San Buenaventura Mission has been a focal point of the Ventura area since… (Spencer Weiner )
Ask a Venturan and he or she will tell you that the city is both the end of Southern California and the beginning of the central part of the state. With a gorgeous coastline, an affinity for agriculture, a happening night life and a healthy enthusiasm for all things vino, this duality isn't just a clever marketing campaign — it's the real deal.
The bed. The 76 rooms at Best Western Plus Inn of Ventura (708 E. Thompson Blvd.;  648-3101, http://www.bestwestern.com
western.com, doubles from $85.49 in spring) offer oversize beds, a work area and cable TV. The hotel is just a quarter-mile from the beach, the longest wood-and-concrete pier in California, the burgeoning downtown, and San Buenaventura Mission.
The meal. Ventura loves its wine, but you're not getting the best of the city if you don't stop for a Frenchy's Cove Saison at Anacapa Brewing Co. (472 E. Main St.;  643-2337, www.anacapabrewing.com; no item more than $18.95). Pair it with fried Buenaventura rolls with fresh avocado, sun-dried tomatoes and red onions served with a tangy cilantro-tamarind-cashew sauce and you might forget you're in a region where the words "red" and "white" mean more than colors.
The find. Less than 10 miles down California 33 is Old Creek Ranch Winery (10024 Old Creek Road;  649-4132, http://www.oldcreekranch.com), an 850-acre cattle ranch with fruit orchards and a winery. The tasting room features an indoor bar or an outdoor patio. If you're lucky, you'll get acquainted with cats Ripple, Bronco and Paisano or have the opportunity to pet Jasper, a shepherd mix.
The lesson learned. If it's a blissful tranquillity you desire, nothing beats the view from atop Serra Cross Park. From there, you'll get a clear shot of the water, the bright blue sky, the Channel Islands and the Ventura River, all provided by Mother Nature.
The tab. It's easy to get two jam-packed days for less than $400. Book online or use AAA or AARP discounts and two nights at the Best Western will run about $200, and lunch at Anacapa Brewing Co. can cost in the $40 range.