Just a mere 45-minute drive from Los Angeles, the Conejo Valley was a term new to me as of last week. Approximately 35 miles northwest of Los Angeles and 10-15 miles inland from the beaches of Malibu, the expansive valley is filled with outdoor recreation such as hiking, biking, and horseback riding with wide open land, idyllic nature preserves, canyons, and ocean views. Every day you could pick a new path to explore with 140 miles of multi-purpose trails. And with 347 days of sunshine, you never have to have a plan B for your outdoor exploration.
Easily drivable, I realized the area provides a different feeling than one I am used to in Los Angeles, one of calm. Homes are more affordable and even though you are not smack dab in city life, there are over 400 unique dining options and shops situated in pleasing clean shopping plazas throughout the areas of Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Oak Park, Moorpark, Newbury Park, and Thousand Oaks. While living in the heart of LA, these unique attractions are in our own backyards, but often we never venture to see this other side of Southern California. There is something for everyone with the special balance of urban amenities and nature. Relax, unwind, and explore the Conejo Valley.
EXPLORE THE CONEJO VALLEY
Spend a joyful morning with baby goats (champion Nigerian dwarf goats) in pajamas while practicing your Om. As the gentle yoga session leads you through poses, the baby goats freely roam around you and may cuddle you or poop next to you. Ha! Instagram worthy photos are offered at the end of class if you want to get the goat on your back for the ‘gram. The organization in Thousand Oaks proudly supports Youth Agriculture programs. Sign up for a $25 weekend yoga class on Eventbrite.
Meet Malibu’s most famous rescue, Stanley the Giraffe (a retired movie star you may have seen in Hangover 3) for an Instagram worthy shot or just really enjoy feeding and petting the numerous rescued animals on this breathtaking property, like Vietnamese water buffaloes, llamas, zebras, yaks, camels, goats, and more. The open-air safari vehicle flies you around various stopping points in the hills of Thousand Oaks above Malibu. Sip red and white wine in several locations with vineyards scaling up hillsides and vintage Airstreams, a Bob’s Big Boy statue, and an old yellow Malibu taxi waiting for your best pose. The Saddlerock Ranch sparkling rose and Malibu Wine Safari Moscato were our favorite sips.
Apparently, an Indian priestess was found buried under the giant rock on site and Native American cave paintings were discovered here too, so the family who owned the land had to turn it into a business. Soon Stanley may be getting a playmate and the painted water tank on top of one of the vineyards may be turned into a speakeasy wine experience since popular Malibu Wines down the road burned down. The popularity of this place has not slowed down as couples from San Diego will even drive up for the day for the Malibu Wine Safari experience that costs $90 as well as the Malibu Wine Hikes.
One-year-old 14 Cannons is a brewery in Westlake Village where I actually thought at first might be located next to our storage unit. In a random location lies the incredible 14 Cannons Brewery serving up tasty beers like Coffee IPA, Peanut Butter Cup, and Maiden Voyage aged in French oak barrels. The brewmaster told us they use 100% reverse osmosis water and they offer 4 core beers with 18 beers on tap. The best is they offer Cupcake Beer Pairing nights and not until I tried it would I have thought it was a good idea. It was the best idea as they take care in pairing each flavor and icing with the Cupcake baker Sarah’s concoctions @celebratewithsarah with the perfect matching beer flavor profile.
The first micro-brewery in the area, founded by a woman in 2009, offers food with Belgian and French style beers. The casual brewpub excited me with their Trois Filles Tripel, a Belgian Tripel that won a Gold Medal in 2018 at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition while the Belgian Blond ale called Lady LA Blonde is another must-try since it won a gold in 2018 at the California State Fair.
Come for Happy Hour and the craft beer. Sample a beer from their own brewery like the Whole Lotta Rose, a saison aged on French oak with raspberries and dried hibiscus flowers or the Take Her Home Tripel, a Belgian with 10.8% ABV.
Voted #56 out of 100 Top Restaurants for 2018 on Yelp in the USA and #12 in California on Yelp, Uncle Af’s is known for their international paninis like the Chicken Firecracker Sandwich. The crisp bread toasted doesn’t overwhelm the sandwich making it easy to eat with layers of chicken breast, firecracker bacon, avocado, onions, arugula, and firecracker aioli. Next time I’m ordering the Imported Prosciutto with burrata panini. This little café in Agoura Hills is worth the drive for $10 specialty sandwiches.
Three-time winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, this little bakery location in Westlake Village brings big cupcakes with classic flavors (chocolate, red velvet, vanilla) or creative options like Ladies Night (vanilla with a hint of citrus), Mocha Truffle, Salted Caramel Brownie, Peanut Butter Peanut Butter. The moist cupcakes come with a huge amount of frosting making Arleen’s one of our new favs!
Stop in Agoura Hills at this quaint café for breakfast or a bite to-go. Croissant breakfast sandwiches, fancy pop tarts, breakfast quesadillas, fresh bread, or blueberry 6-grain pancakes are freshly prepared while cakes and pastries look divine too.
The pastry chef from Tuscany creates masterful homemade Italian desserts. Take home some sinful pastry bites for later like cream puffs, cannolis, cheesecake, profiteroles, hazelnut pistachio cream sponge cake, tiramisu, and more.
The Reagan Library and Museum – perched on a mountaintop with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and the Pacific Ocean – is situated on a 100-acre site just 45 minutes from downtown LA. It is the final resting place of our 40thpresident. The archives take you back in time and are described by Reagan as the “classrooms of democracy” that belong to the American people.
Step inside Airforce One and marvel at the eight years (1981-1989) Ronald Reagan was in office through historical documents, artifacts, and interactive displays that pay tribute to Reagan’s and his wife’s accomplishments. You can easily spend three hours here if not a whole day as there is also a guest exhibit. Currently, a Pompeii exhibit showcases authentic artifacts left behind from the ruins of Pompeii (and unearthed 2000 years later) along with reenacted footage of the Roman city that was once by the sea in Italy.
This 96,000 square foot facility offers sports programs and athletic training for all ages and skill levels. Sand volleyball courts, basketball, lacrosse, yoga….plus training for first responders, military personnel, and companies, everything seems possible here. Not only can you train your body for peak performance, but the Mamba Sports Academy is training brains with cognitive development activities that can improve reaction time and brain processing, along with activities to assist in stress and anxiety management. In the Cognitive Training Lab, we tried out some of these computer-generated activities.
Also, I tried out Normatec in the Recovery Room where my legs were squished with air then my feet riding up to my thighs promoting circulation and reducing lactic acid for faster muscle recovery. Want cryotherapy? They’ve got it. Want a Coffee Bar? Check. Private events are allowed too. Buy a day pass or a membership. You might just see Kobe Bryant (Black Mamba) or your favorite sports star dribbling next to you. #SportsDream
This newly renovated modern hotel is located not far from the US 101 and is in walking distance to over 10 restaurants. The new lounge is equipped with media pods, a full bar, and a Starbucks bistro café serving food all day in the lobby. My clean updated room overlooked the pool and from bed, I could watch the sunset. I felt safe leaving my car outside for several nights. Sign up with Marriot Rewards (and now tied to SPG) to earn and redeem points to stay in more places.