If you’re a smart dog, Ventura County is where you’ll try to get your master to head for vacation. In this oceanfront county, dogs aren’t just welcome, they’re celebrated. Ventura has its own “AmbassaDogs”—four-legged city reps—including at least one who may surf better than you.
But dogs care little for recognition, and lots for amenities. First, there are beaches. Ventura County has tons of them, and dogs, on leash or off (check local regulations), are welcome to romp at most of them. You and your best furry friend can stroll the promenade at Surfers’ Point in Ventura, watching surfers catch some of California’s best waves (and perhaps even spot Haole, perched on the end of his human pal’s longboard), or trot out to the end of the Ventura Pier, snuffling recent catches and old wood. In Oxnard, Oxnard Shores Beach and Silver Strand Beach offer fine snuffling, too. Water-loving dogs (and their owners) are also welcome at both the county’s harbors (Channel Islands and Ventura); both have extensive greens for running around, and many of the restaurants are dog-friendly. In Ventura Harbor, check out The Parlor’s dog-friendly Paw-lor Menu.
Dog-friendly parks abound. Camarillo Grove Park and Mission Oaks Park in Camarillo, Conejo Creek Dog Park in Thousand Oaks, Cemetery Memorial Park in Ventura (the place to cavort for furry fellows, and nice ocean views for owners), and Lake Casitas Recreation Area near Ojai (no swimming in the lake, sorry) are some of the green-grass highlights. Leashed dogs are also welcome on the infinite trails crisscrossing the vast and lovely Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (check with the National Park Service for specifics).
Dogs aren’t much for shopping, but they are big on being with you. All the county’s downtowns welcome dogs, and many shopping outlets (such as Camarillo Premium Outlets) do too. As an added plus, many downtowns are also close to grassy enclaves: In Ojai, a quaint collection of shops is located just across the street from dog-friendly Libbey Park. And when it’s time to put up your collective feet, plenty of local restaurants are dog-friendly. It might happen that your dog leads you to just the right spot for both of you: say, a star-filled night on the patio listening to live, local music, and dining on farm-to-table freshness at the Deer Lodge tavern in Ojai. After all, what’s a best friend for?