20 Things To Do In Ventura

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If you haven’t considered visiting Ventura before, that’s all about to change. Nestled between the Ventura and Santa Clara rivers, it is one of California’s hidden gems, where you’ll find abundant nature, classic Cali beaches and excellent seafood. The area is also the gateway to the beautiful Channel Island’s National Park, so if you want to spot some wildlife or go hiking, this is the perfect place to do it.

Not far from the bright lights of Los Angeles and San Francisco, it’s a fun destination to spend a few days with family and friends, or on a road trip down the coast. Here are some of the top things to do in Ventura.

Ventura, California

20 Things To Do In Ventura

1- Visit Ventura Pier

things to do in ventura
Watching the waves crash against the pier is one of the amazing things to in Ventura.

Ventura’s Pier and Promenade are the city’s most well-known sights and are the perfect place to get acquainted with the area.

The pier is a popular spot for walking, jogging and fishing, and it’s where almost everyone goes to catch a beautiful sunset.

The pier dates back to 1872 and has been well-restored to its former glory.

While you’re walking along, you can read the various plaques that detail the history of Ventura and its pier to learn more about the city.

There is a kids’ play area underneath for those too small to manage its 1700 m length.

2- Discover The History Of Mission Basilica San Buenaventura

things to do in ventura this weekend
Another interesting thing to do in Ventura is to visit Mission Buenaventura.

Ventura is both a historical and religious city, and the Mission Basilica is one of its most popular attractions.

Built by a Franciscan priest in 1749, the church has been rebuilt countless times following earthquakes, fires and even a pirate attack, however nowadays it serves as a regular church that holds mass for Ventura locals every week.

Visitors can take a tour, learn about the history of the building and its architecture and admire the beautiful artwork on display inside.

Afterwards, take a spin around the well-manicured gardens just outside.

Mission Basilica San Buenaventura is at 211 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001.

3- Museum of Ventura County

things to do in ventura history statue in front of city hall
Admiring the architecture of the city hall is another of the things to do in Ventura for history lovers.

Originally a private collection, the Museum of Ventura County was made official in 1977 and opened to the public.

The huge museum is home to almost 30,000 stunning fine art paintings and sculptures, as well as historical artifacts which will give you an insight into the history of the city and the people who originally lived in the area.

While you’re there, you can do a guided tour of the museum before heading to the Agricultural Museum, also within the complex.

Museum of Ventura County is at 100 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001.

4- Wander Around The Ventura Botanical Gardens

things to do in ventura county this weekend
Exploring the Botanical Gardens is another of the things to do in Ventura, CA.

On sunny days, the Ventura Botanical Gardens is a lovely place for a wander.

With views over the ocean, the gardens have over 8,000 plant species within the 40-acre (16 ha) property.

The garden is uniquely designed so that the entrance walkway has sweeping views over the coastline, mountains and distant vineyards, and the individual plant gardens are structured over various tiered levels.

After exploring the plant life, visit Grant Park in the centre of the gardens, which spans over 100 acres (40 ha) and has more stunning views.

Ventura Botanical Gardens is at 567 Poli St, Ventura, CA 93001.

5- Go Surfing At Surfer’s Point Beach

things to do in ventura california two surfers carrying boards
Going surfing is one of the top things to do in Ventura today.

Surfer’s Point Beach is one of Ventura’s most popular beaches for both locals and visitors.

It sits right next to the Ventura River and Seaside Park, with the river forming a lagoon around the water.

The water attracts some amazing wildlife, including many native birds.

The swells in this part of the ocean are ideal for surfing, hence its name, and you’ll find locals here on any given day hoping to catch a wave.

The path to Surfer’s Point heads directly to Ventura Pier so you can head back quickly and easily, or for something more active, the beach is backed by a scenic cycle path.

Surfer’s Point Beach is at Shoreline Dr, Ventura, CA 93001.

For more California ideas, see:

6- Relax On Emma Wood State Beach

things to do ventura California sea lion swimming in the ocean
One of the things to do in Ventura is to see marine life, such as this California sea lion.

Emma Wood State Beach is a classic and popular Californian beach where you can do activities like surfing, swimming and fishing.

The waters are filled with marine life, including bass, due to the river mouth being located nearby, making it a favourite spot for locals to fish.

If the waters are calm, you might be lucky enough to spot dolphins swimming just offshore and, on clear days, see the Channel Islands in the distance.

The park isn’t just water-based; you’ll also find scenic places to walk, local birdlife like herons and the ruins of a coastal artillery site from WWII, which you can explore.

