An Hour's Drive to Romantic Adventure You've made arrangements for your parents to watch the kids for the weekend. Now you can plan your great weekend getaway with your spouse. The question is: where do you go? It can't be too far because you don't have a lot of time, but it has to be a romantic vacation spot where you can decompress and grow closer to your mate. California has lots of options. One of them is Ventura County (in particular, the cities of Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura). Considered part of the Central Coast, it's still only about an hour north from Los Angeles. What's nice is you can choose to relax on the beach (the weather is ideal most of the year) or try something adventurous. The choices are many; all are inspiring. For couples who love nature and want to explore, the Channel Islands are waiting. Just 11 miles offshore, yet worlds apart, the Channel Islands National Park is an all-natural playground for those who love to hike, camp, snorkel, kayak, nature walk or just breathe in the fresh ocean air. For first timers, take an excursion to one or all five of the islands through Island Packers out of either its Ventura Harbor or Channel Islands Harbor (Oxnard) locations, or depending on the season, plan a whale watching trip (gray whales in winter, blue whales and humpbacks in summer). Get your land legs back by taking a lovely stroll along Ventura Harbor Village, stop in the many gift shops along the way and watch the boats come and go. You can also rent paddle boats for your own leisurely tour around the harbor. When the sun starts to set, it's time for a wonderful culinary experience. Ventura and Oxnard include ocean-view dining at Aloha Steakhouse in Ventura, Capistrano's (Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel) in Oxnard and C-Street (Crowne Plaza) in Ventura. Consider trying one of these romantic favorites inland: Camarillo's Safire Bistro, featuring classic American fare with an infusion of Asian, Spanish and Mediterranean flavors, Verona Trattoria, with its fresh twist on regional Italian cuisine or Sheila's Place (don't forget to try its wonderful wine bar with over 500 wine varieties). Not ready to call it a night after a superb meal? Amazing music from local, national and international musicians await at Zoey's Cafe in Ventura. From acoustical to rock, check Zoey's online calendar for what's playing. The Majestic Ventura Theater is another hot venue. It features well-known artists as well as local bands. Musical tastes at this 1920's mission style theater range from alternative rock, reggae, classic rock, metal, blues, country, jazz, Latin and more. Check ahead to see whose headlining. If you prefer, instead, a night of laughs, you can get plenty at the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club. Unlike L.A., mornings in Ventura County are laid back. Go at your own pace. Start your day with breakfast at one of the locals' favorites, Pete's Breakfast House Restaurant. It's famous for its fresh buttermilk pancakes, homemade strawberry jam and only the freshest squeezed orange juice. Enjoy the rest of the morning antiquing in and around Main Street in Ventura. There are lots of great finds without the high prices and plenty of art and photography on display as well. Next, take a Wine, Chocolate & Cheese Tour Enjoy paired wines, chocolate and cheeses. Don't worry about driving. The tour includes a light lunch and transportation. Favorite tour stops are Heritage Square, Rancho Ventavo Cellars, Herzog Wine Cellars and Magnavino Cellars in Oxnard and Bella Victorian Vineyard in Camarillo. Wine, chocolate and cheese--what a great way to top off a perfect weekend.
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