

Santa, Winter Wonderland & Holiday Marketplace
Courtesy of Ventura Harbor Village

Perfect for the little ones, spend an afternoon at the Ventura Harbor for pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus. You’ll get to see real-life reindeer right by the sea and embrace holiday cheer as carolers fill the air with music. Holiday crafts, live music, delicious fresh seafood, and faux snowfall await you as you plan a magical holiday escape in Ventura!

Visit the Ventura Botanical Gardens

family ventura botanical gardens spring, Mike Love

Walk to new heights through the beautiful Ventura Botanical Gardens, which is located right behind Ventura City Hall. The nature walk is moderate enough for all ages (and dogs!) and only about 2 miles total. As you walk through the trail you’ll find hundreds of different plants, all from the five Mediterranean climates (California, Central Chile, the Mediterranean Basin, the Cape Region of South Africa, and Southwestern and South Australia). A great way to spend the day outside, the Ventura Botanical Gardens can literally be enjoyed year-round thanks to Ventura’s sunny weather. Who would’ve thought you’d be able to stop and smell the roses in the middle of winter? 

Surf in the Middle of Winter

annalie surfing

Yes, Ventura might be the perfect place to live out your California dreams even in December. So invite your family to catch a wave or two and pretend to be a surfer like the ones we see in movies. There are a ton of different surfing camps running in Ventura that will provide everything you need. It’s fun for the entire family no matter the age. 

Book a Whale Watching Cruise

Gray whales in Ventura

Winter whale-watching season is upon us! Starting on December 26, Island Packers will run their annual winter whale-watching cruise through the Santa Barbara Channel, which we are proud to say has recently been designated as a NEW Whale Heritage Area. There is just ONE other heritage area in the entire United States and we’re proud our waters have been recognized for its work in protecting the gentle giants of the ocean. 

On the cruise, you’re likely to catch views of Pacific Gray Whales and who knows what else may be frolicking in the waters alongside the boat? Hundreds of dolphins swimming and jumping out of the water like they’re out of a movie? Beautiful sea birds dive bombing into the ocean to catch fish? You name it. Learn more about winter whale watching here

Go Holiday Shopping

Downtown Ventura Shopping in Plum Boutique, Christmas shopping

Last but certainly not least, there are so many local shops and boutiques that you can spend hours browsing and walking through. You’re guaranteed to be able to find something for even the pickiest shopper. From beautiful one-of-a-kind sea glass jewelry at Betty Belts to rustic gifts at Iron & Resin there’s so much to pick from. And don’t forget: Ventura is home to a world-class outdoor clothing store which was founded in our home in the 70s. Patagonia has its headquarters and a clothing store off of the Ventura Avenue and is a great place to find well-made winter clothing. But don’t overlook the thrift and vintage stores which are treasures themselves. You can find antiques and unique gifts that will surprise you!

Discover More

Get to know Ventura, and discover the best things to do around the city.

Get Inspired Screenshot 2024-01-17 at 7.47.12 AM

Request an
Inspiration Guide

View the current Ventura Inspiration Guide online. And prepare to be INSPIRED.

Be in the know

Visit Ventura
Monthly Newsletter

Sign up for everything you need to know; from new hikes, to new restaurants, to upcoming festivals, music, and entertainment.

Ventura Partners With