Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Ventura, CA

  • Published 2023/05/12

San Buenaventura, also called Ventura, is a gorgeous coastal city located northwest of Los Angeles, famous for its laid-back lifestyle, stunning beaches, and picturesque shoreline.

The city in Ventura County also boasts a fascinating history, inhabited by the Chumash Native Americans, Spanish missionaries, and Mexicans.

As a result, Ventura features a diverse culture, evident in its historical landmarks and cuisine.

If you’re looking for a fun weekend getaway from Los Angeles, consider this list of the best things to do in San Buenaventura, California.

Catch the Sunset at the Ventura Pier

Ventura Pier on a bright sunny day

Dima_Rogozhin /

The Ventura Pier is something that tourists crowd every day.

It was constructed in 1872, back when Ventura was quite important industrially.

At the time, the agriculture and oil industries were at their peak.

Today, it stands proudly, having witnessed Ventura’s success.

Wooden Benches and lights on the Ventura Pier

trekandshoot /

The pier ranks as one of the top 10 longest Californian piers and is entirely made of wood.

It was originally even higher, but it has been renovated a lot of times due to wearing down.

These renovations led to its now shorter height of 1700 feet.

Stunning view of the long Ventura Pier during sunset

jkbeynonphotos /

You can sit there and fish or watch the heavenly sunset.

Below the pier is the beach where many children come to play.

Stroll around the Gardens of Mission San Buenaventura

Beautiful white and blue designed fountain Mission San Buenaventura

Bill Perry /

Mission San Buenaventura might look like a peaceful haven now, but it has quite a troubled past.

The mission was constructed in 1749, when a Franciscan priest named Junipero Serra aimed to convert the Chumash people into Catholics.

Garden area at Mission San Buenaventura

Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz /

It later faced a whole lot of troubles.

A fire almost burned down the church, and it had to be reconstructed in 1809.

It witnessed a lot of earthquakes too.

Then, pirates took over and threatened the church every day.

Interior of Mission San Buenaventura in Ventura

Nagel Photography /

Fortunately, things are pretty calm now, and you can check out the location peacefully.

The church is now open to the public, and anyone can go inside and pray.

Visitors are also welcome to walk around the lovely gardens surrounding it and look at the gorgeous architecture.

Stroll around Downtown Ventura

The road of Downtown Ventura

Valeria Venezia /

One of the best things to do in the city, especially for first-time visitors, is to stroll around Downtown Ventura.

The area perfectly encapsulates Ventura, with palm tree-lined streets, locally-owned restaurants and bars, and several historical sites.

Walking around Downtown Ventura gives you an overview of the city, helping you decide where to eat, shop, and visit places.

People at Downtown Ventura

Matt Gush /

Since most places of interest are concentrated in one area, you can easily dedicate an hour or two to explore and stop for refreshments at one of the cafes along the avenue.

On your walk around Downtown Ventura, don’t miss the Mission Basilica San Buenaventura, Museum of Ventura County, Plaza Park, and Century 10 Downtown.

Mission Basilica at Downtown Ventura

Jon Bilous /

Feast on the Best Seafood at Lure Fish House

Located within the lively Downtown Ventura, Lure Fish House is the best place in the city for fresh seafood.

The family-owned restaurant offers seafood sourced locally and combines local and organic ingredients for a delicious and sustainable dining experience.

Its high ceilings, nautical decor, and spacious interiors create a warm and relaxing ambiance.

Dine at Lure Fish House and try their ceviches served with tortilla chips, charbroiled oysters, fish chowder, lobster ravioli, or the day’s fresh catch.

The restaurant also serves Happy Hour specials like shrimp cocktails, crispy calamari, crab cakes, and rockfish tacos served with handcrafted cocktails.

Cruise at Channel Islands National Park

Sea lions at Channel Islands National Park

Travel Stock /

Channel Islands National Park is a great way to escape from Californian life, which sometimes gets quite chaotic.

You can get to this exotic location by taking a ferry from Ventura Harbor Village.

Seal swimming underwater at Channel Islands National Park

Katharine Moore /

It would be best to spend a whole day here, as this is an excellent opportunity to surround yourself with beautiful nature.

The islands have a wide range of things to do, including hiking and camping.

Photographers and artists often visit these islands in search of inspiration.

