Camarillo is rich in history. From the Chumash Indians who first settled this area, to the Camarillo family legacy, to the Hollywood stars that frequented, there’s plenty to learn and explore in Camarillo. Let Camarillo’s history unfold as you take this self-guided tour through the city. For visitors and locals alike, this is a fun way to get to know our beautiful city better.
With deep roots in agriculture, Camarillo was officially incorporated in 1964 and has grown to a vibrant community of over 68,000 people. Originally referred to as Calleguas, the name was deemed too difficult to pronounce and so the Camarillo brothers were asked to lend their name to the city.
St. Mary Magdalen Church
Our tour begins with St. Mary Magdalen Church. The Camarillo family chapel, St. Mary Magdalen’s bell tower is a well-known sight here in Camarillo. At the heart of the city, located in Old Town, it is a thriving church to this day. Situated on what locals refer to as “The Hill” the church overlooks Ventura Blvd and can be seen from multiple directions.
Built in 1914, by Juan Camarillo Jr., this 100-year-old church was inspired by a mission-style church in Mexico City. Visit the church and admire the courtyard fountain, modeled after the fountain at the Santa Barbara Mission, the belfry tower, and the incredible deep red, green, blue and gold stained-glass windows of the chapel.
The gorgeous stained-glass windows have a unique story of their own. Ordered from glass blower F.X. Zattler of Munich, Germany, in 1913. They were lost for several years after World War I. Then miraculously years later the windows were found in a warehouse in Germany and sent to the chapel in 1919! Visit their website for more information, events, and service times.
Location: 2532 Ventura Blvd, Camarillo, CA 93010
Old Town & The Bronze Statues
From St. Mary Magdalen Church take a stroll through Old Town where you’ll find three bronze statues unique to Camarillo and its history. Sculpted by Tijuana-based artist Guillermo Castaño, these statues commemorate Camarillo in its early days.
The first statue is Adolfo Camarillo atop his stallion, Sultan. Seeing Adolfo Camarillo atop Sultan is an almost daily occurrence for me as I drive past Dizdar Park each night on my way home from work. Adolfo, known as the ‘Last Spanish Don’, was a dedicated community leader and innovative businessman whose legacy continues ’till this day. Becoming our city’s namesake, Adolfo Camarillo was a generous man who believed in serving his community. He made his mark in more ways than one and his footprint can be seen all throughout the region.
His Camarillo White Horses are also well known, beginning with Sultan – the Stallion of a dream. This rare horse breed became famous due to their pure white coat and elegant movements. Even to this day you may see them at a special event or in a local parade.
This statue is located at Dizdar Park.
Next, as you head towards the clock on Ventura Blvd, you’ll spot our second statue of one of Hollywood’s biggest Western stars, Joel McCrea. McCrea is seated on a bench and you might just do a double take and snap some pics as you stroll by! During the golden age of Hollywood, Joel McCrea was a rancher who loved the land and was a big supporter, along with his wife Frances, of schools and youth activities in Camarillo, namely the Santa Rosa School and the Boys and Girls Club. Their legacy and impact to our community lives on today. Tucked away at the bottom of the Norwegian Grade the McCrea Ranch has been beautifully preserved and can be visited during special events!
His statue is located at the intersection of Arneill Road and Ventura Blvd, in front of Painting with a Twist.
The third statue you’ll find is Hollywood actor Walter Brennan. Brennan’s statue features him in his role as Amos McCoy from “The Real McCoys.” A three-time OSCAR award winning actor, like McCrea, Brennan was also a generous supporter of Camarillo charities and youth groups. Since the beginning of the Camarillo Christmas parade in 1962 until just before he passed away in 1974, Brennan was the beloved grand marshal of the parade.
Though many know about the Camarillo family, McCrea and Brennan have become less known with younger generations. Check out this fantastic piece written by Beth Miller to learn more about them!
While strolling through Old Town be sure to check out it’s shops and grab a bite to eat from any of the amazing restaurants you’ll find on Ventura Blvd.
This statue is located at the intersection of Arneill Road and Ventura Blvd, in front of Penrose Strings.
