One of my favorite things about traveling is discovering new places. Along with being exciting and sometimes even adventurous, finding a new spot to love can be, well, a little humbling. I’ve called California home for more than half my life, with stretches in both the northern and southern parts of the state. Just when I thought I knew what the Golden State had to offer my traveling family, up pops Conejo Valley.
I lived in Los Angeles for four years. Conejo Valley was the backyard I didn’t get around to exploring until now. Better late than never.
The name Conejo may not be familiar to you, but some of the cities that make up the Valley will likely ring a bell. Spots like Thousand Oaks and Agoura Hills, Hidden Valley and Westlake Village. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. They’re the type of places you’ve heard about, but maybe can’t remember why you should go.
The attractions in Conejo Valley follow the same vein. Some you may have never heard of, others you might have written off as not family friendly. Forget everything you think you know, it’s a new year and great Southern California surprises are waiting.
Making movies takes space, so in 1927 Paramount Pictures bought lots of it in Agoura Hills -more than 2-thousand acres – and created a movie ranch. Paramount sold the land a long time ago, but the new landlord, the National Park Service, still lets Hollywood do its thing. Since the NPS calls the shots, folks like you and I get to enjoy all that open space. Families with older kids will enjoy the miles of hiking trails. If you’ve got school age kids, much of your time will be spent exploring the old western town.
Paramount Ranch is a park first and a movie set second, so when someone famous is working hard behind the camera, the Ranch stays open to the public and visitors are welcome to watch the show. If the scenery looks familiar to parents, it’s because you’ve probably seen it before. Along with countless movies, Paramount Ranch has starred in television show like Charlie’s Angels, Dynasty and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library
When you think about it, a Presidential Library and kids just doesn’t sound like a good mix. I understand the hesitation. When I think Presidential Library, I think museum, and that’s a tough sell with kids who either need room to run or kids old enough to roll their eyes. There’s no denying there are numerous exhibits at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library that require reading some pretty in-depth signage.
Families can blow right by with no guilt because bigger things are waiting in the wings like the exact replica of the Oval Office. Then there’s Air Force One, the Flying White House. The Presidential Library constructed a special building to house the Boeing 707 that flew seven U.S. Presidents. When the roof and 2 ½ walls of the Pavilion were built, the plane was towed in and remaining walls were built around the plane. With a length of more than 152 feet and a wingspan of almost 146 feet, to say it’s big isn’t really fair. It doesn’t matter how many planes you’ve traveled on, this is different. It’s Air Force One. Follow the red carpet to board and take a tour. Find the Jelly Belly jelly beans on board. A Presidential favorite, a special holder was designed for use on the plane that would not spill during turbulence.
Family Friendly Good Eats
There are an impressive number of family-friendly food options in Conejo Valley. Public School 805 has a nice variety of tasty choices even picky eaters will enjoy and comes with a fun school theme that should, at the very least, make the kids crack a smile. Conejo Valley’s first microbrewery, Ladyface Ale Companie has a patio with some wiggle room and a great view of Ladyface Mountain. But if you have little ones, The Rabbit Hole Café might be the vacation winner. Creative décor makes it look like something out of the pages of the classic children’s story, Alice in Wonderland. The Rabbit Hole Café serves up fresh, locally sourced, organic dishes and smoothies with names like Frozen French Toast.
If you’ve got a teenager in the mix, think about a stop at Pepperdine University. It’s hard not to be inspired by higher education when it comes with a primo view. When you’re on campus be sure to pop into the Frederick R. Weisman Museum. It’s a small space, perfect for expected attention span of the typical teen. Exhibitions change every semester and have included everything from student work to a Chihuly presentation. The Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday, 11 AM to 5 PM, and admission is free.
It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, you can’t go wrong at the beach, especially when it’s Zuma Beach. Just 15 minutes or so from Pepperdine, how can you not go? Lay in the sand, throw a Frisbee or take a chilly plunge. There’s a warm pool waiting at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza and fire pits just waiting for someone to break out the s’mores fixins.
Dana’s trip was organized by Conejo Valley, but as always, Dana’s thoughts and opinions are her own.