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Touring Thousand Oaks: Top 10 Staycation ideas

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Thousand Oaks is known for its spas, dining and shopping amenities, but there’s plenty more than meets the eye. It’s also located against the Santa Monica Mountains, which provide numerous outdoor activities for the family. There’s also an active cultural arts community here as well as historic sites and more.

1. Santa Monica Mountains National Park: Let’s start with some great outdoor activities. The park’s recreation area headquarters are located in Thousand Oaks, and the area offers a multitude of hiking opportunities with views of the Conejo Valley and the Pacific Ocean. The Park offers hiking and mountain biking trails and horseback riding. There are a number of popular tails through the park, including the Wildwood Park trails, the Backbone Trail and the Los Robles trail system. There are many beautiful spots along these trails to see sweeping vistas, wildflowers and waterfalls at certain times of the year.

2. Paramount Ranch: Take the kids on a real-life cowboys-and-Indians tour. Paramount Ranch has served as a stand-in for Tombstone, Ariz., Dodge City, Kan., Albuquerque, N.M., Colorado’s Royal Gorge, The Ozarks, the hills of Montana and the streets of Laredo. More than 100 Paramount movies from the 1920s to the mid-1940s were shot at Paramount Ranch, where a western town set still stands for visitors to tour, including a Main Street, sheriff’s office, blacksmith/livery, surveyor’s office, saloon, post office, barns, and a Wells Fargo office. For directions and additional information on park hours visit the National Park Service Website or call Paramount Ranch at 818-597-9192

3. Chumash Indian Museum: Now for the Indians part of the tour. The museum, also nestled in the Santa Monica National Park contains an exhibit building with numerous Chumash artifacts, a recently re-created Chumash Indian village, hiking trails, two ancient grinding stations and a cave with ancient Indian pictographs. The village includes a sweat lodge, a game field and a mock cemetery. This is a great way to work some California history into your summer fun. The kids will enjoy the nature trails and the wildlife. Visit the website for more information and a tour schedule.

4. Stagecoach Inn: Well, since we’ve covered the cowboys and Indians, let’s not forget the pioneering settlers. Witness a reproduction of a former stagecoach stop and hotel. The Stagecoach Inn, with its wrap-around porch was considered a resort at the time. Exhibits include a large display of artifacts, a carriage house and blacksmith shop, a one-room schoolhouse, a pioneer home, a Spanish adobe, a Chumash display and a rose garden.

5. Boulder dash indoor rock-climbing: If the kids have you climbing the walls after trekking all over the national park and through the historic exhibits, you might as well do it in a state-of –the-art facility. Boulderdash is one of Califonia’s tallest rock-climbing gyms with 10,000 square feet of sculpted surfaces for your climbing pleasure. There are locker rooms, snack area and multipurpose rooms. Call ahead and schedule a class, or sign up for open climb time. Reservations are recommended since space can be limited.

6. The Discovery Center for Science and Technology : Another way to let the wee ones burn off some energy is to visit The Discovery Center for Science and Technology. They have some great hands-on exhibits for kids, all of which are entertaining and educational. They have several static exhibits and programs, but usually bring in something special for the summer. Visit the website for current exhibts.

7. Gardens of the World: If your’re looking for a more calming and relaxing out, directly across from The Civic Arts Plaza is Gardens of the World, a monument dedicated to the cultures of the world. The garden offers docent-led and self-guided tours of the various gardens, which include: The Japanese Garden with an authentic Japanese Pagoda and Koi pond; The French Garden and Water Feature with a waterfall, iron entry gates and flowers arranged in intricate designs; Mission Couryard, with a hand-painted mural and Spanish fountain surrounded by olive and citrus trees; the English Perennial and Rose Garden, which is an explosion of color with rose varieties of all shapes and sizes; The Italian Garden with its grape arbor, cypress trees and “chain” fountain; and The Bandstand, which is an authentic replica of an American Bandstand that provides a stage for public concerts in the park that can be enjoyed from the grassy amphitheater. Nearby is a picnic are with tables and benches.

8. Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival: Shakespeare enthusiasts will love this event with its outdoor theater and preshow entertainment. It’s also a great way to introduce children to the Bard’s works since kids 18 and younger can attend for free. The festival is one of the area’s most popular outdoor theatrical events. This year, the company will stage performances of “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Romeo and Juliet” on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from July 1 through Aug. 7. Visitors are immersed in the Shakespeare experience as the festival grounds open at 5:30 p.m. for pre-show picnicking and entertainment. Visit the festival website for tickets and additional information.

9. Dive into the Arts: The cultural arts are alive and flourishing in this Thousand Oaks with the world-class Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza that houses the Fred Kavli Theatre and the Janet and Ray Scherr Forum Theatre. Both theatres offer a wide variety of performances including popular entertainers, Broadway musicals, ballet, symphony, live theatre, distinguished speakers, comedy, jazz, and award-winning children’s shows, and much more. In addition to the Civic Arts Plaza, there’s the Hillcrest Center for the Arts, which offers classes, camps and additional productions and theaters, including the Theater on the Hill black box theater.

10. Zuma Beach: Take a drive down Kanan Road to Malibu and stop on Highway 1 at Zuma Beach. Some rate this as one of the best beaches in the Los Angeles area. It has wide sandy beaches with snack shack, restrooms and 2,000 parking spaces, although it can get busy in summer. Pack a lunch, take a book, bring your boogie board and spend the day in the surf and sunshine.

May 7, 2014

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