An hour north of Los Angeles, Camarillo is nestled below the Conejo foothills among green fields and organic farms. From sky high fun to a Utopian garden farm, Camarillo offers fall family fun activities that the whole family will remember for a lifetime. In cooperation with Visit Camarillo and Trekaroo, we spent three days in Camarillo inspired by hidden gems, local history, and soft adventures. We’re always excited about road trips in Southern California, especially when they are family-friendly destinations. Camarillo didn’t disappoint.
We arrived in Camarillo in the early afternoon. Our first stop was The Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology (The Camarillo Bird Museum). It’s both a natural history collection specializing in eggs and nests of birds and a research and education institution dedicated to bird conservation.
The Foundation was hosting a special Fall Open House when we arrived. They had entertainers perform and plenty of staff on hand to answer questions and show guests the exhibits. Athena was amazed from the moment we walked in the door. I expected her to be freaked out by all the stuffed birds and not really know what to make of it but she was in awe. She asked me tons of questions and she smiled from ear to ear when one of the employees showed her a table full of taxidermied birds. Kind and friendly, the employee fed on Athena’s inquisitive nature. She showed Athena each bird, allowed her to touch and hold it, and explained what type of bird it was by asking leading questions. It was educational and fun. We ended up staying for over an hour.
By the time we left, it was late afternoon. Toppers Pizza Place was only a short drive so we went there for lunch. It’s a locally owned and operated pizza restaurant that has become a county’s favorite. It has been voted best pizza every year this century. Athena and I both love pizza like it’s family and their Hawaiian Pizza was so delicious that we returned again the next day for more.
With full, satisfied bellies, we left for a tour of McGrath Family Farm. The certified organic family farm grows a high diversity of year-round organic fruits and vegetables. The best part of the experience was the pumpkin patch. Athena had never picked her own pumpkin before. I quietly watched as she looked for the perfect fit for her. She chose a bright orange pumpkin because “it had the same shape as her head.” Her logic made me giggle and we laughed together as we left the farm.
Inside the marketplace, I purchased some local honey. We’d both been sick a lot lately and local, organic honey is my favorite cure. We cleaned our hands and I let her dip her finger in the honey to try it. We both licked honey off of our fingers like Winnie the Pooh before driving back to the hotel to check-in.
The Courtyard Marriott was an amazing family-friendly choice in Camarillo. This modern hotel offers free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and coffeemakers. Other amenities include an outdoor heated pool, a whirlpool, a sauna and an exercise room, plus free on-site parking. Surprisingly, it wasn’t any of the above mentioned things that really made Courtyard stand out as the best family-friendly option. The little things like wheels on the desk so it could be used as a table or a swivel on the tv stand so it could be seen anywhere in the room were conveniences that made us feel at home. We also had a separate living room where I could work or watch tv while Athena slept at night. That is worth more to me than almost any luxury.
We took an evening stroll through Old Town Camarillo before heading to dinner. Old Town Camarillo offers unique shops and boutiques for the entire family. Our favorite was Rocket Fizz where we found an assortment of bottled soda pops and delicious candies.
We stopped by Dizdar Park so Athena could work up an appetite before dinner. Regardless of what city or country we are visiting, we always try to spend time in local parks. It’s a great way for Athena to interact with kids and it gives me a chance to take in everything we’ve experienced.
For dinner, we savored traditional Mexican favorites at Chili Peppers Mexican Restaurant & Seafood. I couldn’t leave without trying the deep fried ice cream. Maybe I should have joined Athena when she ran around the park rather than relaxing on the bench because we cleaned our plates. Athena can be a picky eater but if there is rice and chicken, pizza, or mac and cheese, we’re all set.
The next morning, we stopped at Old Town Café for breakfast. They offered classic favorites and we had a delicious meal but it was the service and thoughtfulness that really set them apart. The waitress offered Athena a coloring page and when she was finished, the waitress bragged about how lovely it was and asked Athena if she wanted to put it on the wall. Beaming with excitement, Athena helped her tape it to the wall. She said it was her favorite restaurant in California.
A scenic airplane ride with Channel Islands Aviation followed breakfast. Athena has the taste for flight like me. We always look skyward because it’s where we long to be. Our pilot, Marc, was experienced with flying with children. He was never annoyed with Athena’s endless chatter through the headset and he answered all of her questions. Although we didn’t do any aerobatics and I didn’t jump out of the plane, it was a family-friendly flight that satisfied my desire to be in the sky.
As a special treat, we attended Adolfo Camarillo’s Birthday Celebration at Camarillo Ranch House. The entire celebration was family-focused. We pet the Camarillo White Horses, listened to fun Mariachi music, enjoyed the grace and beauty of Folklorico dancers, and played games found all over the property. Athena milked a cow, roped a wooden bull, and tossed bean bags. She does everything with such appreciation that her joy is contagious. Watch the faces of everyone around her. They are always smiling.
We stayed at the party for three hours even though we had planned to just stop by.
The sun was shining and the temperature rising so we returned to the hotel for a swim in the pool. We had the whole pool to ourselves, but it didn’t stop Athena from extending the party. She did cannonballs. She tried diving. She played mermaid games. She made me happy.
The pool is one of our favorite places to spend the afternoon but I watched the time closely because we had booked time at Sky High Sports Trampoline Park and it was nearing. Athena had never visited a trampoline park before and her anticipation was building.
Blanketed in wall-to-wall trampolines, Sky High Sports delighted us with its springy terrain and foam pits. We literally bounced off the walls and jumped ourselves silly. After an hour of jumping and trying out different stunts, we were exhausted. We went directly to dinner without even changing our clothes.
Located in the heart of Old Town Camarillo, Sushi Planet was our dinner destination. Based on the name, you’d assume we both went for sushi but neither of us really like it. Instead, we went for their delicious Teriyaki Chicken and Miso Soup. We hesitate on visiting Japanese restaurants sometimes because we are expected to use chop sticks and we never know what to order. At Sushi Planet, there are plenty of scrumptious choices and while they do put chop sticks on the table and we can have fun practicing, they also bring silverware for the more difficult items. The waitresses were friendly and helped us order great choices for our tastes. They didn’t judge when we tried to figure out the chop sticks and one lady even offered to show us. Notice there is still a fork on my plate. I’m not there quite yet but I loved the lesson.
Athena talked about all of her favorite fall family fun things in Camarillo as we drove back to the hotel. Between the games at Adolfo Camarillo’s Birthday Celebration, the flight, the birds, and the trampolines, she couldn’t narrow down her ultimate favorite. She loved them all. I asked her about her favorite food and I expected her to say the pizza or the deep fried ice cream, but she immediately said the chicken and rice at Sushi Planet. I think the combination of some of her favorite foods with the fun of trying the chop sticks made it stand out above the rest. Even with packed days from morning until night, we still didn’t try all that Camarillo offers for families.
****Check out Trekaroo to enter a Camarillo giveaway worth $600.
Our trip was possible because of Visit Camarillo. As always, all opinions are my own.***
Camarillo Hotel & Tourism Association