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Greg Aragon: Oxnard
Oxnard: Southern California’s Hidden Gem
Story and photographs by Greg Aragon

outhern California is full of hidden gems. One of my favorites is the seaside town of Oxnard, where lonely beaches give way to island vistas, and classic, small town charm mixes with gourmet restaurants, fascinating museums and one of Southern California’s most beautiful resort hotels.

The aforementioned hotel is the luxurious Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort, where a friend and I began our recent Oxnard escape. Located steps from the sand and about 200 yards from the ocean, the Spanish Mission-styled resort boasts 248 suites, along with amenities such as a giant pool and two Jacuzzis, fitness room, tennis courts, business center, bicycle rentals, and its own on-site gourmet restaurant.

coastal scene at Oxnard
Oxnard is a hidden gem on the Southern California coast

Our spacious suite was highlighted by a large patio, with lounge chairs sloping down a grassy lawn, overlooking palm trees, sand dunes, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands a few miles offshore. It also came with a master bedroom and bathroom with tub and shower, flat screen TV, large living room with couch/bed, flat screen TV, separate bathroom and shower, office desk, coffee pot, microwave, and sink.

the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel and Resort in Oxnard
Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort sits on the beach,
a stone throw from the water

After getting to know the hotel, we drove a couple miles to Channel Islands Harbor for a wonderful surf & turf dinner at the Waterside Restaurant Bar & Grill. With harbor lights and images of colorful boats and the ocean coming through the bay windows, we began our meal with California red wine and a memorable dish called Pescado Crudo, with fresh fish, citrus dressing, Serrano chilies, red onion, avocado and oregano. For the main course we shared succulent Duck Confit Tacos.

The Waterside Restaurant Bar & Grill serves fresh California cuisine and fine wine
in classic coastal atmosphere

Back at the hotel, we walked along the hotel's deserted beach. In the morning we enjoyed the resort’s complimentary buffet breakfast, featuring a made-to-order omelet bar and a buffet bar with sausage, bacon, eggs, potatoes, fruits, breads, coffee and juices.

Our next stop was Heritage Square, the historic heart of Oxnard. Featuring 15 beautifully restored structures, the site showcases the city’s early pioneering families, whose farms and hard work helped create the town. The homes have been re-purposed for business use, but still ooze with old-fashioned appeal.

One of the tastiest buildings at Heritage Square is now a gourmet restaurant called La Dolce Vita. Here we met Owner/Executive Chef Michelle Kenney, who led us through a delicious cooking class, where a small group of us made our own lunch on the restaurant’s patio. With Kenney leading the way, we cooked chicken Milanese with tomato fennel sauce, and Sicilian crepes with orange sauce. While eating, we chatted with Kenny about her restaurant and her cooking classes that are open to the public.

Owner/Executive Chef Michelle Kenney of La Dolce Vita, at the Heritage Square, Oxnard
Located in Oxnard's historic Heritage Square, La Dolce Vita offers authentic Italian fare led by Chef Michelle Kenney

Back at Embassy Suites, we made new friends and sipped complimentary cocktails at the resort’s daily Manager's Reception, which is offered to all hotel guests.

The next day we discovered the Mullin Automotive Museum, the best car collection I've ever seen in one place. Created as a tribute to the art deco and machine age, the two-story museum houses more than 50 of the finest historic French cars ever built, including the legendary Bugatti and Voisin. The 46,821 sq-ft showroom also displays decorative art from the 1920s and 1930s.

One of the most interesting – and expensive – cars in the gallery is the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, which recently sold for around $30 million. Spinning on a stage in the middle of the giant warehouse, this majestic machine was the first of only four ever built. The car, equipped with a four-speed manual transmission, was shipped to the US in 1946 and after various owners, is now on loan at the Mullin.

vintage cars on display including a 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic on the spinning stage at the Mullin Automative Museum
The Mullin Automotive Museum is an awe-inspiring tribute to classic French automobiles

Another mechanical masterpiece is the gorgeous 1948 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe. Also the first in its production line, this powerful luxury car came with a six-cylinder aluminum engine and was noted for its estimated 124 mph top speed. But it is the curves and style that make this vehicle stand out as a classic piece of French Art. I understand why Peter W. Mullin calls the cars in his collection "rolling sculptures" and says the French automobiles of the 1920s and 1930s "represent the pinnacle of 20th Century art and design."

To help visitors get a better feel for the collection, the museum shows a fascinating movie in its small theater area that tells a story of the Bugatti family and the golden age of the auto. One of the vehicles discussed in the movie is the extremely rare 1925 Bugatti Type 27 Brescia Torpedo, which found its way to Switzerland where it was sunk in Lake Maggiore by its owner in the 1930s to avoid heavy registration fees and taxes. The car sat at the bottom of the lake until it was raised in 2009. Drastically eroded after 73 years in the lake, the car was "useless as an automobile – but priceless as an object of art" for the Mullin Museum.

Admission to the Mullin is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $8 for kids. For more information and visiting hours, call 805.385.5400 or visit:

Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort is located at 2101 Mandalay Beach Road. For more information, call (805) 984-2500 or visit: For more information on visiting Oxnard, contact the Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-2-OXNARD or visit:

Related Articles:
Oxnard: LA's Affordable Beachside Community; Oceanside; Eclectic Charm, Culture and Cuisine in Claremont; Laguna Beach; Orange County Oceanfront; Passport to San Diego; Ojai, California; San Luis Obispo

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Let Greg know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Harry Potter at Universal Studios

Going to Universal Studios Hollywood to see the Harry Potter "land" is on my bucket list!!

-- Nancy, Hawaii

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Feedback for A Spring Escape to Maui And Hotel Wailea

I leave here April 21 for Maui and can hardly wait. It'll be my 15th trip, more or less and I love it, and your pictures.

-- Ellie – Port Ludlow, WA

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Hi Greg,

It's not a forest of banyan trees in Lahaina by the harbor. It's one huge tree, about 140 years old. It's an important landmark of Lahaina, and one of our favorite views.We always stay at the Pioneer Inn, overlooking the harbor and the banyan tree. Every evening thousands of mynah birds fly into the tree, chattering and fluttering until they settle down for the night. Otherwise, great article.

-- Virginia – Northridge, CA

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Feedback for Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

Very nice story, Greg.

-- Maris Somerville – Los Angeles, CA

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