A Stroll Through the New, Improved Ventura Botanical Gardens

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Spring has truly sprung in Ventura. With this winter’s heavy rain, our hills are quite literally alive. I knew that before. After all, I can see all the green up there. But I didn’t truly understand what this wet winter meant for us until I checked out the Ventura Botanical Gardens.

This was my first time returning to the gardens since the Thomas Fire devastated almost all of its 109 acres in December 2017. After 11 months of intensive work, VBG reopened in early November, complete with a snazzy new Merewether Welcome Center. But this was my first opportunity to check it out.

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And all I can say is: wow.

I used to frequent the Ventura Botanical Gardens. With a short, albeit fairly inclined, 15-minute walk, you get one of the best views in town. But the old VBG was always a little rugged. The trail would get overgrown. The optional steps up to the top were uneven and, sometimes, unstable. Still, though, you can’t beat all that natural beauty.

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Climb On Up

Or that’s what I thought. Until I saw the new, even more beautiful gardens. Not only is the trail completely cleaned up, with a new, stunning stone staircase if you want to get to the top in a hurry, but the variety of plant life is staggering. You’ll walk from cacti and succulents to lush expanses of lupines in just moments. No surprise, really, when you consider the 109 acres contain over 160 plant species.

And, oh yeah, all of this is just a work in progress. Within the next 35 years, the Ventura Botanical Gardens will have distinct gardens that showcase the five Mediterranean climate regions. The Chilean Garden is well underway and, when completed, will be the largest of its kind outside of Chile itself.

Now, there’s a catch. The Ventura Botanical Gardens are no longer free. But you can enter for free all day Tuesday, so it just comes down to a little planning if you want to check them out without cost. And mind when you bring your furry friends. In the new VBG, dogs are only welcome on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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Experience the rainbow

What you need to know

The Ventura Botanical Gardens is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday. If you visit on a non-Tuesday, it’s $7 a person. Or, you can buy a membership ($45 for individuals, $75 for couples) and enjoy free entry year-round. You’ve got options.

And I’d highly recommend you choose one and go. The Ventura Botanical Gardens have always been an asset to our community, but they’re in rare form thanks to the hard work of its staff and volunteers coupled with our rainy winter. Don’t miss it!

To get to the Ventura Botanical Gardens, head to 567 South Poli St, Ventura, CA 93001. There’s ample parking right at the welcome center, so save yourself the hike from the street or the City Hall parking lot below. Just keep driving up the road (James Monahan Way) until you see the welcome center appear, as if from a dream. Then, enjoy!

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