10/08/2013 09:29 am ET Updated Dec 07, 2013

Soak Up Some Sand, Surf and Sun in South Central

As a newcomer to Southern California, I'm still waiting to see the parts that aren't beautiful. This was my primary thought as I checked into my room at the Crowne Plaza Ventura. Expansive views of the sparkling sea poured into the hotel lobby, an open living room like space. Adjacent was an outdoor dinning terrace where you can lounge and enjoy drinks and bites from the bar. Note: there is no happy hour on Friday and it's a really good happy hour.

Once a deeply rural Spanish mission town known more for its agriculture and unique geographic positioning, Ventura is truly a gold nugget of a destination nestled in the hill flecked coast of south central California. Downtown Ventura is charming, nostalgic, with a range of local shops and eats to check out, on Saturday there is a nearby artists market with local goods at great prices. Keep on reading...

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