Ventura, California, located 63 miles north of LA and a mere 29 miles south of Santa Barbara, is stuck square between major metropolitan centers, a stunning stretch of ocean. Ever since its founding in 1792 by Franciscan friars, this charming and vibrant town has developed a reputation of being a jewel hidden away in Southern California. But it’s not just Ventura’s central location and proximity to the beach that drives up its desirability.
Today, Ventura stands on its own feet as a unique city with a unique culture. Tourists come to enjoy the views, its diverse eateries, and the laid-back attitude. Ventura is growing economically too. Thousands of residents call Ventura home not only because of its natural beauty but also for the job opportunities and thriving sellers’ real estate market.
But what are the pros and cons of living in Ventura, CA? In this article, we’ve rounded up the most popular opinions of Ventura from tourists and residents. We came up with a list that will cover all the impressions—long-term and short-term—that this city makes on us.
Roundup of the 13 Pros and Cons of Living in Ventura, CA
When composing our list of pros and cons, we asked ourselves, “What would anyone need to know about Ventura, CA, if they were visiting, planning to stay, or are simply curious?” The result: our definitive roundup of the 13 pros and cons of living in Ventura, CA.
1. Near Los Angeles and Santa Barbara
Tucked away between the twin metropolitan centers of LA and Santa Barbara (SB), Ventura has an ideal location along the southern California corridor. The City of Ventura boasts a population of around 108,000 people, but it doesn’t give the same impression that its neighboring cities give off. Namely, the feeling of massive overpopulation and industrial scale.
Another benefit of Ventura’s centralized location is the easy access to highways and transportation (more on this later) via Hwy 101. Traffic on the 101 at Ventura can get congested, but at least there’s a simple way to commute to, get around, or spend weekends in exciting cities like LA, Oxnard, and Thousand Oaks.
If you thrive in a medium-sized town but like to visit major cultural locations or see a show periodically, then Ventura is a great town to use as a hub for visiting other SoCal sites.
2. One of a Kind Oceanfront
Some Ventura residents like to call the Ocean their Central Park. In other words, the Pacific is close, easy to access, and almost like a part of the city itself. When you add the Los Padres National Forest and local Santa Monica Mountains, it’s easy to see why Ventura wins the title as one of the most beautiful towns in California.
Since the California housing market has been driving up the price of oceanside properties for years, it’s surprising that Ventura has managed to keep so many of its beaches public, open, and well-maintained. Surfing exhibitions and contests occur nearly year-round. Families with children can take to the sand and have fun on weekends all the time.
3. Lots of Local Ethnic Food and Brewery Scenes
Like many SoCal towns, Ventura is one of the most culturally (and culinarily) diverse in the nation. Renowned Hispanic taquerias, Asian American ramen shops, and Tex-Mex watering holes dot the oceanside. The downtown area boasts just as many tasty dining spots as LA or SB, but in miniature.
Ventura calls attention to itself thanks to its thriving beer gardens and wine vendors too. Check out the Ventura County Wine Trail to sample local vintages in a relaxed atmosphere.
Anacapa Brewing Company, which has been the genius behind dozens of new ales and lagers, is also located in Ventura. Finally, Brophy Brothers at the harbor have been the city’s top seafood joint for years, and it regularly tops best-of lists all over the state.
4. Homes Available For $400K
Estimating housing prices in California has never been a science with hard-fast rules. Yet Ventura city management has done a remarkable job at keeping median home prices lower than nearby cities.
The average home price is up 1.5% from 2019 and currently sitting at $601,400. However, locals have noted that large properties in certain areas of the town are available for roughly $400,000.
The city is undergoing major construction projects, with tens of low-cost housing developments climbing skyward yearly. Nevertheless, Ventura still boasts a lot of diverse home styles. The historic district still has plenty of townhouses, condos, and single-family units on sale. Ventura also has attractive mobile home parks that are well-kept and great starter homes for prospective new residents.
5. Plentiful Hiking Trails and Camping Sites
Turning outside the city center, Ventura is home to dozens of excellent parks and green spaces—enough to give your eyes a temporary break from the Ocean.
Among the 40-some parks and hiking trails, you’ll find San Buenaventura State Beach, Seaside Park, and dozens of day-parks to play softball, tennis, or take a pet-friendly hike.
For a hike near the waves, Surfer’s Point is one of the most photographed and visited locations in the city. There, you can watch pro surfers while you explore the city’s unique geology and camping sites.
6. Relaxed Suburban Lifestyle Compared To LA and SB
If you enjoy living in a town that slows down in the evening hours, then Ventura has lots of places to live and work that quiet down at night. Of course, many people prefer a city where nightlife is harder to avoid. Lucky for everyone, Ventura has both a lively downtown and more relaxed suburban areas all in one.
