Wondering about family activities for your #VenturaHarbor weekend trip? Ventura Harbor Village and the surrounding area is a year-round destination that provides just the right balance between relaxation and exploration. You can experience adventurous day trips from here – or you can set up at the beach and watch the boats come into the harbor. Ventura also happens to be my hometown, so I have an intimate connection with all the benefits this area offers for families.
First of all, if you are planning to stay overnight and within walking distance of many of the following activities there are 2 options.
Both hotels are along Harbor Blvd facing out on to the resident boater section of the harbor. If you want access to the shops and restaurants of Ventura Harbor Village, there is a walk from the hotel and some of the other places I mention are further out near the harbor entrance which is a longer walk through neighborhoods.
Zip Like a Pirate at Marina Park Playground
I didn’t realize how awesome Marina Park was when I was a kid. This concrete boat with zip line brings all sorts of imaginative games to mind. Now we go for picnics and walks along the beach from here and allow ample time for playing. [This is outside Harbor Village, but nearby if you wind through the neighborhoods to get to the harbor entrance. An easy drive or a long walk from the hotels.]
Junior Ranger at Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center
You don’t even have to get on a boat to go through the Junior Ranger program here. But (warning!) it took my older school-age kids 2 days to complete their activities and get sworn in. So if you only have an hour, enjoy the exhibits and don’t even mention the Junior Ranger program to your kids! For us, it was actually nice to spread out the challenge over a couple of days. Make sure you watch the movie to learn about the islands – and take the stairs instead of the elevator to the viewing deck. On your way up, you’ll learn a lot about the ocean at different depths. Also, take your time! Enjoy this place.
Island Packers for Island Trips and Whale Watching
For as long as I can remember, Island Packers takes care of visitors wanting to enjoy a trip out to Santa Cruz or Anacapa Island (other islands are too far for families in my opinion) or local day trips for whale watching. Their office is in between all the shops of Harbor Village and the Visitor Center. If you are considering going to the islands, research it on the Island Packers site or maybe you want to peruse my post and photos about 10 Life Lessons from a Secret Channel Islands Childhood?
Go Fancy or Simple for Breakfast
Alexander’s at the Four Points by Sheraton serves a Sunday brunch or you can grab a breakfast burrito or breakfast sandwich at the Harbor Cove Cafe right next to the Channel Islands Visitor Center building.
Hit the Beach at Harbor Cove
The beach right across the street from the National Park Visitor Center is called Harbor Cove. Locals call this “Mother’s Beach” because of the calm surf during summer months. We’ve also found some geocaches near here. I love watching the boats coming in and out of the harbor. Be aware, though. In the winter, there might be high surf and high winds.
Walk the Promenade
There is a WIDE sidewalk that stretches from the hotels, all the way into Ventura Harbor Village, and past it to the Ventura Harbor Yacht Club and ending at the Park Headquarters and Harbor Cove Beach. You can see the kids skip along a long ways ahead of you, so you can leisurely stroll. See if you can spot the Fishermen’s Memorial and other nautical work by artist, Michellino of ClayGods.com. You’ll also pass fun photo stands and a knot tying station for the kids. If you’re lucky, there might be a scuba class using the pool next to Ventura Harbor Dive & Sport.
Order the Best Clam Chowder & Onion Rings
Andria’s Seafood Restaurant and Market doesn’t look fancy on the outside, but it is a family favorite! My sister even worked here for a stint during high school. The fish is soooo fresh and the chowder is soooo good. You can get your chowder in a bread bowl (buoy) or not. It’s not cheap, but the quality speaks for itself. Plus the portions are hearty so it’s essential to share! My grandpa loved the giant onion rings. I’m partial to the calamari strips and chowder.
Find the Mermaid of Soter Point
I love that there is a walk out onto the point from Marina Park. It’s called Soter Point and there is a very sweet story of collaboration and cooperation that goes along with the mermaid sculpture. The best part is the benches which provide the perfect vantage point for viewing both the harbor entrance and all the way down Ventura State Beach towards the pier. [This is also outside Harbor Village near Marina Park Playground. An easy drive or a long walk from the hotels.]
Get a View from the Water
We used to drive our own dinghy boat around the harbor to ferry ourselves back and forth to Coastal Cone. You can just splash around on the pedal boats or rent SUPs or kayaks. Ventura Boat Rentals is down on the dock and can take care of your boating needs – even jet skis, harbor tours, and dinner cruises!
A Worthy Waffle Cone
No trip to Ventura Harbor Village is complete without a stop at Coastal Cone. So many flavors, so hard to choose! They’ve been in business ever since I was a teenager. Consistently fresh waffle cones and yummy ice cream.
Want More Fun?
- On Wed-Sun, take the trolley to Downtown Ventura for all sorts of other restaurants, book shops, and boutiques
- Discover the arcade and indoor carousel at Ventura Harbor Village
- There is a “hidden” restroom right behind Milano’s Italian Restaurant (across the parking lot from Andria’s). It seems hidden because it’s in a an inconspicuous place in a hallway – but it’s right there in the thick of things.
- Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center also has a restroom for park visitors.
Combine with a Channel Islands Harbor Trip
We wrote a complete family travel guide for a trip to Channel Islands Harbor area in Oxnard for a weekend. It’s just 5-10 minutes up the road on Harbor Boulevard. Consider combining the two trips and get a good 4- 6 day vacation out of it.