An Oxnard Revelry

From the Channel Islands to downtown and beyond, Oxnard goes all out for the holiday season.

By Leslie A. Westbrook

CITY OF LIGHTS: From the county’s tallest Christmas tree to the glittering pagoda to the evening light show, Plaza Park glows throughout the holiday season.


hristmas is a big deal in Oxnard: Santa lives here. Built in 1948 and formerly stationed on Santa Claus Lane in Carpinteria, this roadside attraction was transported to Ventura Boulevard in 2003. St. Nick’s “new” home suits him: In December, all of Oxnard comes alive with holiday revelry. Ventura County’s tallest Christmas tree (over 110 feet high) is lit up for the season in downtown Oxnard’s central plaza, and there’s plenty more going on, from a Christmas parade to the harbor’s Parade of Lights. 

A Little History

Oxnard became known for sugar beet production, thanks to the town’s founder, Henry T. Oxnard, and his brothers. The city of Oxnard was incorporated in 1903, taking its name from the brothers who built a sugar beet factory in the heart of 18,000 agricultural acres.

Oxnard built its first public library in 1907 with funds from Andrew Carnegie on the northwest corner of the plaza. The white, classically styled building stands out today as a county historical landmark and is the only remaining structure from the early days of the plaza. Now the Carnegie Art Museum, it features cutting-edge contemporary exhibitions and boasts a noteworthy collection of work by Latino artists. A gallery next door showcases local artists.

Oxnard and its environs have grown into a city of contrasts. Adjacent Hollywood Beach is where Clark Gable and other stars romped in the 1930s. Rudolph Valentino’s silent film The Sheik was filmed on the wild Hueneme dunes. In early days, a beach lot sold for $200. Today, a home on the sand goes for millions. The Hollywood stars of today still enjoy this seaside escape: Bryan Cranston and Bo Derek both have vacation homes in the area. Streets in Hollywood Beach, Hollywood by the Sea and adjoining Silver Strand got their names from tinsel town — there’s Cahuenga, La Brea, Melrose and even Hollywood Boulevard. 

Downtown Goes All Out!

Downtown Oxnard gets all dressed up for the holidays, but visitors can go casual. Fuel up for breakfast or lunch at popular local spots Tomas Café, BG’s Cafe or super-popular Fresh and Fabulous. A sweet spot in the historic Woolworth Building for pastries, cookies, desserts and tasty crepes (both savory and sweet) is Xielo — just follow your nose to this Fourth Street gem.

Heritage Square, a collection of carefully maintained historic homes, lights up for the holidays. Victorian House Tours at the Square and the Gingerbread House Contest run Dec. 9-31. Costumed docents guide the tours, and guests can admire handmade gingerbread houses on display inside the historic chapel.

Latino comedian George Lopez is behind the Fifty150 clothing store that sells t-shirts, caps and similar items. Friends of the Library Books and Things is a nonprofit gift shop at the Oxnard Public Library offering inexpensive gifts, including neat stuff for kids and lightly used books. Frida’s Treasures carries Latino artisan goods and apparel. (Call first to see if she is open.) Gordon’s Western Wear is reliable for hats, belts and everything for the wranglers in your life.

Throughout December, the Winter Fantasy Music and Light Show runs from 5 to 10 p.m., transforming the historic pagoda in the square into a high-tech interactive experience with a computer-orchestrated show that mixes over 30,000 flashing colorful lights, holiday music, animated characters and lit trees.

Take a leisurely stroll along Oxnard’s Christmas Tree Lane where lights glow nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. on decorated homes along F and G streets and between Fifth and Palm streets in the Oxnard National Historic District. The lane is open Dec. 10-25. Or hop aboard a double-decker bus for the Annual Holly Trolley Tours ($12/per person) Dec. 12-14, departing from Heritage Square for a tour through the historic district’s spectacular displays with a stop for hot cocoa and cookies.

Abuelitas in the know buy masa to make their Christmas tamales at La Central Bakery and Tortilla Factory. Chow down on authentic Mexican fare at La Gloria Market, next to the Transit Center, or hit Carnitas El Rey (rated in top 100 on Yelp!) on East Fifth Street for carnitas tacos, tender pork, handmade tortillas and pico de gallo.