Emma Wood State Beach is at CA-1, Ventura, CA 93001.

7- See A Play At Rubicon Theatre Company

things to do in ventura county pier at dusk
Walking along the pier is one of the things to do in Ventura California.

The Rubicon Theatre Company has been keeping Ventura entertained for many years, and you can’t miss a chance to see what’s on when you visit.

The company doesn’t just put on theatre shows but also festivals, educational shows and seasonal events.

The theatre is a great place to spend an evening no matter what you’re in the mood for, drama, comedy or thrills.

The building is small and intimate, meaning you’ll be right up close to the performance, and it’s near to lots of shops and restaurants so that you can make a night of it.

Rubicon Theatre Company is at 1006 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001.

8- Explore The Channel Islands

visitor centre at Channel Islands National Park
Another thing to do in Ventura today is to explore Channel Islands National Park.

Channel Islands National Park is a group of stunning, windswept islands off the coast of California for which Venture is the main gateway.

The islands are popular for bird-watching, hiking and you can even camp at certain times of the year, as you won’t find any accommodation.

The Channel Islands’ most famous draw is the migratory whales that come each year to breed.

You will find plenty of boat tours to take you out on the water where you get to see them up close, as well as other fish, dolphins, birds and seals.

Ventura Harbour is at 1583 Spinnaker Dr, Ventura, CA 93001.

9- Enjoy Craft Beer

If you aren’t a fan of wine you may have been struggling to find a good tipple while in California.

Luckily, there’s a Ventura brewery that is just the spot for a nice cold pint of beer (or a few).

The Ventura Coast Brewing Co. aims to make both beer-lovers and newbies fall in love with the locally produced nectar.

At any given time, the brewery has at least 10 different beers on tap so it’s worth a stop to give a few of them a try – they’ll be happy to recommend the perfect one and tell you more about the brewing process.

If you go during the day, it’s perfect to enjoy some tastings and if you head here at night, the brewery often has live music nights and local food trucks outside so you can combine the beer with some fresh local seafood tacos or a burger.

Ventura Coast Brewing Co. is at 76 S Oak St, Ventura, CA 93001.

10- Enjoy The View At Serra Cross Park

Serra Cross Park is historically closely related to San Buenavista Venture Mission, next to which it sits, and there is a cross on top of the hill planted there by a Spanish missionary.

The park spans over 100 acres, and the cross has become known for helping people find the nearby mission, although the cross here is not the original.

The park is also on a hill, meaning it has a beautiful view across the coast and ocean, so you’ll often find locals and visitors here watching the sun go down in the evening.

Serra Cross Park is on Ferro Drive, Ventura, CA 93001.

11- Drink Wine At Four Brix Winery

things to do in ventura ca red wine glass
Going wine tasting is one of the fun things to do in Ventura.

Whether or not you’ve already experienced California’s vineyards, there’s always room for one more to add to your list.

Four Brix Winery is in lively downtown Ventura and is known for producing its own unique wines, with names such as Temptress and Smitten.

Head here during the day to sample some of their best bottles at a tasting, or they may have one of their evening events on, where you can enjoy a tipple along with some local Ventura produce.

However, if you want to buy any bottles, you’ll need to be quick as they only make 2,000 cases per year.

Four Brix Winery is at 2290 Eastman Ave # 109, Ventura, CA 93003.

12- Enjoy Nature At Lake Casitas Recreational Area

best things to do in ventura Mermaid statue at the entrance of Ventura harbour
Taking a photo of the Mermaid statue is one of the things to do in Ventura to remind you of your trip.

One for nature lovers, Lake Casitas Recreational Area is a beautiful parkland that sits inside the Los Padres National Forest.

The lake was originally created by water from the nearby dam and is a tranquil place to visit for the day to go walking or hiking, and camping is particularly popular around the edge of the lake.

You can often see local wildlife in the forest, such as possums and coyotes.

You can also go paddling in the lake and have a small campfire to spend some time out in the wilderness.

Lake Casitas Recreational Area is at 11311 Santa Ana Rd, Ventura, CA 93001.

13- Cycle Along The Ventura Bike Path

things to do in ventura county today
You’ll find plenty of things to do in Ventura to occupy a few days.

Whether or not you enjoy sporting activities, you’ll enjoy the Ventura Bike Path as long as you can ride a bike.

You don’t even have to cycle the entire route, which runs between Ventura and the neighbouring town of Ojai, where you will find some of the best landscapes in the area.

The entire path is paved, so even novice cyclists can enjoy it and be rewarded with fabulous coastal views during the journey.

