Fun in the sun or vibrant nightlife — the choices are almost endless in Oxnard, California. This cultural and historical destination between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara offers 7 miles of uncrowded beaches along the central California coast. With 276 days of sunshine a year, it’s hard to beat the climate. And, there are so many ways to spend your weekend in beautiful Oxnard.
While I was hosted for some experiences and meals at Oxnard restaurants, these opinions are my own.
Things To Do In Oxnard
On The Water
Mandalay State Beach in the north with adjacent 94-acre Mandalay County Park is a preserve for fragile dunes, wetlands, wildlife, and plants. It’s kept natural for birding with no public facilities. Lots of free parking is along the road.
It boasts warm sand and is a great place to play in the waves. Sit on benches to enjoy the ocean and view of the Channel Islands. Picnic tables, barbecues, volleyball nets, and restrooms along paved pathways are located in the adjacent park. Paid parking is in nearby lots.
Hollywood Beach in Channel Islands harbor is the most popular for sunning, swimming, and beach volleyball. The beach house next to Hollywood Beach is said to house Rudolph Valentino’s ghost, the actor stayed there during the filming of The Sheik in 1921. Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, and other Hollywood notables also had beach houses at Hollywood Beach.
Silver Strand Beach in the south is the best for surfing along this stretch of coast. While it is more out of the way than other Oxnard beaches, it is the most popular local beach. One mile of sand has restrooms, outdoor showers, and free parking from sunrise to sunset. A viewing platform for various marine wildlife such as dolphins, harbor seals, and jellyfish at the mouth of the Channel Islands harbor also offers wheelchair accessibility. It has two free parking lots.
In The Canals
Enjoy a romantic Venetian gondola cruise with Gondola Paradiso in the Seabridge Marina. Glide silently into the sunset around Coral Island canals. My gondolier didn’t offer to sing, but it was pleasing to enjoy the quietness on the water.
Bring your own beverages, including alcohol, along with snacks and finger food if you wish. Be sure to bring a jacket or sweater for the evening cruises, but there are blankets on board, too.
Channel Islands Maritime Museum
Located in the marina, the Channel Islands Maritime Museum contains some of the finest privately-owned maritime-themed art collected globally and offers education about maritime heritage. I was most impressed by the model ships fashioned from bones by prisoners and the seascape masterpiece paintings by English, Dutch, and French artists from the 1600s to 1850s.
Excursions To 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 concessionaire boats or private boats, and there is no transportation available on the islands.
Channel Islands Harbor is the best place to find aquatic entertainment. Kayaking, paddling, parasailing, or yoga on stand-up paddle boards. Reserve your transportation to Channel Islands National Park here, too.
Cars, Cars, Cars
Are you a gearhead? Love everything automotive? Oxnard is a go-to destination for people who love automobiles. Car shows and events happen all year long. However, two museums will leave you longing for a Bugatti or take you tripping down memory lane.
Mullin Automotive Museum houses one of the finest collections of French cars in the world. The spectacular displays of the masterpieces from the Art Deco and machine eras are remarkable, educational, and breathtaking.
The Murphy Auto Museum houses a collection of more than 50 vintage automobiles and Americana spanning from 1903 to the present day. I stepped inside the vintage prototype trailer and imagined camping the old-fashioned way.
The River Ridge Golf Club is a championship 36-hole public golf facility. A lighted driving range, chipping and putting greens allow you to work on all parts of your game.
River Ridge playing fields hosts the Dallas Cowboys Training Camp in the summer. Practices are open to the public and free of charge for camp activities and spectating areas.
Shopping And Art
If premier shopping is more your style, The Collection at RiverPark will not disappoint. An eclectic mix of major retail stores, boutiques, and fashion-forward brands share space with carefully curated public art pieces located throughout the shopping center.
Pro Tip: River Ridge Golf Club, Residence Inn, The Collection at RiverPark, and the River Ridge playing fields/Dallas Cowboys Training Camp are nearby on the north end of Oxnard.
Self-Guided Art, History, And Cultural Tours
My day began in downtown Oxnard with a self-guided tour of the murals. Buildings and utility boxes adorned with exciting commentary on Oxnard life held my interest over many blocks of colorful and eclectic art.
Historic 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 structure 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 life from the Civil War to the early 20th Century in Southern California. The buildings moved to Heritage Square and preserved, show us how people lived at the end of the 19th Century. Docents lead tours of building interiors and share the history of the structures and the people who lived there.
Best Restaurants In Oxnard
Pacific Café serves breakfast and lunch in the office and industrial area of Oxnard. While I had the stuffed veggie omelet, I could have ordered anything on the menu from its American and Mexican favorites. On Menudo Saturdays, the traditional Mexican soup is the star.
Pro Tip: Eat breakfast at Pacific Café before your neighborhood automotive museum tours.
Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars is proud of its farm-to-table dining experience. Pure food sourced from local growers, lovingly prepared by skilled chefs, and served on the terrace make for a delightful evening. My senses were excited by the 3-dimensional plated cuisine and the paired wine choices.
Pro Tip: Plan a wine tasting before dinner to select your favorite.
Xielo Artisan Desserts offer Mexican pastries, fusion crepes, and raspados (shaved ice dressed in natural syrups from Guadalajara). The Ramirez family takes great pride in serving their 60-year-old traditional family recipes.
Pro Tip: Xielo Artisan Desserts is in the heart of downtown in the historic Woolworth building, ideally located to take a break from your self-guided mural tour.
Honey Cup Coffeehouse & Creamery is fast 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 you visit the Channel Islands Maritime Museum or take a walk on Hollywood Beach.
The Masala Twist for authentic Indian cuisine is a good place for dinner in the harbor. The restaurant likes you to order ahead by phone for dine-in or take-out. The aroma of Indian dishes was only second to the visual appeal of the colorful fare.
SushiWay offers a unique combination of Japanese and Latin flavors. The blending of tastes is enticing. It has made terrific texture and flavor pairings.
Cabo Seafood Grill and Cantina is a friendly place serving Mexican cuisine for lunch or dinner. Two of my menu favorites are the handmade tortillas, made in the middle of the restaurant so you can watch, as is the guacamole made at tableside.
Pro Tip: Plan for a lively happy hour during the week or an evening of live entertainment on weekends at SushiWay or Cabo Seafood Grill and Cantina.
Places To Stay In Oxnard
Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor
The Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor is a delightful, quiet respite in the harbor. The balcony from my room overlooked the marina where I could dream of joining a 3-hour cruise and might end up as a castaway. A walk to Hollywood Beach is only 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, offers a buffet-style breakfast, heated pool, and tennis courts. This property with golf course views is in the backyard of River Ridge playing fields and is 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 only blocks away from downtown Oxnard. The California Strawberry Festival is one of the top festivals in the U.S. Held over two days in May, it’s a perfect summer kickoff event. Consider taking a rideshare or shuttle to the event grounds due to road closures.