The best things to do in Oxnard (a.k.a. ‘Boxnard’), according to a local pro boxer

A low building with a mural showing men in boxing gloves. Behind is blue sky and multiple palm trees.
“Dinastia Garcia,” a mural by artist Hüicho Lé, can be seen around the side of 333 W. 4th St. in Oxnard.

Good morning, fellow Escapists. Tucked around the side of a small building in Southern California is a mural — a splash of bright yellow and blue in an otherwise ordinary alley — that speaks to a city’s legacy of raising world-class fighters.

Oxnard has earned the nickname of “Boxnard” for playing a dynamic role in the development of many professional boxers. The mural, “Dinastia Garcia,” created by artist Hüicho Lé, depicts fighters who have left their mark on the coastal community.

Hugo Centeno Jr., 31, was born and raised in Oxnard. Known in the boxing world as “The Boss,” he’s ranked as one of the top 10 middleweight boxers in the world. I had the chance to chat with Centeno about his home city’s boxing heritage, as well as the streets, taco trucks and landmarks that he thinks travelers should experience on a trip up the coast.


“I think everyone likes to let people know that they come from [Oxnard],” he said. “Everyone’s so closely knit together, everyone likes to represent it.”

Two men box inside a ring.
Hugo Centeno Jr., right, at the PAL Mid City Boxing Gym in Oxnard.
(Veronica Slavin)

A man in a hoodie and ball cap walks outdoors near palm trees. He holds a toddler in a pink coat above his head.
Centeno and daughter Emilia at Mandalay Beach in Oxnard.
(Ezra Centeno)

Here’s what he had to say about Oxnard:

Where the nickname “Boxnard” comes from: People think that we have something in the water. A lot of world champions come from Oxnard, and for a good while it was a hotbed for fighters to train out of here and win world titles. So Oxnard became known as “Boxnard,” where you breed fighters and world champions.

This town is very supportive of fighters. It’s a great place to find seclusion, put in hard work and clear your mind, which is obviously an important thing for fighters, who have to be so focused.

Best place to grab food: We have tons of great tacos here in town, and it’s kind of hard to make one your favorite. But one that stands out for me in particular is called Tacos DF. The family that runs it makes you feel right at home, just like you’re part of their own family.


Best view in town: As you’re driving down C Street, going downtown, all the palm trees make you feel like you’re in a movie, living that California dream.

Most Instagrammable spot: The Carnegie building. It’s a landmark in Oxnard, and I think it’s a beautiful building.

What locals wish travelers knew: I wish tourists knew how many beautiful places we have to offer throughout downtown and the historic part of Oxnard. (Editor’s note: You can book guided tours of Heritage Square.)

We’ve had a lot of movies shot here because we have so many scenic areas.

Favorite movie shot in Oxnard: When I was 15, I was watching “Back to the Future III,” and when Marty McFly is about to start drag racing, I thought, “I feel like I know this place.” I’ve always had the same running route, and sure enough, that scene was shot in the same place I do part of my run as I get ready for my fights.

Don’t leave town without: spending time on the water. Our beaches don’t get enough praise. You can’t experience all of Oxnard without going to the beach.

Women in brightly colored, flowing dresses dance alongside men in black suits and large hats.
Dancers in Oxnard’s Heritage Square.
(Veronica Slavin)

Our top picks for a day trip to Oxnard:

🥬 Pick up fresh produce

The Channel Islands Harbor — already a popular spot for locals and tourists alike — hosts a weekly farmers market every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

One of my favorite travel pro tips: Visiting farmers markets while traveling (instead of splurging on a pricey brunch) is a great way to save money while giving yourself the chance to meet local farmers and artists.

🥁 Learn the ins and outs of making drums

Calling all music nerds: Ever wonder how your favorite percussion instruments are made?

Oxnard-based DW has been making drums for roughly 50 years and today offers free public tours of its factory on almost every Thursdays at 2 p.m.

Tours fill up quickly, and those interested should reserve their spot on the tour at least two days in advance. For safety reasons, all guests must wear closed-toe shoes.

🏝️ Cruise to the Channel Islands

A GIF shows squiggly lines representing waves on the ocean next to rocky cliffs. A lighthouse is in the distance.
Anacapa Island is home to a large nesting population of western sea gulls.
(Photo by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times; illustration by Li Anne Liew / Los Angeles Times)

Like its neighbor Ventura, Oxnard is a convenient jumping-off point for exploring Channel Islands National Park, a set of five rugged and pristine islands that allow travelers to see and experience what the Southern California coast looked like before widespread development.

My colleague Christopher Reynolds sailed from Oxnard when he visited Anacapa Island during the summer of 2020. There, he “found carnage, heard shrieks and wandered the topography of an acrophobe’s worst nightmare” — I’ll let him tell you more about it.

Right now, Anacapa Island is temporarily closed to the public, but Island Packers offers wildlife cruises from Oxnard that allow visitors to see dolphins, whales, seals and other animals that call the waters around the national park home.

Can’t get enough of the ocean? The Channel Islands Maritime Museum houses “a treasure chest of maritime art that rivals some of the finest European and U.S. collections,” Times contributor Matt Moody wrote in 2014.

Moody’s words hold true today — see the collection for yourself Thursdays to Mondays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

😋 Keep the Oxnard Tamale Festival on your radar

Closeup of a pile of tamales with an illustration of squiggly lines.
Corundas tamales and Uchepo tamales made by Oxnard’s 8 Regiones restaurant.
(Photo by Al Seib / Los Angeles Times; illustration by Li Anne Liew / Los Angeles Times)

For the past two years, the Oxnard Tamale Festival has been a somewhat muted affair, converted to a to-go format as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the December festival’s organizers persisted, as Times columnist Gustavo Arellano reported late last year.

“It’s incredible to know that tamales have been around for 9,000 years and they continue here,” Yolanda Pina, a lifelong Oxnard resident, told Arellano.

Detailed information on this year’s festival has not yet been released. Keep tabs on the event website for more details.

Song of the week

This week, I felt compelled to go with an album instead of an individual song.

Listen to Anderson .Paak’s album “Oxnard” on your drive up the coast, and watch his “Oxnard to Ventura” video for an extra dose of travel inspiration.