The routes pass through local gems such as Foster Park and Sulphur Road with sweeping vistas.

14- Explore Ventura Harbour Village

things to do in ventura today sunset on the water
One of the fun things to do in Ventura is to enjoy the water.

To get a feel for where all the action happens in Ventura, the Harbour Village is it.

Filled with shops, restaurants, boats and general local goings-on, it’s always buzzing with activity.

It’s one of the best areas to sample some of Ventura’s famous seafood, and on any given day, you’ll find live music, fun local events for kids and adults, pop-up markets and concerts.

It’s inevitably where many people end up spending the evening, whether just for a stroll along the water or to visit an eatery, but this is where you’ll see an authentic side of Ventura.

Ventura Harbour Village is at 1583 Spinnaker Dr, Ventura, CA 93001.

15- Go To The Beach At Marina Park

things to do in ventura, ca
Looking for things to do in Ventura CA? You’ll find plenty to keep you busy.

An ideal outing to combine with Ventura Harbour Village, Marina Park is right next to it and has one of the area’s best beaches.

Kids will be amazed by the life-size replica antique ship which sits in the middle of the sand, and you can also enjoy a walk along the South Jetty Marina Walk, where you’ll get panoramic views over the ocean, beach and harbour.

Bring a picnic and towels and stay for the day or visit for an hour or two.

It’s perfect for those classic Californian views and a bit of peace and quiet.

Marina Park is at 2950 Pierpont Blvd, Ventura, CA 93001.

16- Enjoy The Sunshine At San Buenaventura State Beach

things to do in ventura beach
If you’re looking for things to do in Ventura, you’ll have to spend time at one of its beautiful beaches.

Given the name of San Buenaventura State beach, you can probably guess that this is Ventura’s main and most popular beach.

Although hitting a bike trail running along the beach is popular, most people come here to do what Californians do best: sunbathe, surf, swim and enjoy the sunshine.

Pull up a patch of sand and make sure to bring everything you need with you for a day by the water.

Not far away, you’ll find some excellent seafood restaurants, plus the beach is popular with both locals and tourists so most amenities are nearby.

San Buenaventura State Beach is at 901 San Pedro St, Ventura, CA 93001.

17- Go On A Food Tour

Food tours are essential in any city to get a real taste of the place and Ventura is no different.

The area is home to the best seafood in California, among other dishes, make sure to opt for one of the city’s many tours, which will take you from the downtown restaurants to the seafood beach shacks.

The city has a surprisingly diverse array of cuisines besides seafood, with a heavy Polynesian influence, as well as everything from Italian to Indian.

Tours will take you around some of the area’s best restaurants and markets, as well as let you sample local wine and teach you how to pair different foods.

You’ll already have all the answers next time you visit a vineyard.

18- Taste Wine At Old Creek Ranch

Another vineyard not to be missed is Old Creek Ranch which is the only vineyard you’ll find in Ventura’s countryside.

The ranch itself is a beautiful property that the owners have renovated to create a bar and tasting area, landscaped gardens and picnic spots, plus lounge chairs and fire pits so you can sit outside long into the evening with a glass of wine.

You’ll also find some tasty local food, and the owners are very knowledgeable and happy to help you learn about their grapes and bottles.

Old Creek Ranch & Winery is at 10024 E Old Creek Rd, Ventura, CA 93001.

19- Explore Downtown Ventura

You’ll find almost all of Ventura’s most popular spots, fun nightlife and thriving bars and restaurants in the downtown area.

You’ll find the best eateries and coffee shops here if you need somewhere to eat or drink during the day or even for breakfast.

At night, bars, clubs and live music venues are where the party is happening, plus there are lots of shops, markets and antique stores around this area where you can browse for a souvenir or something special.

20- Eat Seafood At Spencer McKenzie’s

Although there are countless seafood restaurants in Ventura, Spencer McKenzie’s deserves its own spot on the list purely for being so famous and popular.

Their burritos were voted some of the best in America and their tacos have been voted the best in Ventura for eleven years running, so make sure to try either the fish burritos or tacos so you don’t miss out.

Locals know it as an everyday gem, while visitors and Californians drive from miles around to taste the food here.

They also serve clam chowder, salads, fish and chips and, of course, great beer.

They’re a friendly bunch and the food is unforgettable, so if you head to one food spot on your trip, Spencer McKenzie’s should be it.

Spencer Makenzie’s is at 806 E Thompson Blvd, Ventura, CA 93001.

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India Jayne trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK.