Posted Mar 01, 2018 | By Visit Oxnard
Delicious food and drinks. Historic sites and a rich heritage. Passionate locals and incredible community. Explore the heart of the Oxnard plain in the city’s epicenter: Downtown Oxnard.
The history of Oxnard reaches back to the 1700’s. After the Chumash tribes that lived on the land were resettled to pueblos, pioneers from around the world came to stake their claim of fertile land that today is known as Oxnard. Among the pioneers were the family who became the town’s namesake, the Oxnard family. Originally from Marseilles, France, the Oxnard brothers built a successful 100-acre sugar beet factory. In order to transport the product, the brothers had a railroad line developed nearby. With this new economic powerhouse and easy access to transportation, it wasn’t long before a sprawling town began to develop. These were the humble beginnings of Downtown Oxnard.
Perhaps the most convenient way to travel up and down the California coast, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner stops at Oxnard Transit Center on 4th & Oxnard Boulevard in the heart of Downtown Oxnard. Interestingly, the railway comes into Oxnard Transit Center on a curve and is the only train station with a curved platform in the United States. Inside the train station, sample a variety of delicious lattes from Dolce Vita Cafe serving up Intelligentsia coffee. Across from the center, La Gloria Market (a stop on Oxnard’s Taco Trail) offers incredible Mexican pastries and mouthwatering tacos.
Downtown Oxnard is now home to a host of specialty shops, over 40 international restaurants and a wealth of historical landmarks. Enjoy brunch at Fresh & Fabulous Café at Centennial Plaza, a center which also houses a 14-screen state-of-the-art movie theater Plaza Cinemas; then, cross the street to see the iconic Oxnard Pagoda at Plaza Park, which served as a bandstand after its construction in 1910. You’ll notice a stunning 1906-built Greco-Roman style building to the immediate north, which once housed an art museum as well as a public library. The building was funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie and continues to be one of Oxnard’s most stunning monuments. Cross C Street to the ever-popular Tacos La Bonita Taco Truck and sample a variety of plates, including the incredibly delicious barbacoa-style Vampire Tacos.
Want to see Downtown Oxnard on-foot? Venture a little farther from the central hub of Plaza Park, and see Oxnard’s wealth of historic landmarks, all within walking distance, by taking a self-guided walking tour, available online here. Choose from a 2.5-mile tour, which includes Henry T. Oxnard Historic District and Santa Clara Church, or opt for a shorter 1.25-mile tour. Both tours include stops at Heritage Square, the historic Woolworth Building, the Bank of A. Levy building and more. Both tours begin at the Downtown Oxnard parking structure and end at Heritage Square.
Although most of the original buildings were demolished during the Great Depression, 15 beautifully restored Victorian Era structures were lovingly preserved. Today, these homes that were built between 1876 and 1912, along with Pfeiler Water Tower built in 1877, beneath which a time capsule has been buried, make up the historic Heritage Square. Docent-led walking tours of the square are available on weekends, and the square is open daily for self-guided tours.
Heritage Square is also home to Heritage Coffee & Gifts, one of the best coffee shops in town, featuring some incredibly unique latte flavors (e.g., horchata, vanilla-lavender and turmeric are among these). Local favorite eatery La Dolce Vita 1901 awaits your discovery within a beautiful craftsman home. Descend the staircase to the cellar and find 1901 Speakeasy, which offers live music and a full bar, serving up Prohibition-era throwback cocktails like Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs and Manhattans, just to name a few. Raise your glass at the Rancho Ventavo Cellars tasting room just across the way.
Looking for an evening at the theater? Just a few blocks from the heart of downtown is the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. Open since 1968, the Performing Arts Center has hosted thousands of performances, including the New West Symphony, Broadway musicals, plays and community movie nights.
For foodies, check out First Thursday’s featuring over 12 Food Trucks and live entertainment. Every Thursday morning, grab some fresh local produce at the weekly Farmer’s Market. Between 5th & B Streets at Plaza Park, the market offers fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, plants, specialty items and more.
During the summer, downtown brings the heat with the much-loved Oxnard Salsa Festival; a celebration of all things salsa-music, food and dance! This free community event draws thousands of locals and visitors to the downtown area for a spicy weekend celebrating the cultural diversity of the town.
Throughout the summer, the square hosts the “Heritage Square Summer Concert Series” with live music performances to delight music lovers of all ages.
The downtown area is also home to several annual parades, festivals, and events that celebrate the community and the culture within it. During the holidays, the town transforms into a holiday wonderland with the annual Christmas parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony that mark the beginning of the season. Crowds flock to view the nightly light and music show, as well as the famous “Christmas Tree Lane,” a neighborhood in the downtown area that is known for its magical and extravagant light displays.
During the “Heritage Square Holiday Tours”, costumed docents recreate the charm of the Victorian age with tours of the elegantly decorated homes. Inside the chapel, visitors enjoy the artistry of custom gingerbread houses on display.
While Oxnard’s vibrant downtown area has evolved greatly over the span of its history, it has and forever will be the heart of the community. Experience the history for yourself, start planning your trip to Oxnard today!
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