Fun in the sun or vibrant nightlife – the choices are almost endless in Oxnard, California. This cultural and historic destination between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara offers 7 miles of deserted beaches along the central California coast. With 276 sunny days a year, it’s hard to beat the weather. And, there are so many ways to spend your weekend in beautiful Oxnard.
Although I have been hosted for a few experiences and meals at Oxnard restaurants, these opinions are my own.
Things To Do In Oxnard
On the water
Mandalay State Beach to the north with the adjacent 94-acre Mandalay County Park is a preserve for fragile dunes, wetlands, wildlife, and plants. It is natural for bird watching without public facilities. There are many free parking lots along the road.
It has warm sand and is a great place to play in the waves. Sit on benches to enjoy the ocean and the view of the Channel Islands. Picnic tables, barbecues, volleyball nets, and restrooms along the paved pathways are located in the adjacent park. Paid car parks can be found in nearby car parks.
Hollywood Beach in the Channel Islands harbor is most popular for sunbathing, swimming and beach volleyball. The beach house next to Hollywood Beach is said to be home to the ghost of Rudolph Valentino, the actor stayed there while filming The Sheikh in 1921. Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, and other Hollywood notables also owned beach homes in Hollywood Beach.
Silver Strand Beach to the south is the best for surfing along this part of the coast. Although it is more secluded than the other beaches in Oxnard, it is the most popular local beach. A mile of sand has restrooms, outdoor showers, and free parking from sunrise to sunset. A viewing platform for various marine species such as dolphins, harbor seals and jellyfish at the mouth of the Channel Islands harbor also provides wheelchair access. It has two free parking lots.
In the canals
Enjoy a romantic Venetian gondola cruise with Gondola Paradiso in Seabridge Marina. Glide silently into the sunset around the canals of Coral Island. My gondolier didn’t offer to sing, but it was nice to enjoy the calm on the water.
Bring your own drinks, including alcohol, as well as snacks and appetizers if you wish. Be sure to bring a jacket or sweater for evening cruises, but there are blankets on board as well.
Channel Islands Maritime Museum
Located in the marina, the Channel Islands Maritime Museum contains some of the finest private sea-themed art collected from around the world and offers maritime heritage training. I was very impressed with the model ships made from bone by prisoners and the seascape masterpieces by English, Dutch and French artists from the 1600s to the 1850s.
Excursions to the Channel Islands National Park
If you intend to visit the Channel Islands, advanced planning is highly recommended. Some of the uninhabited islands offer camping, hiking, and kayaking, but are only accessible by park licensed boats or private boats, and there is no transportation available on the islands.
Channel Islands Harbor is the best place to find water entertainment. Kayaking, paddling, parasailing or yoga on stand-up paddleboards. Book your transport to Channel Islands National Park here as well.
Cars, Cars, Cars
Are you a reducer? Do you like everything automotive? Oxnard is a must-see destination for car lovers. Motor shows and events take place all year round. However, two museums will make you want a Bugatti or take you back in time.
Mullin Automotive Museum houses one of the finest collections of French cars in the world. The spectacular displays of Art Deco era masterpieces and machines are remarkable, educational and breathtaking.
The Murphy Auto Museum houses a collection of over 50 vintage and Americana cars spanning 1903 to the present day. I walked into the vintage caravan prototype and imagined camping the old fashioned way.
The River Ridge Golf Club is a 36 hole championship public golf club. A lighted driving range, chipping and putting greens allow you to work on all parts of your game.
The River Ridge playgrounds are home to the Dallas Cowboys training camp in the summer. Practices are open to the public and free for camp activities and spectator areas.
Shopping and art
If top-notch shopping is more your style, The Collection at RiverPark won’t disappoint. An eclectic mix of large retail stores, boutiques and avant-garde brands share space with carefully curated public art works located throughout the mall.
Pro tip: River Ridge Golf Club, Residence Inn, The Collection at RiverPark, and the River Ridge / Dallas Cowboys Training Camp playgrounds are nearby at the north end of Oxnard.