Holiday Harborside

The annual Parade of Lights in Channel Islands Harbor is a well-attended event. Activities include snow play for kids, a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus, a local parade, holiday artists’ market, live music, children’s activities and more. The free, lighted boat parade (taking place this year on Saturday, Dec. 9, with the theme Fairy Tales Afloat) begins at 7 p.m. and can be viewed from all points along the harbor’s edge and at restaurants located within the harbor, also home to the popular Channel Islands Maritime Museum.

Reserve a table at The Waterside Restaurant and Wine Bar for views of the parade (pre- or post-). Brunch after the Sunday Oxnard Farmers Market also draws a crowd. New owners are adding tasty items to The Waterside’s menu, like finger-licking-good Szechwan pork ribs and a healthy kale salad with dried cranberries and pomegranate seeds.

Or escape upstairs to the Brazilian oasis Moqueca, where the relaxed atmosphere with a bossa nova soundtrack is sure to soothe any holiday meltdowns. The signature dish moqueca is the star here. The seafood-and-tomato-broth delight is served steaming hot in a traditional clay pot. The full bar whips up caipirinhas made with cachaca. Tasty passion fruit mousse for dessert makes for a sweet ending. 

Pooches are welcome at Sea Fresh, which has a doggie menu in addition to plenty of seafood choices for humans.

On the Far Side of the 101

The Collection at RiverPark is a popular destination for holiday shopping. Tucked away near the movie theater is the California Welcome Center, where I was pleased to discover signed books by local authors (including Ventana contributor Ken Alpine, among others), original art, charming handmade seashell boxes and cool postcards, T-shirts and even baseball caps celebrating “the Nard.” The Annex, which just opened in November, features the artisanal shops CherryHills Market (housewares) and Sueño Jewelry Studio for handcrafted goods. If you’re hungry, grab a fast, easy and delicious bite at one of the Annex’s many gourmet eateries, which include Tim Kilcoyne’s Scratch Sandwich Counter, Seoul Sausages, Love Pho, PokeCeviche, Gasolina Café and many more.


Day trip not enough? Stay overnight at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach. Nab an ocean-view suite, and gaze at the crashing surf and the Channel Islands to keep the holiday tensions at bay. Spacious “all suite” accommodations have two full bathrooms, patios or balconies. Popular perks include free happy hour cocktails with snacks and a breakfast buffet. Set right on a magnificent beach, the Spanish-style hotel also boasts a huge pool, Jacuzzi and kids wading pool in the lush central garden complete with waterfalls and a footbridge. Guests who “Go Green” and opt to skip housekeeping are rewarded with a coupon for a $10 daily credit at the Coastal Grill (don’t miss the artichoke toast) or Coastal Bar. The beach and dunes with wide walking/biking path are just steps away.

There’s plenty more to discover and enjoy in Oxnard. By the ocean or farther inland, a community filled with vitality and adventure awaits! 

For more information, visit or call the California Welcome Center in The Collection at 805.988.0717.


The Annex at The Collection
550 Collection Blvd.
805.278.9500 or

BG’s Cafe
428 South A Street
805.487.0700 or

Carnitas El Rey
124 East Fifth Street

Fresh and Fabulous
221 West Fifth Street
805.486.4547 or

La Central Bakery and Tortilla Factory
600 Meta Street
805.483-8434 or

La Gloria Market
430 South Oxnard Blvd.

Sea Fresh
3550 Harbor Blvd.
805.204.0974 or 

Tomas Café
622 South A Street
805.483.6633 or

The Waterside Restaurant and Wine Bar
3500 Harbor Blvd.
805.985.4677 or

212 West Fourth Street
805.240.1122 or



408 South A Street
805.794.1066 or

Books and Things
251 South A Street
805.385.7506 or

Frida’s Treasures
535 South A Street


Embassy Suites by Hilton Mandalay Beach Hotel and Resort
2101 Mandalay Beach Road
805.984.2500 or


SPARKLING STREETS: All is merry and bright on Christmas Tree Lane in the historic district. Owners hold nothing back when setting up their festive tableaux, creating a 10-block wonderland of lights and decor that can be enjoyed on foot or by trolley.




SANTA’S HELPERS: What’s merrier at Christmas than delightful children enjoying the season?
Elves Yamira Martinez and Lorena Garcia help set the scene at Plaza Park, while an army of rosy-cheeked toy soldiers march in the annual Christmas Parade. Pint-sized carolers delight audiences at Heritage Square.




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