Exploring the Seabees Museum and the Rockin’ Pier at Ventura Beach California
By Rina Nehdar
Growing up in Santa Monica, California, I’d always thought of Ventura County as a string of farms and cold beaches lining the freeway on the way to Santa Barbara. Not so, I, my husband and two young sons recently found.
The US Naval Seabee Museum is just outside the Naval Base in Ventura County. Now, you’d think kids visiting a museum sounds great. In theory, yes. But, if you, like me, were the mother of two crazy boy versions of said kids, you’d think: Are you nuts?
Since, however, this museum is dedicated to warfare and weaponry, I thought, perfect. They’ll love it.
Museum Educator and Public Affairs Officer, Jose Rivera, gave us a tour of the museum. “Seabees” is a nickname given to the Construction Battalion of the Navy. (C + B= Seabee). Their logo is a bumblebee with a hammer and a naval cap.
Their job is to construct the infrastructure to support the military and any locals under their care. Civilians couldn’t fill those jobs because they couldn’t fire weapons if they were to be attacked by enemy combatants while building stuff.
The Seabees fought alongside the Marines and Navy Seals. One of their mottos is “We build and we fight.” We learned, on our tour, not to underestimate the importance of their work. One of the most important things they do is construct latrines for the soldiers.
“The Romans were able to conquer the world because of their toilets,” Rivera told us. The museum was started with souvenirs from returning soldiers who didn’t want to fill out the required paperwork to keep their prizes.
The Seabees today still work in critical roles. They help rebuild nations devastated by natural disasters, like Puerto Rico and Haiti. The boys appreciated the hands-on STEM center with various stations to conduct experiments and accessories that helped them pretend to become Seabees.
It was a challenge getting them to leave. Trench Art, paintings, and art created by the soldiers during and after combat lined the hallways on our way out. Visit www.seabeesmuseum.com for more info.
The Lure in Downtown Ventura
Our walk through history left us famished, so we stopped by the Lure Fishhouse in Downtown Ventura. The lively atmosphere and airy layout fed into our enthusiasm for the mystery of our day.
David, our server, helped us navigate through the voluminous menu and the kids munched on some wild fish and chips while mom and dad enjoyed a refreshing cocktail with their delicious grilled sea bass and shrimp.
The adults appreciated the variety of wild fish available at this restaurant while the kids appreciated the flourless chocolate cake.
A ‘Reel’ Angler
Nothing like learning about catching fish after you’ve eaten them. We walked straight down California Street to the Ventura Pier to meet with the super fun Kevin Brannon, who we found isn’t just a great fishing guide who owns Reel Anglers, he also has a fishing TV show and teaches underprivileged kids how to fish and make a living doing it.
He does this through his other venture called Reel Guppy Outdoors. He said he created the program to help struggling kids after fishing had saved his life from a rocky childhood.
He was super patient with my energetic guys, showing them how to hook their own bait and cheered them on as they pulled up their catches.
Before that day, neither of the boys had ever fished off a pier, so they got a chance to hunker down with the other anglers and immerse themselves in a new culture.
Visit http://reelanglersfishingshow.com for more info.
Ventura Harbor Village
The Ventura Harbor Village is an outdoor string of unique shops and unusual restaurants.
At the center of the Village is a wooden dock, home to boats and water toys available for rental.
Families could choose a self-guided tour around the harbor, navigating between the elegant yachts and sunning seals, with only their swift legs powering a little pedal boat.
They could also enjoy a more leisurely harbor dinner tour or skip the tour altogether and instead have an adventure on a stand-up paddleboard or jet ski. Ventura Boat Rentals has lots of options.
We floated around the harbor in our cozy pedal boat and had the upbeat experience of listening to a band rocking out on a floating dock, something the Harbor offers on Saturdays in September from 3-6pm.
It turns out the Harbor puts together a slew of activities and concerts for families all throughout the year. Visit their website to see their schedule.
After all that exercise, we had earned a treat, so off to find some sweets we went! We found them at the Coastal Cone, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that tailors their 40 flavors to the taste buds of the licker. They feature home-baked waffle cones and more toppings than a month’s worth of daily tastings.
Fashion-forward but price tag backward, nearby Barefoot Boutique was a great reprieve as the boys ran off to discover the Village Arcade and Carousel.
The sun was starting to set and the shops started to turn off their lights so it was time to duck into one of the restaurants and fuel our bodies with actual food.
Greek Belly Dancers
We discovered a lively and tasty one called The Greek Mediterranean Steak & Seafood. Even if you’re not hungry or just want a drink, the shows put on by the wait staff is worth the visit to Ventura.
I’ve never been to Greece but in my fantasies, the waiters there would also break into spontaneous dances while holding glasses full of Ouzo on their heads and ladies would suddenly appear in belly dancing costumes, enticing adults, and children to join them on the dance floor.
While they shimmied their bellies and swayed their half-moon hips, fingers clinking miniature cymbals, we ordered a variety of dishes to share.
The boys expanded their culinary horizons by trying dishes that were semi-familiar, like chicken, but prepared in a more creative way than mommy or a chicken nugget can offer. They loved it when the waiters unexpectedly pulled them onto the dance floor to be part of the show and we loved seeing them have so much fun.
By the end of dinner, it was pushing well into the night and we had an early morning to look forward to on the ship that would take us cave kayaking around Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands. We settled into our hotel room at the Marriott Residence Inn at River Ridge but it was too late to explore the field where the Dallas Cowboys hold their summer practice in July.
However, the kids loved climbing the steps into their private loft above the living room and mommy and daddy loved having a little extra privacy.
This sleepy little town had worn us out!
When she’s not chasing her boys around the world, Rina Baraz Nehdar can be found in the downward-facing dog, furiously trying to get everything done before everyone gets out of school or writing at lafamilytravel.com