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The Ultimate LA Family Guide ™
Stagecoach Inn and Museum, Newbury Park
The museum is located at 51 South Ventu Park Road in Newbury Park. Now this city, Newbury Park, which is just North of Thousand Oaks next to the 101 freeway, is not the first place one would picture a hotel being in 1875. But this facility was constructed back then to serve travelers on the stagecoach line and is quite historical looking and has a host of offering for kids and families.
As a museum, it serves as a Thousand Oaks and Conejo Valley museum with artifacts that have been preserved or several generations. There are guided tours Wed.-Sun. from 1-4 pm. There are two parking lots, both free. The admission fee is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and kids ages 13-21 and $2 for kids ages 5-12. Kids under 5 years old are free.
The docent-led tour starts off in the main entertaining room of the inn and the docent was amazing in her knowledge of every detail of the room. Over the years people have donated items to the museum and the docent was able to tell us many interesting stories from the past, including facts about the hotel's former owners and the many uses for the hotel over the years. After it was a hotel, the building was used as a military school, a gift store, post office, a tea room and even a chicken restaurant in the 1950s. It was also used as a movie set and declared a California landmark. The structure burned down in a fire and was rebuilt to be used a museum in 1970. After showing us an older music player she let Madison and Logan try their hand at cranking it so they could see how difficult it was to turn the handle. It was so nice to see the care put in to preserving all of the artifacts (no dust anywhere!) and how the docent enjoyed her duties so much. I have rarely been on a tour with kids where the docent did such an amazing job speaking directly to the kids and keeping them interested.
She then led us to the kitchen and there were two girls here, also docents. One was 15 years old and the other 11. My whole family loved the kitchen and the younger docents! They were knowledgeable, professional and friendly. There are two butter churners here and the 11-year-old told us that the Stagecoach has a special event each June called Pioneer Days where kids get a chance to try churning real butter from cream in one of the two churners we saw in the kitchen. The event sounds amazing with 18 different pioneer activities. We also loved seeing the antique ice box/refrigerator and the pie cupboard where the pies and bread were kept. She told us that the women in the kitchen used to lock the pie cupboard to keep the men and boys from eating the pies before they were served for dinner. Madison especially liked the old highchair and dolly with its baptismal gown. We noticed how large the baptismal gown was and the girls explained how the gown grew in length after the birth of each child.
After the kitchen we were led upstairs by our original docent to the other rooms of the inn. There is one room dedicated to presenting memorabilia from Jungle Land, an exotic animal park that used to reside where the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza is today. Jungle Land had over 1800 animals and gave elephant rides and more from the 1920s to 1969. Another room was said to be haunted which intrigues my kids to no end. Yet another room had an amazing collection of gramophones, kept in pristine condition and the docent played two of them to show how they worked. These have all been donated to the museum by local residents over the years and we could have spent so long looking at each one as they are works of art. There was also a doll collection to see and artifacts from the colonial period donated from famous families. One room had artwork made from human hair. While you might find this sort of gross, your kids might find this old tradition as kind of cool. Below the home is a basement which now houses a Chumash artifact exhibit as well as animal skins and bones.
Other sites to see on the property are a tri village area with homes built to resemble the three typs of settlers from the area: the Chumash, the Spanish and the Newbury Pioneers. The Newbury house had a crib that reminds us just how safety standards have changed and it was fascinating to see the efforts that the curators went to in order to recreate the furnishings of the house as it would have looked in 1874. The Spanish adobe house will teach your kids the importance of the Spanish-Mexican influence in the Conejo Valley. It was really neat to see the outdoor clay beehive-shaped oven next to the adobe home. I don't think my kids had ever seen an outdoor oven like that. I also loved seeing the beautiful handmade dishes and cookware. The Chumash Ap, the home that rounds out the Tr-Village area, was probably the most interesting to the kids because it looked the most different to them from a modern day home. It is a dome made of willow branches and tules. The Chumash area also had a fossil dig next to it and a ceremonial firepit ringed with stones.
Once we left the tri village area we saw the carriage house which has a few stagecoaches that are shown during special events. We then walked through the nature trail and my kids were really interested in the plants with markers that explained their uses and warnings. Poison Oak and a plants to heal rashes right nearby each other!
Next we headed to the Timber School, the old schoolhouse adjacent to the Stagecoach Inn and also staffed with a docent. The building is a recreation of the original school and was built by students at nearby Newbury Park High School and all of the items have been donated by various businesses, groups and families. There was a lot to learn about and see here including desks donated by a group in Wales and class pictures from the turn of the century. Even the wainscoting is from the now closed Thousand Oaks' Dupars Restaurant,an early landmark in Thousand Oaks. It was so neat to see the huge coal oven in the center of the room that was used for heating and the organ that the students would play while at school. As we left, the kids were encouraged to try to ring the big school bell by themselves. Across the parking lot we visited the pretty rose garden and took pictures of all that we had seen. Adjacent to the museum is a pretty park with fun play equipment and picnic tables which my kids really loved.
This museum was so family friendly and has a lot of history and fun packed in to one space: we at LAwithKids.com highly recommend it!.