Rocks on the shores at Channel Islands National Park

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See the Real Ventura at Ventura Harbor Village

Boats docked in Ventura Harbor Village

TheWonderWays /

Ventura Harbor Village is one of the most gorgeous locations in Ventura.

It’s an excellent place to spend an evening with your family.

The sunset views here are breathtaking.

Fishermen's memorial in Ventura Harbor Village

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Venture Harbor Village is filled with cute aesthetic cafes that face the oceans, boutiques, and several shops.

There are a lot of seafood restaurants in the area—so have your fill of calamari and other delightful seafood dishes!

Sail boat sailing on the blue water at Ventura Harbor Village

HTurner /

Bring the Family to Golf N Stuff

Enjoy bonding with the kids at Golf N Stuff, a family-friendly amusement park that has been around for over 45 years.

The amusement park has anything and everything you need for a fun day in the city.

Golf N Stuff features attractions like an 18-hole mini golf course, bumper boats, bumper cars, go-karts, and an arcade.

After playing golf or racing at the go-karts, drop by the snack bar for pizza, hot dogs, nachos, chicken nuggets, and thirst-quenching drinks.

Although the establishment is a popular family-friendly destination, you can also celebrate birthday parties, company events, and group parties here.

Surf at San Buenaventura State Beach

Waves crashing on the shores of San Buenaventura State Beach

Jesse Stephens /

Enjoy Ventura’s mile-long sandy beach on a day spent at San Buenaventura State Beach.

The state beach offers a relaxing yet retro vibe where visitors can swim, surf, play beach volleyball or frisbee, or lay down a beach towel and perfect their tan.

For those who’d like to go on a picnic, there are well-portioned picnic sites with tables and grills, while other areas have better wind and more privacy.

People enjoying their day at San Buenaventura State Beach

Matt Gush /

Spend the day at San Buenaventura State Beach, dip in its cool water, and feel the sand between your toes on a walk across the shore.

Although you can bring your food to the beach, you can find concession stands within the area.

You can also rent a bike and follow the nearby bike trails or visit other beaches.

Bird's eye view of the San Buenaventura State Beach coastline

Matt Gush /

Explore the Outdoors at Arroyo Verde Park

Scenic view of Arroyo Verde Park

TheWonderWays /

Escape the busy metropolitan streets and take in the gorgeous natural scenery of Arroyo Verde Park.

This 132-acre city park is at the northern end of Ventura. It offers several hiking and walking trails, a nature center, picnic areas, and wide open spaces for outdoor activities or relaxation.

The park also has an inclusive play area where children can play and have a good time regardless of physical capabilities and mobility.

Trail lined with flowers at Arroyo Verde Park

TheWonderWays /

Follow the trails at Arroyo Verde Park and marvel at the views of rolling hills, vast meadows, and colorful wildflowers dotting the landscape.

For those who’d like to go on a picnic, the park has individual picnic sites, barbecue areas, restrooms, and outdoor picnic areas.

Butterflies at Arroyo Verde Park

TheWonderWays /

Get Amazed by the Collection of the Museum of Ventura County

Entry way of Museum of Ventura County

Jllm06, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When in Ventura, you can’t miss out on a visit to the famous Museum of Ventura County.

Everything inside the museum was brought about by the efforts of a doctor from Pennsylvania.

Dr. Cephas Bard moved to the county of Ventura to treat the aftershock of the Civil War.

The most interesting part of his story is that he accepted historical objects as payment instead of cash.

As a result, he came into possession of a number of historical Mexican and Chumash artifacts, which are now priceless.

His collection was given to the government in 1913, and this museum was put up specifically to put it on display.

Explore Ventura Botanical Gardens

Marvel at the views of the California coastline, the Channel Islands, and Ventura as you walk around Ventura Botanical Gardens.

The botanical garden spreads across 107 acres and has over 100,000 plants from five climate zones worldwide, including California, Chile, South Africa, and the Mediterranean basin.

Begin your visit to Ventura Botanical Gardens at the Welcome Center, then proceed to the floral pathway leading to the Chilean Gardens.

See domestic and imported Chilean plants like soapbark trees and wine palms.

Find hundreds of olive trees at the Mediterranean Garden and see native species like lemonade berries and California oak at the Ramble.

Catch stunning views of the Channel Islands near the South African Fynbos Gardens, and feel you’re on top of the world at the Karoo Gardens.

