The city of Ventura is the County Seat, and has a thriving beach culture and the original mission San Buenaventura which lends the county its name.
Oxnard is the largest city in the county, but it remains close to its agricultural roots. The city of Port Hueneme is also within this district.
A large outlet mall has become a major draw in this otherwise largely residential town.
|Thousand Oaks |
The largest city in the Conejo Valley in the east county, and a bedroom community of Greater Los Angeles. Newbury Park is a neighborhood within this district.
|Simi Valley |
Simi Valley sits at the base of the Santa Susana Mountains and features an array of outdoor activities. The adjacent city of Moorpark is included within this district.
|Santa Clara Valley |
The more rural Santa Clara river valley is home to the communities of Santa Paula and Fillmore, as well as the unincorporated communities of Somis and Piru.
A small resort community in the Santa Ynez Mountains that is a popular weekend getaway for Southern California residents. Ojai offers wine tasting, art galleries, hiking, horseback riding, spas, and a rustic environment for those looking to escape the big cities.
|Agoura Hills |
Though part of Los Angeles County, the cities of Agoura Hills and Westlake Village share the Conejo Valley with the city of Thousand Oaks.
- Channel Islands National Park - The Ventura harbor is the departure point for most excursions to the Channel Islands National Park, a series of islands that are home to incredible marine life, beautiful and remote scenery, and the wily Channel Islands fox.
For the first hundred years after California became a state, Ventura County was primarily agrarian, and was known for its fertile farmland and orange groves. The rise of Los Angeles, its eastern neighbor, into become a major metropolis has resulted in the south third of the county becoming increasingly suburban. Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, and Moorpark, in the southeast, are commonly considered the western extent of the Los Angeles exurbs.
The southwest of the county, Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo, and Port Hueneme, have grown into more urbanized communities in their own right, with modest commercial and retail development to complement the agricultural sector that has thrived in the fertile soil deposited by the Santa Clara River, and the now-largely-channelized Calleguas Creek.
The northern half of the county has been less affected by Southern California's immense appetite for development. The Santa Ynez and Santa Susana mountain ranges are sparsely populated, and a large percentage of the land has been federally designated as the Los Padres National Forest by the U.S. government. In the southern foothills of the mountains, the cities of Santa Paula and Fillmore make up the primary population centers of the north county.
The two-fold nature of the development of Ventura County resulted in distinct demographic patterns. The suburban and exurban areas of the county have populations significantly older and whiter than average for the region, while communities with more agrarian roots have larger Latin American, and specifically Mexican-American, populations more typical of the San Joaquin Valley and Central California.
There are three distinct climate regions in Ventura County. The coastal regions and the Oxnard Plain have maritime climates that are cooler and wetter than the region as a whole. The Conejo and Simi Valleys have similar climates to the San Fernando Valley and other inland areas of neighboring Los Angeles County, with warmer temperatures and seasonal katabatic 'Santa Ana' winds in the canyon areas. The mountainous north half of the county is significantly cooler, and can receive moderate snowfall in the winter months.
English is the dominant language of interaction in Ventura County, but Spanish is also widely (but not universally) spoken and understood.
No airport within Ventura County operates commercial routes. Visitors to the region who arrive by plane will typically disembark at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX IATA), or Bob Hope Airport (BUR IATA) in neighboring Los Angeles and travel the last leg of their journey by land transport. Some visitors to the western half of the county may also opt to arrive via Santa Barbara Airport (SBA IATA), which offers commuter connections to major cities in the western United States.
There are two public general aviation facilities available in Ventura County: Oxnard Airport (OXR IATA), and Camarillo Airport. Santa Paula Airport (SZP IATA) is a privately owner airfield that is also open to public use.
U.S. Highway 101 is the primary freeway serving the region. It connects west to Santa Barbara and east to the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles, and directly serves the counties largest population centers: Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo, and Thousand Oaks. Other highway connections include California Route 118 connects Simi Valley and Moorpark to Los Angeles; California Route 126 runs through the Santa Clara Valley, connecting the City of Ventura to Santa Clarita and northern Los Angeles County; and California Route 33, which connects Ventura County to Kern County in the north, passing through Ojai and the Santa Ynez mountains. These state routes are freeways for only portions of their length.