Self-guided tours of art, history and culture
My day started in downtown Oxnard with a self-guided tour of the murals. The buildings and utility boxes adorned with gripping commentaries on the life of Oxnard caught my interest in many blocks of colorful and eclectic art.
Historical walking tour of downtown Oxnard
A well-marked map guides you through historic downtown Oxnard. Choose from two routes. Start your tour at the free parking lot at West Third and B Street and end at Heritage Square.
Heritage Square Museum
The Heritage Square Museum, a living history museum, explores the development of Civil War life in early 20th century Southern California. The buildings moved to Place du Patrimoine and preserved, show us how people lived at the end of the 19th century. The docents lead tours of the interior of the buildings and share the history of the structures and the people who lived there.
Top restaurants in Oxnard
The Pacific CafÃ© serves breakfast and lunch in the Oxnard offices and industrial area. While I had the stuffed vegetarian omelet, I could have ordered anything from the menu from her American and Mexican favorites. On Menudo Saturdays, traditional Mexican soup is the star.
Pro tip: Enjoy breakfast at the Pacific CafÃ© before tours of your neighborhood auto museum.
Tierra Sur of Herzog Wine Cellars takes pride in their farm-to-table dining experience. Pure food from local producers, lovingly prepared by skilled chefs and served on the terrace, will ensure a pleasant evening. My senses were enthused by the 3-dimensional plate cooking and the assorted wine choices.
Pro tip: Schedule a pre-dinner wine tasting to select your favorite.
Xielo Artisan Desserts offers Mexican pastries, fusion pancakes and raspados (crushed ice dressed in natural syrups from Guadalajara). The Ramirez family take great pride in serving their 60 year old traditional family recipes.
Pro tip: Xielo Artisan Desserts is located in the heart of downtown in the historic Woolworth Building, ideally located for a break from your self-guided mural tour.
Honey Cup Coffeehouse & Creamery is quick and fresh. My choice of avocado toast, served on focaccia bread with arugula and truffle salt, was perfectly light and energizing. Specialty drinks like lavender or honey latte, hazelnut or plum mocha appealed to my senses.
Pro tip: Start your day with a stop at Honey Cup before visiting the Channel Islands Maritime Museum or strolling Hollywood Beach.
The Masala Twist for authentic Indian cuisine is a good place to dine in the harbor. The restaurant likes you to order in advance over the phone to eat in or take out. The aroma of Indian dishes was second only to the visual appeal of colorful cuisine.
SushiWay offers a unique combination of Japanese and Latin flavors. The mix of tastes is enticing. It made excellent texture and flavor pairings.
Cabo Seafood Grill and Cantina is a friendly venue serving Mexican cuisine for lunch or dinner. Two of my favorites on the menu are the handmade tortillas, made in the middle of the restaurant for you to watch, just like the guacamole made at the table.
Pro tip: Plan a lively happy hour during the week or an evening of live entertainment on the weekends at SushiWay or Cabo Seafood Grill and Cantina.
Where to sleep in Oxnard
Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor
The Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor is a charming and quiet respite from the harbor. The balcony from my room overlooked the marina where I could dream of going on a 3 hour cruise and ending up like a castaway. A walk to Hollywood Beach is just five minutes from the door.
Residence Inn River Ridge
The Residence Inn River Ridge is adjacent to the PGA rated River Ridge Golf Course. This all-suite property is pet-friendly and offers a buffet breakfast, a heated swimming pool and tennis courts. This golf course view property is in the backyard of the River Ridge Playgrounds and close to The Collection at RiverPark.
Best Western Oxnard Inn
Close to the California Strawberry Festival, the Best Western Oxnard Inn is just 5 minutes from Highway 1 and a few blocks from downtown Oxnard. The California Strawberry Festival is one of the best festivals in the United States. Organized over two days in May, it’s a perfect event to kick off the summer. Consider taking a carpool or shuttle to the event site due to road closures.