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a visit to Conejo Valley with kids: hikes, beaches, vegan food and hotel life

Ever since my husband began a new career as a Realtor, I’ve been traveling solo with the kids often. We recently took an epic trip, just the three of us to Conejo Valley to experience everything it has to offer – okay, just a very small fraction, because there is SO much to do and see in this gorgeous slice of Southern California. You know the area, the region spanning both southeastern Ventura County and northwestern Los Angeles County.  I learned on this trip that I LOVE spending quality time alone with my kids (love ya Neil! ha) For real, it was so fun. Here’s our trip in a nutshell featuring a fabulous hotel stay, educational moments, hiking, beaches and lots of incredible vegan food!

Special thanks to Visit Conejo Valley for sponsoring this trip and post.

We rolled into town on a Monday afternoon and since it was before check-in time, I decided we should check out Paramount Ranch. Located in Agoura Hills, Paramount Ranch is a working movie ranch and a chance to step into a western world. It was the filming location of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, which I was in love with as a kid, and Westworld, which I am currently obsessed with! It was so neat to see buildings in person that I can locate while watching episodes of Westworld. Of course, lots of other western movies and TV shows have been filmed here as well.

I was super excited to do a “ghost town on a cloudy day” feel photoshoot with the kids here but when we arrived, we found the place was packed. It was the Topanga Bango Fiddle Contest! Well, I’m from city-outskirts Virginia and I love me a good bango and fiddle sound, so I was thrilled. Conejo Valley had a great first impression on us with this surprise festival!

We enjoyed listening to the contest going on around us on many stages, plus the people playing in groups on the “sets”. My clear favorite was this man playing a saw… a SAW! It made the eeriest sound – something you would hear in a haunted house – but was the coolest addition to the other instruments being played.

We never pass up an opportunity for a goofy photo…

A quick refuel at Zugo: The Liquitarian Truck – my kind of food truck – and we were ready to check in to our hotel.

Hampton Inn Agoura Hills

We were feeling pretty restless after our travels and the festival, so we headed to the Hampton Inn Agoura Hills to check in. This is right down the street from Paramount Ranch and centrally located from many other local attractions. I have to tell you guys, I recommend this hotel 100% for more than its location. It is super nice/clean, the staff were over-the-top friendly, the amenities were many, the wifi/parking/breakfast was free and much more.

Is there anything better than checking into a hotel after a long day? That feeling!

…and then quickly Gabe was reaching for the remote, because cartoons are so much better in a hotel room.

Chumash Indian Museum

After a quick rest, we all had a second wind and decided to drive over to the Chumash Indian Museum, which was just a handful of miles away from our hotel. My daughter has always been really interested in Native American museums and artifacts, so she was thrilled. When you arrive, you can go into the museum or simply hike the trails and and check out the model Chumash village built on historical land.

The museum is well maintained and SUPER full of educational exhibits and artifacts. If you are interested, you can easily spend an hour plus here reading and discovering all there is to know about the Chumash Indians.

Once I was able to drag Savannah away from the exhibits, we walked out into the beautiful, historic land, cloaked in enormous oak trees. Ya’ll know we live in the desert, so my kids are easily pleased by other ecosystems. They were having a great time before we even got to the main event, racing each other, spotting rabbits and even holding hands on a walk. My heart!

While the museum is awesome, what comes next is truly incredible… a Chumash demonstration village containing remains from a local homestead from years past. It is so cool to step back into time. Walking into the “aps” for me was very special and I really felt a connection to and reverence for a people who were here way before me.

After closing time, we headed back to our hotel and while I was spent, the kids were still going. It was clearly time to check out the awesome hotel pool back at the Hampton Inn Agoura Hills. Hotel pools can be kinda so-so but this one was really great – clean, spacious and well landscaped. Even though the clouds were hanging heavy, it was still quite beautiful and relaxing. The air was cold to my desert rats, so they definitely appreciated the heated pool and spa!

Then we all crashed hard.