Amtrak operates routes serving Ventura County, connecting Ventura County with Los Angeles, San Francisco, and points on the U.S. west coast. Metrolink commuter service, connecting to the Greater Los Angeles area, is also available. Train stations with both Metrolink and Amtrak service are located in Camarillo, Moorpark, Oxnard, Simi Valley, and Ventura.
Transportation within Ventura County is structured around the automobile. There are some limited public transportation options, such as the VISTA bus system that travel between cities in the county, and some cities operate modest municipal bus services, such as Gold Coast Transit and Thousand Oaks Transit
Visiting Ventura County is often more about getting away from it all than checking things off an itinerary. One can get a glimpse of what life was like in colonial-era California at Mission San Buenaventura, go hiking the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, or just spend a day relaxing on the beaches of Ventura or Port Hueneme.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find Ventura County has much to offer them. There are excellent surfing spots, horseback and hiking trails are numerous, and the landscape is widely varied. Even in the largest city, the great outdoors in never more than an hour away, and there are numerous campgrounds for any visitors interested in roughing it a bit more. For those that prefer nature to be more tamed, there are several excellent resort hotels and golf courses throughout the county.
Ventura County may appear, at first, to suffer from the same homogenization of dining choices that plagues some Los Angeles suburbs, but a second look can unearth some authentic and unique choices that better reflect the areas multifaceted character. Though it does not yet have the ethnic diversity and density of options that can be found in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego, but proximity to both high-quality Pacific seafood and local produce, plus a local clientele that is rapidly becoming more discerning, means that a high quality meal is available for the adventurous. Authentic home-style Mexican cuisine like that at Taqueria El Tapatio in Oxnard, or Letty's in Newbury Park is also there waiting to be discovered for those willing to search a little harder.
Nightlife in Ventura County generally trends more toward neighborhood watering holes and dive bars than the full-blown club experience. There are still plenty of variety from gastropubs like Public School 805 in Thousand Oaks, to Barrel 33 wine bar in Ventura, to the archetypical beachfront dive bar, Beachcomber Tavern in Oxnard.
Cities in Ventura County have a relatively low crime rate, both violent and petty, roughly half that of neighboring metropolitan Los Angeles. The more urban areas in and around Oxnard and Ventura are grittier than the strictly suburban neighborhoods, but are still less than the regional averages. Visitors are unlikely to inadvertently experience any real trouble. Gang activity is minimal, but not non-existent.
Rural and mountainous areas in the county are home to some large predators, such as Mountain Lions and Coyotes. Attacks on people, especially in groups, are extremely rare, but pets should be kept on a leash or indoors in the back country. Rattlesnakes are also common in rural areas. They commonly sun themselves on rocks and trails during summer months, and visitors should watch their step when hiking. In case of snakebite, remain calm and seek medical attention immediately.
- 1 Santa Barbara County - Ventura County's neighbor to the northwest is most famous for the town of Santa Barbara and is sometimes considered the northern boundary of Southern California. While mountains run through the region, the county is well served by a network of highways, making road trips to the many beautiful wineries a popular activity. The Danish town of Solvang is a popular destination, and rocket launches can sometimes be viewed near Vandenberg Air Force base, America's west coast spaceport.
- 2 San Luis Obispo County - San Luis Obispo County is to the northwest of Ventura County, and it marks a noticeable shift in landscape from areas to the south, with a dramatic and remote coastline that draws nature lovers. Hearst Castle is located here, the massive and historic former home of the newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. The town of San Luis Obispo is a college town that is the last large city for over 100 miles for those traveling north along the coast.
- 3 Kern County - Bordering Ventura County to the north, Kern County extends across a number of geographic regions: the western portion is in the San Joaquin Valley, the northeastern portion is in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the southeastern part is in the Desert. Visitors to the county are most likely to be heading to Bakersfield, one of California's largest cities, or traveling along Interstate 5 past oil fields and agricultural areas.
- 4 Los Angeles County - Visit the de facto home of the entertainment industry, and the largest city in the western United States. Los Angeles is an enormous city with an extremely varied geography.