Some residents describe Ventura as a Sleepy suburb at night. In the outskirts, the neighborhoods certainly do have a reserved and pleasant vibe. But, if that lifestyle isn’t for you or your family, there are several locations near downtown that offer endless nightlife fun. The Majestic Ventura Theater hosts concerts year-round, and the Ventura County Fairgrounds serves as a thrilling outdoor venue. Sleepy or rock-n-roll, Ventura has the atmosphere for you.
7. Growing Economy for Tech Startups and More
Ventura has a thriving and healthy economy. Job growth is up 1.04% since 2019, and unemployment currently sits at a comfortable 3.2% (lower than the US average). One of the city’s financial strengths is the diverse group of industries that operate in Ventura.
The tech start-up market has set its eye on Ventura recently. Huge companies like Tradedesk and Procore have headquarters nearby, and several other silicon valley start-ups are planning to move in shortly. Other industries with a major presence in Ventura are:
- Agriculture, especially ‘farm to fork’ co-ops
- Hospitality and tourism
8. High Cost of Living
The flip side of attracting new industries and tech companies to Ventura is the rise in living costs. The Economic Policy Institute recommends that Venturans make at least $8,772 monthly to work in downtown Ventura.
Ventura residents, on average, pay 71% more on goods and services than other US citizens. Housing, in particular, is some of the priciest in the nation, with over 3x the cost of other Americans.
Just because the cost of living is higher than the US average, it’s important to remember the context. In neighboring CA cities like LA or Santa Barbara, costs are even higher—Santa Monicans pay 12.3% more for housing, 8.6% more for healthcare, and a whopping 61.5% more for transportation than Venturans.
Compared to SoCal as a whole, Ventura is remarkably cheap. It’s only when comparing to the rest of the country where you find the difference.
Southern California has a long history of homelessness. Ventura is no different. Its year-round moderate climate, open parks, and upper-middle-class are all attractive environments for a swelling homeless population.
Homeless people play a big part in everyday life in Ventura, no doubt, but crime is exceedingly low. On a scale from 1-100 for low to high crime, Ventura ranks 16.6 compared to the national average of 22.7. Nearby cities like LA and SB boast much higher crime rates.
10. Housing Developments Popping Up Everywhere
In the list above, we briefly mentioned that lower than average single homes are available on the periphery of the city. Inside, city planning has gone all out with massive construction projects intended to provide lower-cost apartments for the growing population of Ventura.
It’s worth doing your research on how the skyline, utilities, and commercial atmosphere of a city could change in the following ten years or so. Judging by the investment in housing developments by the city council, Ventura is well on its way toward redesigning the look and feel of the city. If you enjoy housing developments, then Ventura of the future will probably suit you very well.
11. Stunning Climate and Weather
It’s somewhat trite to complement the weather in southern California, but Ventura’s climate and weather are truly one of a kind in the US. In August, average temperatures hit 83 degrees F, and December through January boasts lows of 45 degrees F. That’s one of the most moderate temperature ranges anywhere in the continental 48.
Winter rains are irregular, but they do occur a few times a year. Besides that, Ventura is warm with low wind and ideal conditions for both children, athletes, and elderly people.
12. Great K-12 Education
Have a family? Planning to? Ventura is a great spot to raise children in a safe, educated environment. Though there are not many top-flight colleges nearby (Ventura College and Santa Barbara Business College are some of the best), K-12 schools lead the state of California in many education categories.
The Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) has 18 elementary locations, five middle schools, and five high schools. Locals swear by VUSD’s top-ranked teachers and curricula. Ventura uses a ‘Schools of Choice’ program not easy to find in the US. This program allows parents to enroll their children in any of the VUSD schools according to their desires.
13. So-So Public Transportation
Finally, we want to discuss public transportation. In California, traffic and long commutes are somewhat of a way of life. Ventura certainly experiences backup on Hwy 101 from LA to Santa Barbara. However, with an average commute time of 26 minutes, Venturans experience average drive time on the highway.
In the city, public transportation leaves something to be desired. You can choose Gold Coast Transit or VCTC Intercity bus services for intercity and commuters. There is a MetroLink to LA and a few other free trolleys that can cut down on downtown wait times. There’s also an Amtrak station downtown.
Overall, residents find that biking or walking to work is more efficient than public transportation. If you live outside of town, it may be cost-effective to purchase a car.
With that, we’ve covered the 13 pros and cons of living in Ventura, CA. From transportation to cultural sites to housing costs, we tried to share a wide range of opinions on Ventura to give our readers a general feel for the city from an insider’s perspective.
However, there are doubtless many other aspects of Ventura, CA, that we missed. See anything that needs to be added? Have any additional questions? Let us know in the sections below. We’d love to hear back from our listeners about any hidden or special parts of the city that might help tourists or new residents adjust to the unique coastal city that is Ventura, CA.