Escape the heat and catch the fun
By Jim Walker
When your thoughts turn toward a cool seaside escape, and they will, soon enough, you might consider Ventura Harbor Village. An easy scenic drive away, and perfect for a day trip or longer stay, here you will find both beach and harbor, plus multiple shopping and dining opportunities, fresh fish purchases, live music, watercraft rentals and tour options, and much more.
“We have free parking, and the beach is just steps away from the village,” said Jennifer Talt-Lundin, Ventura Harbor Village marketing manager. “If you come and stay, you can enjoy beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and your hotel is only an eight-minute walk away along the beautiful promenade.
“We have 14 boutiques and art galleries, three pampering options, such as nails and hair, and three sweet shops,” she said. “There are 11 restaurants in the village and more in the larger harbor. These offer wonderful variety in cuisine, including American, Cuban, Greek, French, Mexican and seafood. In fact, most of the restaurants offer some seafood options. It’s a one-stop eating ‘shop.’ Just come here and then decide what you are in the mood for. And we’ll have two more restaurants and a winery soon.”
At the village, you can enjoy your food indoors, on waterfront patios or picnic-style on the seaside lawn. There are also three fish markets, and on Saturdays locally caught fish and seafood is sold fresh off the boat.
While some of the village restaurants feature their own live music, Ventura Harbor Village offers live music performances on the outdoor Promenade Stage. The happy-mood-setting sounds carry around the harbor as you stroll, shop, dine or dance. The upcoming schedule (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.) includes: May 1, Ashun (classical, flamenco, jazz, rock guitar); May 7, Karen Eden (rock and pop); May 8, Illunis (dynamic listening experience); May 28, Uncle Monkey (rock, Caribbean and more); May 29, Blown Over (rock and reggae). And there are performances outside this schedule. “Our summer series includes a DJ every Saturday from noon to 3, and a steel drummer every Sunday from noon to 3,” Talt-Lundin said.
Visual and tactile arts are also part of the Ventura Harbor Village experience. “We have lots of ‘makers’ here,” she said. That includes three art gallery/boutiques, where you can purchase paintings, jewelry and collectibles, talk to the artists and watch them work. “You can watch Tina O’Brien paint in the Mermaid Gallery, and watch Katie Adams make and cut special soaps at Lemon and Lei. All our shops are locally owned and operated.”
Beyond eating and shopping, entertainment options include the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club, and, for the more activity-minded, The Ultimate Escape Rooms offers visitors great fun as they use teamwork to solve puzzles to receive codes to unlock the doors and “escape.” Most rooms are family-friendly and all have emergency exits.
You can also have on-the-water fun at the village. Ventura Boat Rentals offers private boat charters for up to 42 passengers, and rentals of electric boats, kayaks, paddle boards and pedal boats shaped as swans, ducks and dragons. “People love the dragons,” Talt-Lundin said. And whichever form of transport you rent, you can take it around the marina and into the canals at Ventura Keys, enjoying the calm water and beautiful scenery. “You can get on the water here and see the wildlife, including birds, seals and sea lions,” she said.
The Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center provides an entertaining and educational experience, featuring a bookstore, park-related gifts, and a tidal pool with live marine animals. There are daily “talks” presented, and exhibits explaining the special features of each of the Channel Islands. Visitors can view the 25-minute film, “Treasure in the Sea,” narrated by Kevin Costner, and there is also a viewing tower, where you can take in great views of the harbor, coastline and offshore islands.
Island Packers is the official boat concessionaire of the Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary, offering tours to all five of its islands. There are also whale watching trips, even in summer, and harbor dining cruises.
“Ventura Dive & Sport has its own pool and offers scuba classes and dive tours to the local islands,” Talt-Lundin said. Three dive boats make the harbor home.
Talt-Lundin added that the village is very pet-friendly, and there are occasional dog events. And though there is no way to know when it might happen, you can often watch local commercial fishing boats unload tons of their catch, such as squid.
For more information visit https://venturaharbor.com/.