Camarillo is one of my favorite local cities. Have you thought about moving here? Today, I’m here to talk to you about the top 10 things you should know before moving to Camarillo. So, I’ve lived in Ventura County for most of my life, but Camarillo has a special place in my heart. You see, I grew up here, and graduated high school here. Look at that handsome fellow. I witnessed this city grow firsthand from a smallish farming and agricultural community to what it is today. A lot has changed over the years, so let’s get into this.
1. Livin’ It Up at the Hotel California
If Camarillo is known for one thing, it’s the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. The hospital first opened its doors in nineteen thirty-six and was a public psychiatric hospital for both the developmentally disabled and mentally ill. It didn’t shut down until nineteen ninety-seven.
However, it gained notoriety with the band, the Eagles’ and their nineteen seventy-seven album entitled Hotel California. It has been speculated that the Hotel California is actually a reference to the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. Maybe it was.
The hospital campus was redeveloped and reopened in two thousand two as the California State University Channel Islands, or C suckie for short. I’m sure you can come up with a joke for that. Why they named it Channel Islands rather than Camarillo, your guess is as good as mine. But it was most likely named after the Channel Islands, a chain of eight islands located right off the coast, rather than the city by the same name. But then again, what do I know?
2. Camarillo Outlets
If you don’t know Camarillo because of the Mental Institution, then it’s because of The Outlets. The Camarillo Premium Outlets is basically just one big outdoor mall. There’s over a hundred and sixty stores, including Burberry, Coach, Gucci, Prada, and Louboutin, just to name a few. The mall attracts millions of annual visitors from all over California, out of state, and even internationally.
Now call me crazy, but I don’t know if the stores in the outlets actually offer better prices, or whether the outlets just have a very good marketing department. In my experience, things aren’t necessarily less expensive, or things aren’t that much less expensive, but what do I know, I’m not a big shopper. Anyway, if you aren’t shopping there for the prices, then shop there for the variety.
3. Camarillo Ranch House
The city of Camarillo was named after its founders, brothers Juan and Adolfo Camarillo. The Camarillo Ranch House, constructed in eighteen ninety-two by Adolfo is the oldest standing residence within the city, and a monument to his family’s legacy.
The home itself is a six-thousand square foot, fourteen room, Queen Anne Victorian. Although originally, the home stood at the edge of what was once a ten-thousand-acre ranch, it currently stands on a mere four and a half acres.
The Ranch was gifted to the city of Camarillo in nineteen ninety-seven, and it was renovated by the Camarillo Ranch Foundation, a non-profit established to maintain the residence, two years later. The Ranch is considered an historical site, and is available for community events, school field trips, weddings, private parties, and film shoots. All proceeds go towards the maintenance and preservation of the historic property. The foundation also offers guided tours in and around the property for those that want to learn more about the property firsthand.
4. Wings Over Camarillo
Camarillo airport is home to the annual Wings Over Camarillo air show. Wings Over Camarillo offers a wide variety of air show performances, both in the sky and on the ground. Visitors of all ages will get a thrill from seeing historic and specialty aircraft perform airborne pyrotechnics, and witness parachute teams jumping in formation. But it’s not all about the sky. This family-friendly annual event does feature thrilling acrobatics, but it also features a classic car show, a parade, and hands-on learning at the STEM Pavilion.
5. WWII Aviation Museum
Speaking of aircraft. One of the most unique attractions in the city of Camarillo is the Commemorative Air Force World War Two Aviation Museum. It is also located at the Camarillo Airport, and their mission, is to preserve, maintain, display, and fly, World War Two aircraft.
The museum consists of two fifteen-thousand square foot hangars, and a newer almost thirty-three thousand square foot hanger complex that serves as a museum hangar and a maintenance and restoration hangar. The museum has everything you would expect from a World War two museum, including exhibits and memorabilia, but the real highlight is the planes themselves.
The museum has twelve World War two era aircraft. Some of the airplanes you are even allowed to sit in. If you’ve got kids, this is a lot of fun, hey, even if you don’t have kids. You can also take a trip up in the sky with one of the planes, although you do need to call ahead to reserve a spot, and you must be twelve years or older and be able to get into and out of the plane on your own.
6. Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology
Camarillo is home to the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology. Now I’m sure you know what vertebrate zoology is, so bear with me for a second. Vertebrate Zoology is the study of animals with a backbone, so fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. But not your least favorite politician, am I right? Because, they don’t have spines. Yeah? No? Okay, moving on.
The museum is home to the world’s largest collection of bird eggs, nests, and skins. Now you may be wondering why the museum isn’t called the Western Foundation of Avian Zoology, you know, on account of all the birds. Anyway.
The museum has around two hundred and fifty thousand sets of eggs totaling more than a million individual eggs, representing at least four thousand bird species from around the world. There are also more than eighteen thousand nest specimens from around the world, and more than fifty-six thousand skin specimens from over one hundred countries. All in all, it’s a lot of dead birds, I mean, scientific specimens. Joking aside, the museum houses a wealth of scientific knowledge that is crucial for research and education.
7. Camarillo Grove Park
Camarillo has a lot of great parks. There are about twenty-eight total throughout the city. But one of the best parks is the Camarillo Grove Park, located at the bottom of the Conejo Grade. This twenty-four-and-a-half-acre park used to be a stagecoach stop back in the olden cowboy days and is home to the oldest tree in the district.
The park itself is very rustic, and a great place for parties and events. Some notable features are the dog park, and the hiking trails.
The enclosed dog park is a leashless dog park, do don’t bring your fur friend if he doesn’t get along with others. It has tons of shade, and a doggie drinking fountain. It is open from seven in the morning until dusk.
There are a couple of options for hiking trails. The lower loop is the easier trail with oak trees, sage, and volcanic rock formations. The upper loop is considered a more moderate hike, at over one mile in length, and around a six-hundred-foot vertical rise. The upper loop is the better hike with panoramic views, but some of us are old, and in terrible shape, and kind of lazy. The lower loop is good too.
One thing that’s a bit of a bummer, is that there are parking fees. The fees are subject to change, but right now it’s three dollars during the week, five dollars on the weekend, and ten dollars for oversized vehicles on the weekend. But, if you are a frequent park visitor, they do sell annual passes for fifty-five dollars. The money is used to help maintain the park, so it’s being used for a good purpose.
8. St. Mary Magdalen Chapel
Driving along the 101 freeway near Lewis Road, it is difficult to miss the mission-style church located south of the freeway. The Saint Mary Magdalen Chapel is one of the oldest, and most recognizable structures within the city of Camarillo, and is still in use to this day. The original structure was constructed in nineteen thirteen, and has been expanded throughout the years to what it is today.
One of the most notable fixtures of the chapel are the thirteen stained glass windows. Originally ordered by Juan Camarillo, during a European trip, from a glass blower in Munich Germany before the start of the first world war. As the war began, hope of ever receiving the stained-glass windows looked grim. However, at the end of the war, the windows were located, fully intact, and were eventually installed at the chapel in nineteen nineteen. Better late than never.
9. Camarillo Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday from eight in the morning until noon, the Camarillo Farmer’s Market is open at Old Town Camarillo. The Farmer’s Market offers locally grown produce, eggs, cheeses, bread, pastries, woodwork, metalwork, jewelry, clothing, pottery, and much more. It’s all from local farmers, and vendors, and the variety of goods offered changes each week through the seasons.
In addition to everything for sale, there is often live music to accompany your shopping. The performers range from golden oldies to original songs, and everything in between. Now during COVID, there hasn’t been live music going on, but hopefully things will get back to normal soon. And if they don’t, and you’re watching this from the future in some distant apocalyptic wasteland, how do you still have YouTube?
The Farmer’s Market in Camarillo is a great reason to get out and start your weekend early, encourage a healthier locally sourced diet, and support local businesses all at the same time.
10. Fresh Strawberries
If you can’t make it to the Camarillo Farmer’s Market on the weekend, don’t fear, there are plenty of opportunities to buy farm fresh fruit and vegetables. Despite the fact that Camarillo has grown quite a bit in the past forty or so years, there is still plenty of agriculture around the city. Although you can buy an assortment of fresh produce, strawberries really steal the show.
One of my favorite places to buy fresh strawberries is at Las Posas Berries at the intersection of Somis Road and Las Posas Road. The strawberries are always good, because they are picked fresh daily. The fruit stand is open from nine thirty in the morning until five in the afternoon, or until they run out of fruit, from Tuesday until Sunday. They do often sell out, so be sure to hit them up early.