Strawberry nachos in Oxnard? Playing dress-up in your finest big-band-era garb for a weekend of music in Ventura? Toasting Mother Nature at an Earth Day festival in Santa Barbara? Take your pick. The Central Coast is ripe with plenty of escapes this spring.
Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival & Green Car Show
In Santa Barbara, Earth Day is serious business. This year the Community Environmental Council will host the city’s 43rd annual Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival (www.sbearthday.org) in Alameda Park on April 20 and 21. The weekend event draws big crowds who come to check out the more than 200 exhibitors, live music, food and drinks and the popular Green Car Show. Now in its 14th year, the green car show is the longest-running show of its kind and features the largest collection of efficient and alternative fuel vehicles between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
113th Ojai Tennis Tournament
Founded by NCAA doubles champion William L. Thacher to promote amateur tennis in California, “The Ojai” is the premier showcase for tomorrow’s tennis champions. Tennis greats Arthur Ashe, Tracy Austin, Pete Sampras, Billie Jean King and the Bryan brothers have all played in The Ojai. The tournament runs from April 23 through 28 and takes place on over 100 courts in more than 30 locations in Ojai, Ventura and Oxnard. New this year, players from 84 community colleges will be competing in the California Community College State Championships during the six-day event. Pick a venue or two, relax and enjoy some great tennis (www.ojaitourney.org).
California Strawberry Festival
Strawberries are the highest-grossing crop in Ventura County and the region celebrates this sweet success annually with the California Strawberry Festival (www.strawberry-fest.org) May 18 and 19 at Strawberry Meadows of College Park in Oxnard. Besides traditional strawberry delicacies such as chocolate-dipped strawberries and strawberry margaritas, the festival offers a chance to sink your teeth into some less-known creations like strawberry pizza, strawberry nachos and strawberry kebobs. Other festival highlights include strawberry beer, the build-your-own strawberry shortcake section and a strawberry-pie-eating contest. Live music and arts and crafts displays round out the fun.
Ventura Music Festival
Although the Ventura Music Festival (www.venturamusicfestival.org) runs throughout the month of May, the day to circle on your calendar is Cinco de Mayo. You’ll have to swap the day’s traditional margaritas for big-band-era outfits and music, but it’s a worthy trade. On May 5, the festival hosts the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra featuring guest vocalist Carmen Bradford.
“It’s big band music in the perfect setting — the 1920s mission-style Majestic Ventura Theater in downtown Ventura,” said Ellen Pasternack, the festival’s executive director. “To get in the mood, 1930s and ’40s attire is encouraged.”
Humpback & Blue Whale Watching in Channel Islands National Park
Mild weather and blooming wildflowers make May a great month to visit the Channel Islands. Whale watching is in full swing: Although most of the gray whales depart in early April, beginning in early May blue and humpback whales are frequently spotted. Island Packers (www.islandpackers.com) runs recommended whale-watching excursions.
Just an 11-mile boat ride from harbors in Oxnard and Ventura, the Channel Islands National Park comprises five islands that have been dubbed by Douglas L. Threloff — a biologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service — the “American version of the Galapagos Islands.” Home to unique animal, plant and marine life, it is most fun to explore them by sea. Try a guided kayak tour with Channel Island Kayak Center (www.cikayak.com) that takes you to secluded coves and sea caves.
For a full list of inspiring hotels, restaurants, dining and entertainment options in Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura, visit www.venturacountywest.com.
—Becca Blond, Brand Publishing Writer
MORE CENTRAL COAST
It’s not every day that starts with a dip in the ocean, followed by a dish of pure local flavors. Followed by world-class wine tasting within walking distance. Followed by a live performance you’ve been longing to see on an intimate outdoor stage. Come experience an unforgettable night in a place that can deliver such an amazing array of experiences. Welcome to Santa Barbara.
Stay, Play, Wine & Dine: Your Santa Ynez Valley Getaway
Just two hours up the coast from L.A., the Santa Ynez Valley in the heart of Santa Barbara’s wine country is bursting with spring activities. On Saturday, April 13, experience the Old West with a historic Wells Fargo stagecoach ride for only $25, benefiting Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum (www.santaynezmuseum.org).
Savor tastes from more than 100 area wineries and restaurants at the 30th annual Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Festival on Saturday, April 20, at Mission Santa Ines in Solvang. Enjoy vineyard tours, winemaker dinners and more throughout the weekend (www.sbcountywines.com).
For incredible scenery, drive or hike into the surrounding Los Padres National Forest blooming with wildflowers galore. According to Mary Harris, executive director of the Santa Ynez Valley Hotel Assn., “Spring is a superb time of year to stay and play here.” Check out 32 unique lodging choices at www.syvha.com.
Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa
Spanning more than 100 acres of oceanside hills and meadows, Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort and Spa is the gem of Pismo Beach. Located conveniently between L.A. and San Francisco just five miles from San Luis Obispo, the resort offers a private balcony and hot tub in every room. There’s an award-winning day spa, hourly rentals of therapeutic mineral spring hot tubs, hiking trails, daily yoga classes and the Gardens Restaurant featuring farm-to-table cuisine.
Close to home yet seemingly worlds away are three unique cities, Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura known as VenturaCountyWest. The area offers great coastal value for tourist and corporate visitors looking for a distinctive Southern California experience. Uncrowded beaches, farm-to-table restaurants, quaint Main Streets, award-winning public golf courses, music and food festivals and a burgeoning wine industry make this area perfect for a weekend getaway.