Camarillo Ranch House
After checking out Old Town, head on over to the Camarillo Ranch House and Foundation. The Camarillo Ranch is a wonderful community gathering place. Formerly owned by Adolfo Camarillo, the ranch is a nationally registered historic landmark owned by the City of Camarillo. It’s also one of the prettiest properties in Camarillo. I love visiting the ranch and wandering through the gardens.
On the ranch, you will find the beautiful Camarillo Ranch House, where Adolfo Camarillo and his wife lived. Adolfo built the Queen Anne-style ranch house for his bride Isabel, in 1892. The existing 4.5 acres, house, barn and stables have been beautifully restored. The house has been reconstructed as a living museum and can be toured with a docent dressed in period clothing!
Open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors are welcome to walk the grounds and stroll through the gardens. Popular events at the ranch include Adolfo Camarillo’s Birthday Celebration, Christmas at the Ranch with Santa, and Throwback Thursday #TBT Food Truck Events.
The Camarillo family and Adolfo’s generosity have a deep connection to my beloved city’s history. Adolfo donated land for the Camarillo Grove Park, which boast a stunning view of the valley, as well as the land for Camarillo High School.
Location: 201 Camarillo Ranch Rd, Camarillo, CA 93012
Which leads us to our next stop on our tour!
Camarillo Grove Park
Camarillo Grove Park is one of the most beautiful parks in Camarillo, full of gorgeous old trees, lots of picnic tables, great hikes, and an amazing view of Camarillo. There’s plenty to do at the park whether you are looking to hang out, play or hike! Bring a picnic, relax and check out the nature center or let the dog roam the dog park. The park also has a rich history. In 1941 Adolfo Camarillo donated 26 acres of Rancho Calleguas to Ventura County for the park. Not only is it home to the oldest tree in the district, it’s a former stagecoach stop for Camarillo.
You’ll definitely want to bring your hiking shoes along for a hike on one of its trails. For a shorter hike check out the lower loop which features large rock formations. For a more advanced hike check out the upper loop! While somewhat steep it gives you those amazing Camarillo views!
Location: 6968 E Camarillo Springs Rd, Camarillo, CA 93012
Take it easy after the park with a visit to the Camarillo Library, one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen! It’s Spanish-style architecture invites you into a foyer that is beautifully tiled, with gorgeous wooden beams and a grand staircase that leads to the second floor. The kid’s section is truly something to see. Murals are carved into beautiful wooden doors leading into the kids section, with a sign that says Discovery hanging over the double doors.
One of the most unique features is a magical sunken Pirate Ship. On the ceiling two fantastical paintings hang, one of Peter Pan and one of the mermaid Ariel. Making this a library you will want to sit and read in all day.
Location: 4101 Las Posas Rd, Camarillo, CA 93010
Camarillo history would not be complete without the Chumash Indians and their legacy to Ventura County. While many know of the Camarillo family legacy, our history begins with the Chumash Indians, the first known settlers in Ventura County. You may be familiar with the Chumash Casino or the Chumash cave paintings that can be seen in Santa Barbara. But did you know that this area was once the home of two Chumash villages?
Before the Mission Period the Chumash Indians had homes and villages stretching along the coast from Malibu and Paso Robles. Reliant on fishing and trade, they are most known for their plank canoe, called a tomol, made from redwood or driftwood.
They are also famous for their cave paintings that can be seen in Santa Barbara. As well as their incredible woven baskets and bead money they made from shells. Their baskets were so tightly woven they could even hold water!
Visit the Chumash Indian Museum, in our neighboring city of Thousand Oaks, to learn more about their rich culture!
Would you include anything in this tour of our beautiful city? I hope you enjoy your self-guided tour through Camarillo! For even more fun things to do in Camarillo check out Hidden Gems: A Local’s Guide To Camarillo.
Guest blogger, Naomi, is a long time Camarillo local. She and her husband Nick enjoy the charm of the city and being a part of this vibrant community. You can find her on Instagram: @naomikirons and at happilydwell.com where she writes lifestyle, travel, and inspirational posts.