The Southern California version of “The Good Life” is perhaps embodied best in western Ventura County, where the coastal communities of Ventura and Oxnard, and Camarillo just inland, offer a laid-back, sunny SoCal setting only about an hour north of all Los Angeles has to offer.
Stretching about 22 miles from west to east, the area boasts some 23 miles of beaches and a Mediterranean climate that makes it ideal for wine making and growing crops such as lemons and strawberries.
Another arrow in west Ventura County’s quiver is affordability, with prices that approach half as much as Santa Barbara about 30 miles to the north, according to Rebekah Evans, executive director of the Ventura County Lodging Association, which acts as a clearinghouse for the meetings and tourism industry in the area.
Variety is the spice of life here, with beaches that range from flat expanses of sand to the more-rugged variety one would associate with Northern California; a robust agriculture industry that has fostered major farm-to-table restaurants; and Channel Islands National Park and its myriad recreational opportunities, such as whale watching and kayaking, located just off the coast.
“We have incredible secrets—hidden gems—across the three cities, with lots of wonderful places to go, things to do and great meeting space,” Evans says.
Although the area doesn’t offer a traditional convention center, about 19 hotels serve meetings and events groups in the region, according to Evans.
Taken as a whole, west Ventura County serves up value along with pleasant year-round weather that translates into a wealth of activity options for groups.
“The Mediterranean weather we have is phenomenal for wine making,” Evans says, adding that the region is a major farm-to-table cuisine destination. “You can tour the agriculture here and then put those fresh items right on the table.”
The region also boasts a variety of public and private golf courses. One interesting golf-related activity is FootGolf at Oxnard’s River Ridge Golf Club, which is the first golf course in the U.S. to offer the sport. Originating in The Netherlands, this curious golf-soccer hybrid has participants kicking a soccer ball into large holes on an abbreviated course that offers traditional features such as bunkers, water hazards, tee boxes and greens.
Ventura’s profile is that of an eclectic surfing mecca with a historic area near the beach. Its downtown is chock-full of galleries, shops and restaurants, and Ventura Harbor is a major embarkation point for cruises to Channel Islands National Park. Mission San Buenaventura, the last of California’s iconic missions established by Father Junipero Serra, in 1782, is available for group functions and features 250-year-old paintings of the Stations of the Cross that have been on display since the chapel’s rededication in 1809.
Oxnard, also located on the coast, offers shopping opportunities at The Collection Riverpark, a new upscale outdoor mall and dining hub. A major highlight here is the Carnegie Art Museum, which focuses on the art of California, including a major collection of plein air paintings and Hollywood photographs from the film noir period of the 1930s and ’40s.
Located about 10 miles inland, Camarillo excels in agriculture and features a downtown area that has been active since the 1800s. Another highlight is the Camarillo Premium Outlets area, with 150 stores. Camarillo Ranch House is an event-ready site that provides a glimpse into the region’s past, and at the Commemorative Air Force Museum, located at Camarillo Airport, groups can hold receptions amidst an impressive collection of WWII warbirds.