We were all up bright and early that morning, excited for a bangin’ free breakfast at the hotel. I’m vegan but I still found a few options like fresh fruit and bagels. For the kids there was waffles with all the fixin’s, muffins, eggs, sausages, breakfast potatoes, yogurt and much more. I wish I took a photo of the spread but I was a bit groggy… thank goodness there was a nice coffee bar!

We packed up for a BIG DAY of hiking and beaching. Guys, I was so excited for this day because we DO live in the desert and I don’t make it out to the beach all that often. When I saw it was still cloudy and cool outside, I had to fight that mood slump and pray for the best. I needed an energy and mood boost so we checked out Joi Cafe, just a few miles from the hotel.

O.M.G.

Joi Cafe

Joi Cafe. Remember it.

This organic, gluten-free plant-based restaurant has one of the best vegan menus ever. If Joi Cafe was in Palm Springs, I would be there every day!! It was early, the kids had already eaten breakfast at the hotel and we just all wanted a powerful superfood smoothie. So, we each chose a smoothie that we wanted: TropiCali, Blow Your Mind and The Machine… and they were all so amazing, just what we needed for our hike!

hiking

Then we were off to Point Mugu State Park in Malibu. We love to hike and we love our views, so I of course researched ahead of time. There are a ton of great trails throughout and around the Conejo Valley. I’m telling you, this area of canyons is just so breathtakingly gorgeous… I want to hike every square mile of it!

Gabe was in tow and being 5, he requires an easy trail so I chose Scenic Trail in Sycamore State Park Campground. This trail begins in the campground, so it requires an easy and cheap day pass ($3 an hour). Park and then walk through the campground to this sign below. The trailhead is just past it on the left.

The trail is straight up basically, as expected to get a view of the ocean. It was under a mile up and the trail is either stairs or a nice slope up. My kids had no problem tackling it and the way down goes super fast. I recommend it for families who want to get a nice burn + a nice view – can’t beat that!

I couldn’t decide what was a nicer view, the ocean or the canyon!

I definitely recommend bringing a little picnic lunch because there is so much space at the top to rest and chill. We brought our happy kits (?) from the Hampton Inn, which they give out to guests in the morning for free! I can’t remember what they actually called them but they contained apples, water and granola type snacks.

beaches

A big upside to this trail is you are rewarded at the top and also at the bottom. Once you’ve hiked back down, you can simply drive across the PCH and park at the beach. There are lots of great beaches in Malibu but I’m always looking for the least crowded. I was super thrilled to spend the rest of the day at Sycamore Cove Beach where we were just about the only souls there.

As I mentioned, it was pretty cloudy on our visit to Conejo Valley but the sky cleared while we were at the beach. It was absolutely beautiful and the kids had a blast building castles, writing messages in the sand and racing through the chilly water.

A beach day was just what my desert rats needed!

We were starving after this day of outdoor fun so we headed over to another vegan restaurant in Conejo Valley people love…

Veggie Grill

The Veggie Grill in Thousand Oaks is amazing. Please put a location in Palm Springs! This is the type of accessible vegan food that everyone can enjoy, vegan or not and even picky kids. My son was thrilled to get a grilled cheese and fries, plus vegan “Oreos”. I run a pretty tight ship food-wise around my house so things like premade cookies are treasured by my kids!

I got the most amazing Rustic Farm Bowl, which is: farro, grilled mushrooms, roasted yams, braised cannellini beans, broccoli pesto, roasted tomatoes, red pepper sauce. I tried to remake it at home, that’s how good it was!

Bellies full of plant-based goodness, we headed back to the hotel. Shockingly, the kids still had energy so we went back down to the pool for another night swim. After a comfortable night’s sleep, it was another hotel breakfast and then we hit the road. I was feeling a bit sad that Paramount Ranch had been mobbed with people the first go around, so we stopped by again on the way out! I think it was worth it! The kids, especially my little one, were creeped out by the western town set when we were the only ones around.

Ready to plan your trip to Conejo Valley?

Check out Conejo.com for more attractions, restaurants and things to do! These itineraries are especially helpful!

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