Go Swimming at Emma Wood State Beach

Grasses and beautiful orange flowers on the shores of Emma Wood State Beach

Linda Armstrong /

If you are a beach person, Emma Wood State Beach is the best resort for you.

The beach serves as one of the best spots in Ventura, where you can feel the fun of being in the ocean.

No other place in Ventura is as good for swimming as this one.

The waves are gentle and yet commendable.

A young man surfing in Emma Wood State Beach

Jon Osumi /

If you wait long enough, you can even catch a view of dolphins splashing in the water.

Want to go fishing for some bass?

This is the perfect spot for that, too.

Vibrant sunset in Emma Wood State Beach

Adam Richard Sklena /

Start Your Day at Pete’s Breakfast House Restaurant

Pete’s Breakfast House Restaurant takes pride in serving the best breakfast meals in Ventura using the fresh farm produce.

The restaurant has been around since 1981, making it a breakfast staple for San Buenaventura residents and tourists.

Housed in a diner-style space filled with bright and eclectic decor, first-time customers will feel welcome.

Before heading to Ventura Beach or on your adventure around the city, have breakfast or lunch at Pete’s Breakfast House Restaurant.

Try their pancake roll served with yogurt, fruit, and granola or their chorizo burger with habanero salsa.

Some of the customer favorites at the restaurant include their corned beef hash, omelets, biscuit plate, waffles, and frittata.

Enjoy the City Views from Serra Cross Park

Front view of Serra Cross Park

Jon Bilous /

Serra Cross Park boasts a tranquil setting with panoramic views of downtown Ventura, the Santa Barbara Channel, and the Santa Cruz Islands.

Perched atop a hill near Ventura Botanical Gardens, the park is famous for watching the sunset, having a picnic, and enjoying Ventura’s landscape.

Close up view of the wooden cross in Serra Cross Park

Steve Heap /

The park’s highlight, Serra Cross, served as a road sign for travelers looking for the Mission Basilica San Buenaventura, the mission church near the hill.

Although the original cross has been destroyed and replaced numerous times, Serra Cross Park has remained part of Ventura’s history since then and is a must-visit site for tourists.

Because of its strategic location and charming views, the park is often a location for weddings and other private events.

The cross at Serra Cross Park

Ricardo Holden, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Go Birdwatching at Surfers Point Beach

Surfers at Ventura Point Beach

Trevor McBroom /

The beautiful Surfers Point Beach is a must for your Ventura itinerary.

Its location is quite user-friendly, as it is located close to some of the city’s most famous tourist attractions.

It’s particularly close to the Ventura Pier and Emma Wood State Beach.

A young woman walking with the surfboard in her hand at the shores of Surfers Point Beach

Jon Osumi /

You can enjoy a lot of activities here, like windsurfing and birdwatching.

A resting ground for all migratory birds, Surfers Point Beach is a must-visit for all ornithologists and bird lovers.

Swimming isn’t recommended at this location, but you can down and have a picnic in the sand.

Stand Paddler at Surfers Point Beach

Jon Osumi /

Enjoy the Lake Casitas Recreation Area

Beautiful yellow flowers on the shores of Lake Casitas Recreation Area

Annette Teng, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Lake Casitas Recreation Area is breathtaking, and the presence of Lake Casitas makes it even more appealing to the eyes.

Locals of Ventura and tourists see the Lake Casitas Recreation Area as the best place to set up camp.

The views from here are majestic.

Nature trail in Lake Casitas Recreation Area

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If you don’t have enough time to camp, you can at least sit down and have a picnic.

You may even see some wild animals at the Lake Casitas Recreation Area.

Picturesque view of Lake Casitas Recreation Area

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Catch a Show at Rubicon Theatre Company

Musicals, dramas, plays, and various shows are performed at Rubicon Theatre Company every day.

Their production processes and presentations are always incredible.

More than 42,000 people have learned from this old theater company and have progressed in their careers.

They have a lot of students practicing under them, too.

Dine at Spencer Makenzie’s Fish

Spencer Makenzie’s Fish serves some of the best food in Ventura.

The restaurant has been awarded for its food for seven consecutive years.

Their famous fish tacos are some of the best you’ll ever taste.

Apart from fish tacos, the clam chowder, dips, and salsas are among their must-try menu items.

