California’s Conejo Valley is the ideal setting to spend a fun yet slow-paced family weekend. With its multiple attractions and dining venues, the area is a hidden travel gem waiting to be explored.
Separated from the Pacific Ocean by the Santa Monica Mountains, the Conejo Valley is located an hour north of Los Angeles. Projecting a peaceful and pastoral vibe, this California attraction provides many travelers the perfect break from the intense LA scene. Furthermore, families wishing to find more affordable lodging possibilities and a plethora of budget-friendly activities will enjoy spending time exploring the valley once filled with white-tailed bunnies.
Westlake Village Residence Inn
We found the Residence Inn Westlake Village an excellent family option. This property is close to many stores and restaurants, including a Target and a Costco.
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The rooms are spacious and comfortable, perfect for large households, with a sitting and dining area. Moreover, the hotel offers a complimentary breakfast buffet, an excellent way to start the day. We loved the pool, fitness center, and game room. Our son thought the free wifi available in all areas of the hotel was a great touch.
Autism TravelingMom Tip: Parents need to be aware that there are no lifeguards for the pool.
Jeannine’s Gourmet Food Hall
Those wishing to start their morning right should stop by Jeannine’s Gourmet Food Hall in Westlake Village. Situated in the Target plaza, not far from the Resident’s Inn, Jeannine’s boasts indoor and outdoor seating areas as well as a coffee shop and a bar for those brunch mimosas. When we went, we enjoyed the Banana Kahlua French Toast. Highly recommend!
Lure Fish House
We loved Lure Fish House for dinner. The venue across from the Residence Inn is all about sustainable seafood and local organic produce. They are best known for their mesquite charbroiled seafood. Other items on their menu include clam chowder (New England and Veracruz Red), fried calamari, crab cakes, and New Orlean’s style mussels.
Those dining on a budget should go between the hours of three to six p.m. for their Happy Hour menu, that includes freshly made ceviche and grilled fish tacos. We thought their grilled asparagus and quinoa salads was amazing. Patrons craving dessert shouldn’t skip their sundaes and flourless chocolate cake.
The Conejo Valley boasts multiple ethnic restaurants worth sampling. We discovered Mouthful Eatery, featuring Peruvian themed food, on Yelp. The menu features handcrafted sandwiches with brined, basted, and roasted meats. Our son loved their ‘Arnold Bowlzenegger’ with roasted turkey, steamed quinoa, grilled veggies, and chipotle BBQ, while my husband got their Lomo Saltado and their Agi de Galina, a Peruvian chicken stew.
The area’s best-kept secret is La Carreta restaurant in Thousand Oaks. This place is essentially a hole in the wall not far from the freeway, but well worth a visit. The venue, featuring Salvadorean food, is well known for their fantastic pupusas. When we visited we tried the Yucca Root and Salvadorean tamales which use banana leafs instead of corn husks as cover.
Autism TravelingMom Tip: Since they do make the pupusas from scratch, visitors can expect a slightly long wait, so parents should be prepared to entertain their kids.
The Reagan Library
The Reagan Library in Simi Valley is one of the most famous stops in this area. This Presidential Library explores the life and times of Ronald Reagan, all the way to his White House years, post-presidential years and his death.Our son loved the iconic jar of jelly beans on Reagan’s desk.
While on the premises, visitors can explore Air Force One and Reagan’s grave site as well as see a piece of the Berlin Wall. The library also frequently hosts various exhibits and talks. Parking is free, and general admission is $16.
Autism TravelingMom Tip: It is worth purchasing the self-guided tour. The tour comes with an iPad and allows guests to take pictures and send them to themselves via email.
Those in Southern California have likely heard of the Santa Barbara and LA Zoo. However, when we explored the area, we were surprised to discover that Moorpark Zoo is one of two teaching zoos currently operating in the United States. Students in training make up the staff.
The zoo is small but features over 200 animal species, including lions, various primates, birds, rattlesnakes, and even a Galapagos Tortoise. We loved the 45-minute educational show in a stadium near the entrance. Parents should bear in mind the zoo is only open to the public on the weekends.
Autism TravelingMom Tip: Parents should pack sunscreen and hand sanitizer. Some kids might find the zoo somewhat noisy and smelly.
Gardens of the World
Gardens of the World is a beautiful oasis of all sorts of foliage from all around the globe. Ed and Lynn Hogan, founders of Pleasant Holidays, started this project to give back to their community. We loved the Japanese Garden, French Garden, Mission Courtyard with a Spanish fountain, English Perennial and Rose Garden, Italian Garden, and a Bandstand stage for concerts. The Gardens of the World sometimes hosts events, usually local art exhibits. Though we did our own walking tour the venue does offer guided tours that run for 45 minutes Not to be missed is the lovely koi pond next to the Japanese Gardens.
We loved the Japanese Pagoda, English Rose Garden, and the Italian fountains. The Gardens sometimes hosts events, usually local art exhibits. Though we did our own walking tour the venue does offer guided tours that run for 45 minutes Not to be missed is the lovely koi pond next to the Japanese Gardens.
Autism TravelingMom Tip: Those who want to take photos in the Gardens of the World need to check in at the office first. Also, all visitors must stay on the sidewalk at all times. Guests absolutely cannot remove any plants or signs.
Those looking for an easy hiking trail with a lot of history should visit Paramount Ranch. This hiking trail runs for 2.8 miles passing through an old fashion Western Town that Paramount Pictures still uses for productions. We thought that the western town, which included several blocks of prop buildings used from the 1950s to the 1990s, was interesting. The trail itself is in good condition and is dog-friendly. It is also self-contained, making it difficult for one to get lost.
Autism TravelingMom Tip: Even though it is an easy trail, those hiking on Paramount Ranch should still bring proper hiking gear. This includes good shoes and water.
The Stagecoach Museum
We weren’t quite sure what to expect when we stopped by the Stagecoach Museum in Newbury Park. Surprisingly we saw antique furniture, toys, and even an entire room dedicated to wall hangings made out of human hair. The museum also includes the Timber School (an old fashioned schoolhouse) and a Chumash Exhibit (showcasing archeological artifacts of the Chumash.)
Camarillo Premium Outlets
Finally, for some shopping therapy, we headed to Camarillo Premium Outlets just off the 101 Freeway. At this mall, they have different stores, including posh designer shops. We loved the fact that there’s an IMAX movie theater that can entertain the older kids while adults shop. The area also has multiple budget and family friendly venues to grab a quick bite or enjoy a sit-down meal.
Have you visited the Conejo Valley? What were your favorite spots?