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Oxnard

Discover this hidden gem tucked between L.A. and Santa Barbara

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Oxnard is where strawberries meet the sea. In this city, some 60 miles northwest of LAX, you’ll find seven miles of white sand beaches, bountiful farm stands (and each May their annual California Strawberry Festival), some world-class taquerias, and a picturesque harbor that offers the closest access point to Channel Islands National Park. And as the meeting point of Pacific Coast Highway and Highway 101, it’s a classic stop on a coastal California road trip.

Start your visit with a stop at Heritage Square, where you can see Oxnard’s well-preserved Victorian era architecture, either on your own or on guided tours. Then soak up some of Oxnard’s car culture: The town hosts cruise nights, meet-ups, and year-round car festivals and is home to two epic car museums: The Murphy Auto Museum showcases American classics while the Mullin Automotive Museum houses exquisite French cars from the Art Deco era, including the Bugatti of Lake Maggiore, a 1925 Bugatti Type 22 Brescia Roadster that lived at the bottom of Lake Maggiore, on the border of Italy and Switzerland, for almost 75 years.

For a different kind of culture, take a tour of the world-famous drum factory, DW Drums. Or, keep your eyes peeled for the guys who have helped give Oxnard the nickname “Boxnard”—it’s a national hub for boxing and home to many amateur and pro boxers, some of whom were born and raised here (such as Fernando Vargas and Hugo Centeno Jr.) or moved here to train (like Victor Ortiz, Vasyl Lomachenko, and Sergey Kovalev).

For Oxnard’s wilder side, board an excursion to Channel Islands National Park, 11 miles off the coast. Spend the day diving, kayaking, swimming, hiking, camping, or exploring deep sea caves on these blissfully untouched islands. From late December into April, set sail on naturalist-led cruises by outfitter Island Packers to see migrating gray whales. For an adrenaline-pumping experience, go parasailing in Channel Islands Harbor with Channel Islands Parasail, a company headed up by highly trained U.S. Coast Guard Masters. (No experience is necessary.) Fishing enthusiasts shouldn't miss the opportunity to access the thriving marine habitats around the islands and coastal water. Book a partial-day or overnight trip with Channel Islands Sportfishing or Hook's Sportfishing to fish for halibut, white seabass, barracuda, yellowtail, rockfish, salmon, and much more.

Recharge back in town. Oxnard boasts the most tacos per capita north of the Cali-Mex border, and you can chart your own tasting tour along the Taco Trail. Between meals, shop the boutiques at The Collection at RiverPark, which also has nightlife options, such as Copper Blues Rock Pub and Kitchen and the comedy venue Levity Live, known to draw L.A.’s A-listers like David Spade, Patton Oswalt, and Jo Koy.

Spend the night at one of the crowd-pleaser hotels with good access to the beach. By day, you can chase powerful, expert-level waves at Silver Strand Beach, considered by many to be one of the surfing world’s best-kept secrets. In the winter particularly, surfers brave the chilly waters along this mile-long stretch for intense swells that are perfect for tube riding. At the Strand’s southern end is the historic La Jennelle shipwreck, a luxury liner that ran aground in 1970 and today forms Silver Strand’s jetty, and you can’t miss vibrant murals on the walls of the Port Hueneme Naval Base, painted by local artists. Stay late enough to take in one of the breathtaking sunsets, which are particularly spectacular during fall and winter.

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