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Itinerary: Heritage Valley


Locals like to say that the Heritage Valley is "60 miles and 60 years" from Los Angeles.

The Santa Clara River Valley--a stretch of Ventura County along Highway 126 linking Santa Paula, Fillmore and Piru--adopted the name Heritage Valley three years ago to boost tourism and distinguish itself from the Santa Clara Valley in Northern California.

There aren't fancy nightclubs and haute cuisine restaurants--and that's sort of the point. These small towns pride themselves on staying small and remind visitors that bigger isn't always better. But even for the die-hard city folk, the Heritage Valley might provide a relaxing day trip, or pleasant long holiday weekend.


Friday night is Cruise Night in Santa Paula, a monthly event drawing more than 100 pre-1976 cars to Main Street, from 8th to Mill streets. Collectors and restorers bring their pampered cars from all across the county to show off their antique autos, hot rods and muscle cars starting at 6 p.m. (805) 525-4474.


Take a ride on the Fillmore & Western Railway (departing from Central Park Station, Central Avenue at Main Street, Fillmore, [805] 524-2546). The trip between Fillmore and Santa Paula shows you the three things this region was built on: trains, oil and citrus.

Excursion trains ($5 to $8, kids; $14 to $16, adults) run at 2 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday. Or in the evening, there's a Murder Mystery Dinner Train at 6:30 p.m. The $68.50 ticket includes dinner and the participatory whodunit show "When the West Was Wild."

During your layover, check out the California Oil Museum of Santa Paula (1001 E. Main St., Santa Paula. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $1 to $2. [805] 933-0076). The permanent exhibits are about the history of the oil industry in the state, but the temporary exhibits on view now include the history of the Sespe Wilderness Area, historic photos of Santa Paula and paintings by local artists.


The First Sunday at the Airport (Highway 126 between Palm Avenue and 10th Street, [805] 933-1960) in Santa Paula is sort of like Cruise Night, but for airplanes. The airport houses a large collection of antique airplanes already, but for this one day each month pilots from around the region fly their classic planes in to show them off from about 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Aviation Museum of Santa Paula (at the airport, [805] 525-1109) has an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the same day of the month. The museum is made up of several hangars. An exhibit about the 70-year history of the airport, opened in hangar no. 1 in February.

Any time of the month you can watch the aircraft taxi, take off and land from a window table at Logsdon's Restaurant (824 E. Santa Maria St., Santa Paula. [805] 525-1101).


The little town of Piru, with its 1,800 souls and dozen downtown buildings, only recently latched on to the Heritage Valley tourism idea. By next year it hopes to be the next stop of the Fillmore & Western--once the county can repair the track.

Meantime, Piru is a launching point for outdoor activities. Lake Piru (4780 Piru Canyon Road, Piru, [805] 521-1500) is good for boating, swimming and fishing (bass and trout mostly). About 3,500 people go there every weekend. For a little more isolation, Los Padres National Forest--hundreds of square miles of wilderness--is a few miles further north.

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