Ventura, formally named “San Buenaventura,” was founded in 1782 when Saint Junipero Serra established Mission San Buenaventura as the ninth California’s state missions. It’s named after the Italian Saint Bonaventure, which inspired the destination’s legacy of being known as the “city of good fortune.”
Geographically, Ventura sits on the Pacific Ocean between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. It’s celebrated for its beautiful beaches (which are also world-renowned surf spots). Travelers can explore a wide range of attractions in the city – from the Ventura Pier to the walkable downtown neighborhood, to the historic mission building and beyond.
With comfortable Mediterranean climate temperatures, and an average 273 days of sunshine each year – it’s a fabulous destination for a staycation or weekend getaway in SoCal.
Metrolink connected with Ken McAlpine, Marketing Coordinator for Visit Ventura (and former international travel writer) who shares his thoughts about how, even though he’s spent his life traveling the most beautiful places across the globe, Ventura will always be his favorite place in the world.
A City of Good Fortune
“I really love this town,” said McAlpine. “I honestly think that there are so many beautiful places across the world and each place has its own charm, but Ventura has always had a big piece of my heart. I believe it’s the best place to be.”
Immediately upon arriving in Ventura, visitors can sense the contentment of the locals within the city.
“People are just generally happy, here – it’s a happy place,” said McAlpine. “I believe it’s the last true Southern California beach town, with tremendous natural beauty. People here feel like they’re at home, regardless of whether they’re from here.”
McAlpine said one of his favorite things about Ventura is the walkability and accessibility of its attractions.
“I love hearing stories of families who ride the train up here to spend a day or weekend,” said McAlpine. “The fewer of us who are single drivers behind single wheels, the better our environment will be.”
A Place of Outdoor Activities
Ventura offers plentiful outdoor recreation activities, including numerous hiking and biking trails with scenic ocean and sunset views. The Arroyo Verde Park is a favorite destination for local outdoors enthusiasts to explore. The park showcases miles of trails, with views of the historic downtown area and sweeping ocean panoramas. On clear days, you can even see the Channel Islands National Park dotting the sea’s horizon.
The city also offers two safe and scenic family-friendly bike paths suited for any skill level. The Ventura Pacific Coast Bikeway which begins at Emma Wood State Beach, stretches along the open coast for a smooth, flat 12 miles up to Carpinteria. There’s also the paved Ojai Valley Trail (19 miles one way), which weaves along the shady Ventura River to Downtown Ojai, offering a view of the Los Padres Mountains for the entire ride.
The Ventura Harbor Village is also a must-visit destination while in town. This attraction boasts a collection of local shops, restaurants, and water activities like SUP, kayak, and pedal and electric boat rentals.
Finally, Ventura offers easy access to the Channel Islands National Park from the harbor. Nicknamed “North America’s Galapagos” for its collection of rare plant and animal species, this Marine Sanctuary is comprised of five islands along the Santa Barbara Channel. There are the San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara islands, each with their own unique environment. Those who are interested in visiting any of the islands can book a ticket with Island Packers. This company also offers whale watching trips to the Santa Barbara Channel.
A Place of History and Culture
McAlpine pointed out there’s a robust sense of history and culture that’s continued to live on underfoot in the city.
History buffs should explore Ventura’s Historic Walking Tour, which offers the opportunity to see many of the historical sites around Downtown — some of which showcase classic architecture dating back to the turn of the century (sometimes even earlier!).
There’s also the Museum of Ventura County, which has served as a go-to destination for historical facts about Ventura County since 1913. Mission San Buenaventura Historic Park hosts a collection of historic and archaeological sites sitting adjacent to Mission San Buenaventura, downtown.
“You can find yourself surfing next to one of the world’s best surfers and they wouldn’t tell you who they are.”
In addition to history, Ventura is a haven for artist culture. There’s a collection of galleries scattered across the city, including the Vita Art Center, Studio 1317, H Gallery + Studios, and Mermaid Gallery Art Studio, just to name a few. For theater enthusiasts, Ventura is home to the award-winning Rubicon Theatre — and music lovers can visit a beloved local venue, the Majestic Ventura Theatre.
But perhaps Ventura is most known for its impressive surfing pastime and beach culture.
“You can find yourself surfing next to one of the world’s best surfers and they wouldn’t tell you who they are,” said McAlpine. “They’re just quietly sitting in the lineup. We have a lot of really interesting people here, and everyone treats everyone else equally.”
A Place of Communal Support and Welcoming People
Most businesses in town are owned and operated by members of the Ventura community.
“You walk in and the person behind the counter might actually be the owner,” said McAlpine. “And if you live here, it might even be your neighbor! It’s a nice feeling.”
The locals look out for one another and have continued to offer support to each other’s businesses throughout the past year.
“Everywhere you go, people are doing kind things for each other,” said McAlpine. “For example, we celebrated ‘random acts of kindness day’ with an event, and it was fun to see how this community responded in a whole bunch or really lovely ways. People care. Even something as simple as paying for someone else’s sandwich behind you in line is uplifting.”
“The fewer of us who are single drivers behind single wheels, the better our environment will be.”
Buenaventura, For Always
Ventura offers an impressive and eclectic art scene, a wide variety of historic and educational landmarks, a collection of affordable amenities, abundant outdoor attractions, and friendly locals who truly encompass the epitome of the laid-back seaside SoCal lifestyle.
Its vibrant culture and endless entertainment opportunities make it a desirable and welcoming destination to plan a trip (sans traffic!) for travelers of any age with Metrolink.
All photos credit of Visit Ventura.
Ventura is a member of the Ventura County Lodging Association and has partnered with Metrolink’s SoCal Explorer Loyalty Program which offers members discounts on food, drink, lodging and activities across Southern Cailfornia. Become a SoCal Explorer today, at socalexplorer.metrolinktrains.com.