Ventura - California's Secret Coastal Vacation, Travel Photos & Information

Ventura combines Spanish charm, sophisticated cuisine, cosmopolitan appeal and real people! Celebrities like to  escape and hide out in Ventura because its bistros and clubs offer the finest meals, minus the stuffy atmosphere, traffic and big city trappings. Ventura is vintage not only in its ability to preserve history with places such as lovely Spanish mission San Buenaventura, historic ranchos and the building in which famed writer Earle Stanley Gardner created his Perry Mason crime solving novels. Modern day travelers seeking something simple, relaxed, comfortable and beach-oriented will find Ventura an ideal getaway that works well as a weekend getaway, or as a home base for longer vacations. Sitting on the edge of a national treasure, the Channel Islands, you can take daytrips to several islands, visit Oxnard, shop in Santa Barbara or drive over to Ojai to explore. Shopping, dining, live theater and an art scene are a few things that will compel you to spend more time in Ventura.


 Like other one to two-hour drives from Los Angeles and Orange County such as Big Bear Lake, Idyllwild, Temecula and Oxnard, Ventura offers a refreshing change of pace with a slower lifestyle and many affordable entertainment, dining, hotel and resort accommodation options. You don't have to pack designer stilettos or have hubby take a tie. You can do so if you like, but Ventura's slightly laid back, and chances are, you won't need the fancy stuff. Nice boots and a leather jacket will do fine for most restaurants and situation you'll encounter on this excursion.

Filled with adventure, shopping, intriguing history, culture, architecture and fine restaurants, Hollywood celebrities enjoy escapes to Ventura where locals allow them to relax in a stress-free environment. One of California's most scenic beach destinations is flanked on it's inland side by a mountain range which cascades to fertile valleys. Bejeweled islands and a magnificent coastline provide oceans of opportunity for exploration in this once sleepy little town on California's coast.


Located 100 miles north of Orange County, 62 miles north of Los Angeles and 27 miles south of Santa Barbara, Ventura is a gem that continues to provide an affordable coastal vacation.


Ventura, officially known as San Buenaventura, means "city of good fortune" in Spanish.  The name is taken from the Spanish mission built in 1782 by Father Junipero Serra as the ninth and last of the 21 missions the founder of California missions actually oversaw. Destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt in 1815, a triangle at the entrance symbolizes the holy trinity and the ornamentation on the wall around the side door opposite a fountain is actually a map of the area for wayward travelers.  The curved lines above the door are the two rivers--the Ventura and the Santa Clara--which straddle the mission, and the hills behind the church are represented by the top line. 


Chumash Indians who inhabited the Central Coast were among the earliest settlers to Ventura. Artifacts dating to 10,000 years ago yield evidence that the Chumash were hunters and fisherman who built sea vessels. As the Spanish settlers arrived and brought not only a new religion and culture that involved farming, San Buenaventura became a center for growing apples, pears, peaches, pomegranates, grapes, olives, figs, grain and lima beans.  Like so many Native populations, the Chumash were ravaged by diseases of the visiting Spanish and a population of Chinese workers was brought into the region to continue the farming and commerce vital to a growing region with fertile soil and central location.


Albinger Archaeological Museum located adjacent to the San Buenaventura Mission; the Ventura County Museum of History and Art, one of the oldest museums in California; and the A.J. Comstock Fire Museum with turn-of-the-century firefighting equipment and artifacts all provide excellent educational opportunities with interesting artifacts of Ventura's past.  Historic buildings include the Olivas Adobe, an outstanding example of  two-story Monterey style architecture and Ortega Adobe, known as the birthplace for the Ortega Green Chiles. Ventura's historic City Hall, formerly the Ventura County Courthouse, sits on top of a hill overlooking the city and features a neoclassical design with doric columns, Italian (Carrera) marble floors, a domed stained-glass ceiling, bronze fixtures and 24 terra cotta friars who stand as sentinels. 

