For the last decade, Oxnard has been trying to shirk its stigma as the place you drive past on the 101 to head to more glamorous destinations such as Santa Barbara. A thriving agricultural area (made famous by its annual California Strawberry Festival in May), the town with the uninviting name (courtesy of the Oxnard brothers, who founded a sugar beet factory in the area in the late 1800s) has more to offer.
A bit of history
Heritage Square (715 S. A St.,  483-7960) is the crown jewel of the downtown area. Restored Victorian and Craftsman-style homes once owned by Oxnard's pioneer families have been relocated into a central landscaped square block that is now home to the Elite Theatre Company (Petit Playhouse, 730 S. B St.,  483-5118, www.elitetheatre.org) and La Dolce Vita Restaurant (740 B St.,  486-6878, www.ladolcevitadimare.com), while the Henry T. Oxnard National Historic District (10 blocks of F and G streets, www.oxnardhistoricdistrict.com) comes alive as Christmas Tree Lane when many of its historic homes vie for best in show.
Oxnard offers a surprising hub of museums for a variety of tastes. Carnegie Art Museum (424 S. A St.,  385 8157, users.vcnet.com/carnart, housed in the former turn-of-the-century library built by Andrew Carnegie) is dedicated to rotating exhibits. For car buffs, there's the Murphy Auto Museum (2230 Statham Blvd.,  487-4333, www.murphyautomuseum.com) with its collection of 70-plus classic and milestone vehicles. Ventura County Maritime Museum (2731 S. Victoria Ave.,  984-6260, vcmm.org) satisfies nautical tastes. And for a step back in time, there's the homage to the former five-and-dime chain store at the Woolworth Museum (210 W. 4th St., www.thewoolworthbuilding.com).
Hearty plates of home-style breakfasts are served at beach favorite Mrs. Olson's Coffee Hut (117 Los Altos St.,  985-9151), which makes it worth the wait outside for a table. With a 70% Latino population, Oxnard offers plenty of options to satiate that craving for Mexican food. Sal's Mexican Inn (1450 S. Oxnard Blvd.,  483-9015, www.salsmexicaninn.com), family-owned since 1948, is a good choice for traditional plates of burritos and tamales, while La Central Bakery (600 Meta St.,  483-8434, www.lacentralbakery.com) sells fresh Mexican breads and tortillas.