Spencer Makenzie’s Fish is always jam-packed, so you may consider yourself lucky if you can score a table!

Go on a Food Tour

Street lined up with restaurants in Ventura

oliverdelahaye /

Ventura’s culinary scene will surely be a treat for your taste buds.

The city is known to have a lot of restaurants that whip up amazing dishes.

You’ll be able to find just about any cuisine while exploring restaurants on your own.

Alternatively, you can opt to join a food tour.

Some companies offer such tours and take you to the best places in Ventura that serve the most delicious dishes.

Apart from that, they also let you know if there is any history behind that particular cuisine or restaurant in Ventura.

Stop by the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Channel Islands National Park

Exterior view of Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center

Ken Wolter /

The Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center offers various services and displays.

Make a brief pit stop at the visitor center if you’re having trouble deciding where to go or what to do.

It’s a one-of-a-kind tourist center with more to offer than just facts and figures.

You may shop at the bookshop or attend lectures in the auditorium.

There are also exhibitions and travel programs.

Fun activities abound at the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center.

Watch a short film in the theater, peruse local marine life displays, buy books or sign up to go on tours, and many more options are available to you.

Try Various Fun Family Activities at Marina Park

Sunrise at Ventura Marina Park

Jon Osumi /

It’s hard to believe that Marina Park, a 15-acre coastal wonderland, doesn’t exist.

It’s a favorite of residents and visitors looking for some outdoor fun because of its numerous family-friendly attractions.

Marina Park is a great place to make memorable moments with your significant other, family, or friends.

Picnic area with benches in Ventura Marina Park

Jon Osumi /

This park has a playground for children, a small beach, a sand volleyball field, a dock, and other facilities for your enjoyment.

Play beach volleyball with your traveling companions, learn how to sail, have a picnic, and go sailing at Marina Park.

Rocks lined up in the beach near Ventura Marina Park

Linda Armstrong /

You can also try standup paddleboarding, kayaking, or fishing out on the water at the park.

Have a Romantic Night at Four Brix Winery

There are many wine mixes to choose from at Four Brix Winery, located in the city’s center.

Visiting Ventura with friends or a significant other is a great way to spend a day relaxing and having fun.

Four Brix Winery is where to go if you’re in the area.

You may spend a relaxing evening at this restaurant while sipping fine wine and tucking on delicious meals.

Four Brix Winery is a great place to spend a few hours with your significant other or friends.

Wines from Spain, France, and Italy and those made here are available for sampling in a cozy atmosphere.

While sipping a bottle of wine, you may indulge in delectable bites such as a decadent charcuterie board, gluten-free pizza, chocolates, and more.

Bring Your Kids to Explore Old Creek Ranch & Winery

An orchard, vineyards, a ranch, and more can be found at Old Creek Ranch & Winery, a fantastic tourist destination.

If you’re searching for fun activities to do in Ventura with your loved one or pals, look no further.

You and your loved ones may spend a relaxing day together, catching up and making beautiful memories.

Old Creek Ranch & Winery’s terrace is the ideal place to sip a bottle of fine wine while taking in the picture-perfect scenery.

A tour of the site, including its winery, fruit orchards, and cattle ranch, is available beforehand.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Ride a Bike along the Ojai Valley Trail

The Ojai Valley Trail is a nine-mile paved trail for biking, jogging, walking, and horseback riding.

The multipurpose trail is perfect for those looking for an easy and relaxing path, as it passes through quiet wooded areas and mountainside views.

People riding bike in Ojai

Joseph Sohm /

Because the trail is paved, amateur bikers, travelers in wheelchairs, and those with limited mobility can also go on a relaxing walk.

If you’re traveling with your dog, you can treat them to a fun day out and walk a portion of the trail as long as they’re kept on a leash.

Bike via the Ojai Valley Trail from Ventura and enjoy a cross-city tour past cities like Casitas Springs, Oak View, and Mira Monte before arriving at sunny Ojai.

Final Thoughts

While in Ventura, you may take advantage of a wide range of exciting activities and attractions, such as a trip to a pristine beach, an excursion to a beautiful garden or park, a visit to a museum, wine tasting at a winery, shopping at a quaint boutique, and seeing a live concert, among others.

There is no better destination than Ventura to go on a fantastic getaway by the coast, away from your problems and stress.

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