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Thousand Oaks

Thousand Oaks

With gorgeous Southern California landscapes, beautiful gardens, and eclectic dining, this Ventura County city is an appealing destination close to Los Angeles

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With gorgeous Southern California landscapes, beautiful gardens, and eclectic dining, this Ventura County city is an appealing destination close to Los Angeles

In the rolling hills of eastern Ventura County, Thousand Oaks blends the classic beauty of Southern California with contemporary sophistication. Just 40 miles from Los Angeles and 30 minutes from downtown Ventura, this Conejo Valley community is close to major attractions (including Simi Valley’s Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum), yet far enough away to have its own distinctive character. That’s because Thousand Oaks is where L.A. ends and the Central Coast begins.

Outdoor activities in Thousand Oaks

As its name suggests, Thousand Oaks is a place of almost endless natural splendor. Dotted with the stately oak trees that gave the city its name, more than one-third of Thousand Oaks’ acreage is protected open spacethreaded by 150 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

Along the slopes of craggy Mountclef Ridge, Wildwood Regional Park encompasses 1,765 diverse acres that are especially beautiful during spring wildflower blooms. The park’s volcanic ridgeline takes in a sweeping panorama, and you can hike to the grotto at Paradise Falls to see the 40-foot cascade plunge into a large pool. In the city’s Newbury Park area, the National Park Service administers Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa, where rugged Boney Ridge, the high country of the Santa Monica Mountains, towers over gentle grasslands. The extensive trail network here includes a route to a secluded waterfall, while Big Sycamore Canyon Trail leads into adjacent Point Mugu State Park. Follow this partially paved route and in about eight car-free (and downhill) miles, you’ll reach Sycamore Cove on the Malibu coast. The trail is perfect for bike rides (especially if you have an e-bike for the uphill return) or car shuttle hikes.

Sycamore Canyon was once part of a Chumash trade route and you can learn about the area’s indigenous past at the Satwiwa Native American Indian Cultural Center (open weekends). Or for a different look at local history, Newbury Park’s Stagecoach Inn Museum is in a Monterey-style structure with exhibits about the Conejo Valley’s pioneer days, and you’ll also find a working blacksmith shop and a replica of a one-room schoolhouse on the grounds.

With its mild climate, Thousand Oaks is a paradise for gardeners. The 33-acre Conejo Valley Botanic Gardenshowcases a diverse array of plant communities. Follow its paths and you’ll see species from Australia and South Africa, as well as rare fruit trees and such California natives as salvias and Matilija poppies. Filled with succulents and cactus, the desert garden is a highlight thanks to its big view out over the valley.

In the heart of Thousand Oaks, Gardens of the World feels more like a traditional city park. It has sections dedicated to the horticultural traditions of England, France, and Italy, while the Mission Courtyard takes you into California’s past and the Japanese garden is a Zen sanctuary where you can meditate in a pagoda along a koi pond. Just across from the gardens, the Bank of America Performing Arts Center is the city’s cultural hub. In addition to performances by the resident Pacific Festival Ballet and New West Symphony, the center hosts a wide array of events including touring Broadway musicals and concerts by the likes of Elvis Costello and Willie Nelson. There’s pre-show dining just a short distance away at The Lakes, an appealing retail center. Or for upscale chophouse fare, try elegant Mastro’s Steakhouse.

Where to eat and drink in Thousand Oaks

The Conejo Valley city is also a destination for craft beer lovers. Try inventive IPAs at the Tarantula Hill Brewing Company (whose name honors a local peak), and pair authentic pit barbecue favorites with the beers at the Pedals & Pints Brewing Company. The eclectic Thousand Oaks dining scene includes the Creole, Cajun, and Southern specialties at West of Orleans and the distinctive feijoada (a hearty black bean stew) and clay pot dishes at Moqueca Brazilian Restaurant. And Chocolatine French Café brings the sweet tastes of France to the Conejo Valley in such favorites as its artful macarons and an irresistible raspberry chocolate mousse cake.

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