Between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles in Southern California, the seductive seaside city of Ventura (officially San Buenaventura) is known for its long, clean beaches and wide array of things to do. It also happens to have some of the state's best surfing waters. Throw in a little Beach Boys music and a bonfire and suddenly it is the early-1960s all over again.
Hemmed in by two rivers, thick forests, deep canyons and the sea, Ventura (population 112,000) started as a Catholic mission in 1782 but remained fairly isolated for years. More outsiders began to arrive after the Maricopa Highway was built in the 1930s, but growth really kicked in after 1959 when U.S. Highway 101 (the Ventura Freeway) connected Ventura to Los Angeles.
The city has grown by 5% during the last decade, attracting a diverse group of people. The cost of living is 75% above the national average, and the median home price is $785,000, reflecting a 26% increase since just last year. Residents lean to the left politically, and 42% of them are age 45 or better. Thirty-four percent have at least a four year college degree. The crime rate meets the national average.
Ventura has a rich cultural scene and is home to a bounty of musicians and artists. Musical venues are varied, from concert halls to cafes and churches. The Rubicon Theater Company and others present theater and dance performances. Art exhibits and galleries are found all across the city. There are spas, wineries, beach festivals, gardens, museums and outstanding restaurants. Five colleges have a campus here.
Historic sites include the 1847 Olivas Adobes, one of the original California rancheros, and the 1782 Mission San Buenaventura, still an active parish. The Ventura County Library has three Ventura branches with public computers and Internet access.
Residents enjoy horseracing, car racing and plenty of golf as well. Boats bob in the marina, and the sprawling Los Padres National Forest, north of the city, is rife with outdoor adventure possibilities. Los Angeles is an hour to the south.
The funky downtown is full of energy, cafes, pubs, galleries and shops. Modern utilitarian architectural styles blend with classic styles, including Victorian, Italian Renaissance Revival, Mayan Revival, Mission Revival and adobe. Many buildings are painted in colorful pastel colors.
Across the bridge from downtown is the Pier and Promenade, a lively spot for beach strolling and people watching. The Boardwalk stretches to Surfer's Point, where young and old catch waves, rollerblade or just sit and soak up the California sun. Seaward Avenue is a beachy street with palm trees, retailers and eateries.
All around the city the soil is rich and fertile, launching a tapestry of color and vegetation, while eucalyptus trees blanket the surrounding hills. And life carries on in that mellow California way.
The County of Ventura Area Agency on Aging sponsors services that include support groups and legal assistance and is a good resource for volunteer opportunities.
VISTA provides public transportation in town, including to the city's senior nutrition site and its several senior centers, as well as to surrounding cities, including Los Angeles. People age 65 or better ride for $.80. There is also a dial-a-ride service.
Two primary hospitals, Community Memorial and Ventura County Medical Center, are both are accredited by the Joint Commission and accept Medicare patients. For military retirees, Oxnard, seven miles away, has a VA outpatient clinic, but the nearest VA hospital is in Los Angeles, 45 miles away.
They say it never rains in Southern California, but it actually does, up to 14 inches annually, primarily during the winter months when temperatures range from the low-40s to the mid-60s. In the summer, the temperatures top out in the mid- to high-80s. The city comes in well above the national average on the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity. The sun shines 275 days of the year. Spring and summer are often foggy.
There are some drawbacks to a Ventura retirement. The roadways are congested, and not all long time locals see the gentrification of their once ramshackle beach town as a good thing. Some people say that the city is noisy. The chance of an earthquake is 1,800% above the national average. The city has a homeless population. This area is also no stranger to wildfires. In December, 2017, the Thomas Fire burned more than 500 Ventura residences in one night. Other wildfires have burned nearby, with their smoke and ash occasionally wafting into Ventura. California taxes are high.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes | Is California Tax-Friendly for Retirement? No
High prices, congestion and the wildfire threat are obvious drawbacks, but Ventura still boasts some of the old California magic. Its diverse and vibrant cultural scene, classic beaches, good health facilities, top notch restaurants, fun downtown, coastal mystique and excellent climate make it a spot to consider for retirement.
Thanks to the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War, the Golden State became a U.S. territory in 1847. Soon after, gold was found at Sutter's Mill. The land crowded with fortune seekers, and, shortly thereafter, California entered the Union as its 31st state in 1850.
California has 900 miles of coastline and claims the highest and lowest point in the continental U.S. Its terrain varies dramatically - from sandy beaches to rugged mountains, deserts to fertile farmland. Landmarks like Hollywood, Disneyland, and the Golden Gate Bridge play a large part in the nation's history and imagination.
Although Texas and New York have tried to close the gap, California's economy continues to be nation's largest. Agriculture, manufacturing, biotechnology, and tourism are some of its leading industries.
Cities of the Golden State have put some odd laws on the books. It's illegal to molest a monarch in Pacific Grove. Want to throw a frisbee on an L.A. County beach? Better ask a lifeguard first. What about bowling on the sidewalks of Chico? Strictly forbidden!
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