Got ghosts? You'll be surprised just how many historic California buildings are reported to contain the ghostly spirits of those who once enjoyed human form and existence in places such as the Ventura Courthouse and Olivas Adobe. Former coordinator for historical programming for the City of Ventura,  Richard Senate, believes Ventura is one of the most haunted cities in America! A prolific author of titles such as Ghosts of the Haunted Coast, The Haunted Queen Mary and Haunted Hawaii, Senate has spent several decades recording more than 800 separate ghost sightings in Ventura and he believes that Ventura is one of the most haunted cities in America.


Olivas Adobe, open for public tours, offers a glimpse into California's past. Built in 1847, it continues to provide a home to the spirits of family members such as a woman in black who traipses the grounds and a woman who peers from an upstairs bedroom window.  The tap-tapping of a typewriter is sometimes heard at night in an office on Main Street that once housed the law offices of Ventura's native son Erle Stanley Gardner, author of the Perry Mason novels.  Guests to that building reported several ghosts and the unexplained sounds of 1930s-era big band music. 


The Landmark 78, an historic building offering the charm of another era, features fine dining—and ghosts. A woman named Rosa committed suicide in the building by hanging herself in the ladies room decades ago. 


Bella Maggiore Inn, a lovely bed & breakfast establishment a few blocks from the heart of downtown Ventura shopping and dining is home to Sylvia, a woman of ill-repute who was found hanged in a room at the inn which was built in the 1940's. Guests write about their experiences in the B&B's books and one family seeking a paranormal encounter was let down twice before enjoying their very own Sylvia experience. On their third stay at the historic inn, a couple booked a beautiful suite with a living room and fireplace, complete with stained glass windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean.


On a relaxed Sunday morning, a guest lounged in front of a warm fire but was suddenly aware of “something” close by. "I became so frightened; it felt as if the air was being sucked out of the room. No matter how hard I tried to reason with myself, I just knew if I looked to my left, something awful was about to happen. When I finally calmed my nerves (just a little), and forced myself to look to the left, the strong, sickeningly sweet smell of rose perfume permeated the air. It was suffocating. I was so scared that I grabbed my long coat and ran down the hallway, to the front desk."  The guest was then escorted back to her room by a man on hotel staff who watched the lights flicker on the hall lighting next to Sylvia's room. The man said that could not be as he had just done the light check for his shift.


Another hotel guest at  said that in his prolonged visits to the Inn while on business, he learned to ignore Sylvia's pranks that included his wallet being moved to different parts of his room.


Ghost hunter Senate attributes Ventura's wealth of ghost experiences to the host of different cultures. He said he's observed more paranormal activity in locations where a variety of cultures interact. While some hotel managers and owners shy away from reporting spirits, the ledgers and guest room journals reveal stories of activity that's unusual. With California travelers more than ever seek new experiences that include ghost encounters, some (reported) haunted accommodations include Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, Monterey Hotel in Monterey, Queen Mary ship in Long Beach, Gold Manner Inn in Big Bear Lake and The Cary House in Placerville. Read more about California ghosts


Elevation: 35'  Visitors: (800) 333-2989


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Check these out:

San Buenaventura Mission, 225 E. Main, Mon.-Sat 10 am - 5 pm, Sunday 10 am - 4 pm. Free, donations welcomed. (805) 648-4496


Ventura County Museum of History and Art, 100 E. Main,  Tues. - Sun. 10 am - 5 pm. $3, under 16 free. (805) 653-0323


Erle Stanley Gardner Office Buiding - Birth place of fictional detective, Perry Mason, 21 S. California St.

Albinger Archaelogical Museum, 113 E. Main St., Wed - Fri. 10 am - 4 pm, Sat & Sun 10 am - 2 pm. Free,  (805) 648-5823

Channel Islands National Park Excursion leaves from Ventura Harbor, Cost $32-$45. Island Packers Cruises - 800-474-1361 or 805-642-1393


Whale Watching tours 800-474-1361 or 805-642-1393.

Fillmore and Western Railway Company Dinner Trains are located in this scenic city with a small town feel located in Ventura County. Events all year long include Romance, Barbecues, Christmas Tree Excursions, Mother and Father's Day Celebrations  and more, all on vintage trains that glide through the local countryside. 800.773.2546

ventura ocean photo
ventura beach picture
ventura courthouse, harbor photos

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