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Oxnard & Port Hueneme Highlights

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Oxnard_Highlights

There are those who would say Oxnard and Port Hueneme don’t have much to offer, but dig a little deeper and there are some fine hidden gems beneath the rough edges.

1. Channel Islands National Park: This is a must for seafarers and landlubbers alike! Grab your motion sickness patch and hang on for an adventure. Channel Islands National Park includes five remarkable islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara) off the Ventura County Coast and the ocean environment surrounding them. The Islands offer a variety of activities, including picnicking, hiking, camping, boating, kayaking, diving and snorkeling, fishing, surfing, tidepools, whale-watching, seal and sea lion viewing, birdwatching and wildflower viewing. Because of their isolation, there are a variety of plants, animals and fish that are seen nowhere else in the world. The islands are often referred to as “The Galapagos of the Pacific.” The islands can be reached by Island Packers out of the Channel Islands or Ventura harbors or via Channel Islands Aviation. Both are official concessionaires of Channel Islands National Park and offer a variety of packages to the Islands, including full and half-day trips, surf-fishing, camping and whale-watching. Summertime is the perfect season for viewing large numbers of blue and humpback whales migrating and feeding off the north shore of Santa Rosa Island. For those who want to get a little closer to the water, check out Channel Islands Kayak Center for tooling around the Islands.

2. Point Mugu State Park: This 15,000-acre park has just about everything from its five miles of coastline to its rocky bluffs, sand dunes beaches, rugged hills and more than 70 miles of hiking trails. Beach activities include swimming , body surfing and fishing. The park has dozens of primitive campsites and a few dozen with showers and flush toilets. Visit the National Park Service website for reservation and fee information.

3. Surf, sand and sunshine: Oxnard has beautiful beaches for spending time with your family. If you’re a beach lover, do a beach a day. Start with Port Heuneme Pier and Beach Park. The 50-acre Hueneme Beach Park contains picnic areas, barbecue pits, flag plaza, Flight 261 Memorial, sand volleyball courts, paid parking, and a snack bar building. The Port Hueneme Pier is the big attraction with its crooked shape. The pier is good for fishing, recreation and with the park, snack bar and restrooms close by, is good for all-day fun. Next, move on up the road to Silver Strand, a milelong beach with a break noted by surfers for its well-shaped waves and ease of access. Silver Strand has lifeguards on duty during peak season and there’s a parking lot near the beach with port-a-potties for the little ones. Keep cruising up the coast and hit Hollywood Beach, another mile long beach that is pretty, clean and has soft sand. You can even take your family fishing off the pier, no permit required!. There are public restrooms, beach volleyball and a lifeguard on duty during the weekends. If you get hungry, Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut, is just steps off the beach. This is a local favorite for breakfast. Keep moving on up the coast a mile at a time, and you come across Oxnard Beach Park and Mandalay Beach where you can fly a kite or have a picnic on the sweeping green lawns, play on the playground or volleyball courts, or skate/stroll/cycle along the great pathways.. You’ll pay a parking fee here, but there are amenities galore. Barbecue and picnic areas, a broad grassy areas for soccer and kite-flying as well as surf, sand, bike rentals, skating and jogging paths, restrooms and a wonderful playground complete with battling pirate ship playground equipment and a sea serpent. This park is also wheelchair accessible through the dunes out to Rehab Point. We suggest spending a couple of days here.

4. Ventura County Maritime Museum: One of the best kept secrets in Oxnard, The museum offers an abundance of art varying in styles and elements of marine art. The focus is on the great age of sail, but also includes depictions of the transition from sail to steam power. They have the second-largest collection of Bone ship models from the 1700’s, actual ships built by French prisoners of war and an awesome array of wooden ship models and artisans who will show and explain the delicate art of ship model craftsmanship. You also can view the remains of a shipwreck that took place April 13, 1970, when a northwester struck the Channel Island Harbor. The 60-mph winds and 35-foot swells proved too much for the La Janelle. The owners had hoped to turn the old lady into a floating hotel and restaurant. Instead, she has become the basis for La Janelle Park! The Musuem also includes exhibits on the whaling industry in the 18th and 19th centuries and a collection of scrimshaw, an artform practiced by some indigenous tribes like the Inuits and by sailors on long whaling voyages. These are a beautiful display of pieces that were painstakingly etched on ivory and bone. After your visit to the museum, take a stroll around the rest of the Channel Islands Harbor, where there are several beach-lined parks and coastline for picnics and surfing, as well as nearby biking and walking paths. Other outdoor activities available include boat, bicycle and kayak rentals. Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can visit waterside farmer’s market. There also are a variety of restaurants to choose from, serving everything from sushi and fresh fish to barbecue, Italian and Brazilian cuisine as well as a variety of shops to peruse.

