California with kids
By Michelle Rae Uy
The Channel Islands National Park is one of Ventura’s kid-friendly spots. (Flickr: CheWei Chang)
Only an hour North of Los Angeles, Ventura County is a wonderland for family travel. It is nestled between the ocean and the mountains, which means that you can find something for everyone, whether it’s lounging at the beach or by the pool, enjoying outdoor activities, or experiencing nature in its many facets.
This May and early June is the perfect time to visit. The weather is perfect, the summer rush hasn’t started, and kids are starting to get out of school. Consider Bella Capri Inn & Suites in Camarillo, situated in beautiful Old Town Camarillo, as your base camp for a family-friendly vacation. Located 15 minutes from Ventura and Oxnard, 20 minutes from the beach and 30 minutes from both Ojai and Malibu, Bella Capri is perfectly situated to make the most of your stay in Ventura County.
Fill Up on Strawberries at the California Strawberry Festival
Stop by Oxnard’s California Strawberry Festival during your trip in Ventura. (Courtesy California Strawberry Festival)
On May 21st and May 22nd, Oxnard is hosting the California Strawberry Festival. This incredibly family-friendly festival is chock full of activities. Run a Strawberry Relay, built your own hat to win the Berry Best Hat Contest, and don’t forget to enter the Strawberry Shortcake Build Off Contest to see how high you can go. Visit the Strawberry Promenade for presentations and cooking demonstrations; and don’t forget to try the multitudes of strawberry creations at the more than 50 food booths throughout the festival. As if it couldn’t get any better, all proceeds from food booths presented by non-profit charities will go to the charities.
Explore Channel Island Harbor
After you and your family have gotten your fill of strawberries, it might be time to visit the Channel Islands Harbor. Take a trip over to the five pristine islands that make up the legendary Channel Islands National Park where the islands’ isolation has created something akin to California’s own Galapagos. You can also rent a kayak or a duffy boat and explore the coastline. Or if the little ones want to stay on dry land, rent bikes from Wheel Fun Rentals. Tandem bikes are available, as well.
Take a Gondola Ride with Gondola Paradiso
Take a gondola ride with Gondola Paradiso (Ventura Country Star)
Don’t forget to visit Gondola Paradiso to view the harbor from the comfort of a gondola. You can bring your whole family as they seat up to 6; or mom and dad can have a romantic ride on their own while the kids are under the care of a trusted babysitter. Bring some beverages, maybe a picnic basket and spend the next hour seeing the canals of Coral Island. For those with young ones in tow, any children 11 and under can ride at no extra charge.
For families with older kids, it might be fun to take them to Paintball USA Ventura. Kids can take advantage of several different paintball fields where they can fight in a WWI trench-inspired field or in a maze / funhouse. There are several different packages to choose from, depending on your family’s paintball level; and you can make a whole day out of it. And don’t worry, if you don’t have any supplies, Paintball USA will rent whatever you may need, including top-of-the line airguns, complete camouflage outfits and headgear.
Take a Wildlife Cruise with Island Packers
Whale watching and wildlife cruises are two of Ventura’s top things to do.
Ventura County is teeming with wildlife and the ocean is a treasure trove. You can go whale watching from June to mid-April, or take a family-friendly wildlife cruises are available for booking throughout the year with Island Packers. On the tour operator’s three and a half hour cruises, your family may witness anything from harbor seals, sea lions and up to 3 different species of dolphins. You’ll also see the famous Arch Rock at Anacapa Island where you’ll find one of the largest breeding populations of Brown Pelicans. If you do book during whale-watching season, you might be treated to sightings of Humpback, Gray, Blue and Orca Whales.
Michelle Rae Uy contributed this to MiniTime. She is a travel writer based in Los Angeles and MiniTime’s Head of Content, who spends her free time on adventures and film photography.