Magic in the Air


At a time when travel continues to be curtailed, it might seem odd to put a glorious photo of Venice on our cover.

We’re not trying to tease you, I promise!

This is from a live-streamed tour put together by travel professional Sarah Murdoch. The Ventura native has spent decades in the business, and had been contemplating her industry’s future long before the coronavirus wreaked havoc on her livelihood.

She and a group of like-minded tour operators have come together to create the Guide Collective. The original intent was to create smaller, more intimate travel experiences — excursions designed to put participants in tune with the culture and support the local economy. Guide Collective members still have those kinds of tours in their sights, but in the meantime, they’ve developed a series of virtual tours that allow viewers to see the world through the eyes of those who truly know a place. While we await the opportunity to take an actual tour, we can enjoy the magic of Venice, Siena, London and more via the virtual magic of our screens and devices.

And speaking of magic . . . Did you know that there is a private club nearby that hosts some of the nation’s best magicians? The Magic Castle Cabaret (About Town) in Montecito was founded by Milt and Arlene Larsen — veteran entertainers with ties to the world-renowned Magic Castle in Hollywood — to present quality entertainment in a small, elegant and romantic setting. It’s a great place to see singers, dancers, mimes and professionals from the Academy of Magical Arts. While the members-only venue hasn’t been able to offer shows since March, it’s definitely something to keep in mind when its doors open once again. In the meantime, check out the wonderful gift shop to get a sense of what the Magic Castle Cabaret is all about.

If holiday shopping is still on your to-do list, we’ve got a nifty gift guide (Shopping) that should have something for most everyone. Every item we feature this month is created by or available through a Ventura County vendor . . . because supporting local is one of the best gifts you can give to your community.

The gift you can give yourself: an amazing cocktail (Food and Drink). We asked bartenders from some of the area’s top restaurants to come up with festive and delicious libations to be enjoyed in the comfort of home. They embraced the opportunity with verve and creativity, and offered up a few easy-to-prepare eats, too.

This holiday season, I encourage you to whip up some of these drinks (or any other favorite beverages) with your quarantine buddies, raise your glasses and toast the season as it is. I know we’re all looking forward to better days and time with much-missed loved ones. I hope, nevertheless, that you can also appreciate the good things you have in this moment.

We at Ventana Monthly wish all of our readers a beautiful holiday full of magic, merriment and peace.