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Perfect Getaway: Ventura

Uncrowded shores, waterfront dining, and a busy late-summer calendar

In-the-know beach lovers sneak up to Ventura for its sandy expanses, Victorian-era charm, and easy access to Channel Islands National Park. You’ll find the local late-summer calendar packed with events. The county fair, which runs through Aug. 10, offers a bacchanal of funnel cake, fireworks, and free concerts by the Barenaked Ladies and the Beach Boys. Catch “Who’s Minding the Store?,” an exhibit that examines the role of immigrant grocers, before it closes at month’s end at the Museum of Ventura County. And bring your best zombie costume to the fairgrounds Sept. 12 through 14 for Central Coast Comic Con.

The city’s hubs are the historic downtown and Ventura Harbor Village, home to boat and kayak rentals for whale-watching, diving, and sport fishing; and dozens of restaurants, galleries, and shops selling all things beach. Learn about “America’s Galapagos” at the nearby Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center, or book an Island Packers excursion ($12 to $140) to the isles for hikes, camping, or wildlife viewing. Bring a picnic or sample the food truck fare at the Olivas Adobe Historical Park’s “Music Under the Stars” concert series, where the intimate setting and dancing make for a romantic evening ($20).

Seafood always tastes better when you’re near the sea. At the Shoals island grill at the Cliff House Inn, you can sample Sicilian-style lamb ($34), local black mussels ($11), or Manila clams ($12) as you absorb the view. For fish and chips, local institution Andria’s Seafood Restaurant and Market offers eight crunchy varieties ($12 to $17). The 805 Bar & Grilled Cheese keeps it simple—and ooey-gooey—with a blue cheese, bacon, and caramelized onion panini ($8) and tomato bisque soup ($3 to $5) in a cozy bar overlooking the water.

It’s easy to spot the Victorian Rose ($99 to $179), the city’s only full-service bed-and-breakfast—just look for the 96-foot spire of this former Episcopalian church. Rooms decorated in elaborate period furnishings also feature original stained-glass windows, woodwork, and soaring ceilings—plus an afternoon wine hour. Built in 1910, the Arts and Crafts style Wyndham Garden Ventura Pierpont Inn ($99 to $225) tucks 77 guest rooms, an outdoor pool, and expansive lawns onto a leafy bluff overlooking the ocean. Enjoy those views from Austen’s Café, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has a happy hour.

Getting There
Ventura is a little more than 100 miles north on U.S. 101. Exit Seaward Avenue to Harbor Boulevard. Ventura Harbor Village runs along Spinnaker Drive.

1. Photograph by Doug Mangum. 2. Photograph by Sandy Porter. 3. Photograph by David Seibold.
This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue.

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