5. Carnegie Art Museum: The museum has a permanent collection of more than 1,500 art and ethnographic objects, of which more than 600 are paintings, drawings, prints and photographs mostly by 20th century California artists. In addition to its multi-cultural artifacts, the museum also has a collection of Hollywood portraits by photographer George Hurrel from the 1930 to 1940s film noir period. The museum offers traveling and special exhibits as well. Due to space constraints, only a small selection of artwork from the permanent collection is on display at any one time. Admission is $3 for adults; $2 for seniors and children; $1 for children 6 and up; and free for children under age 6.

6. Gull Wings Children’s Museum: This is 4,500 square feet of exhibit space devoted to engaging, realistic and hands-on experiences for children. These exhibits will spark the imagination, and for a small admission fee ( $6 for adults ; $5 for children and seniors and free for kids 2 and younger) this is an extremely reasonable adventure. Kids can dig for dinosaur bones; visit a sea center complete with aquariums, a touch tank, research submersible and a ship to captain; Serve up meals in Bud’s Bistro, where kids can explore math skills while taking lunch orders; become Home Town Heroes by playing can play firefighter, EMT or a surgeon, complete with costumes and sets; enjoy a model train station; Camp in the “wild” with a tent and climbing wall; visit the Rain Forest, where children can view a variety of live animal exhibits (check calendar for Creature Feature times); Blast off into space, where kids can pilot the Orion space capsule, perform experiments on the Space Station or walk on the moon; and view the Microscopic World and learn about cells and DNA by using a videomicroscope to explore everyday objects.

7. Jim Hall Kart Racing School: For the adrenaline junkies, check out this high-octane fun. The School was built by Jim Hall II, a double World Kart Champion, the school is the longest-running and most recognized karting school in America, and has taught more than 40,000 students in the art of motor racing. The school offers parent-child classes for kids ages 10-14 and a height of at least 4’8”. Students learn basic safety and kart familiarization, then progress toward learning the racing line, kart control, braking and ultimately race starts and passing. Parents are able to drive during the classes with their child for a family experience. Classes start at $225 for a half-day program.

8. Heritage Square: The town square boasts 15 beautifully restored Victorian structures that preserve Oxnard’s early pioneer familes’ history. Tours are offered year-round on the weekends that can include catered teas and box lunches. Enjoy the open-air plaza, the architecture and the beautiful gardens. Heritage Square is also home to the Petit Playhouse, Rancho Ventano cellars, La Dolce Vita restaurant, and a women’s apparel boutique. Heritage square hosts the Heritage Square Summer Concert Series Friday nights throughout the summer months.

9. Oxnard Wine tours: The Oxnard Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is now presenting Wine, Chocolate and Cheese tours. Enjoy delicious wines, delectable chocolate, and delightful cheeses all paired for maximum enjoyment. The tour includes a light lunch and transportation, and some wineries on the tour are members of the Ventura County Wine Trail. Tours take place only one weekend of each month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $85, and 24-hour advance reservations are required and can be made at the California Welcome Center.

10. Channel Islands Ice Center: This is the perfect way to get out of the summer heat. The Channel Islands Ice Center offers public skating sessions from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily; 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Mondays; and 7:30 to 9:30 p. m. Friday through Sunday. Do check daily phone greeting to ensure scheduling accuracy as times are subject to change without notice. The facility also offers camps, classes, hockey and ice dancing. Admission is generally $7.50 with a $2.50 skate rental fee.

As you can see, Oxnard offers a little something for everyone in the family, and this is just a few of our favorites. Relax and give your budget a break with these staycation ideas. With the money you’ll save, you could visit a few more local favorites.

April 20, 2014

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